Many times, recovery from alcoholism is not only a struggle for the alcoholic, but family members who were affected by them, said a member of Al-Anon in Richmond.
Al-Anon is a peer support group for family members of alcoholics and drug users.
“We talk about our own recovery from the affects of alcoholism because it’s considered a family disease — it affects every member of the family,” said the member, who like every member of Al-Anon, will remain anonymous.
A similar group named Alateen caters to teenagers whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking.
The two adult sponsors who are present at every Alateen meeting must have been a member of Al-Anon for at least two years and pass a criminal background check.
In Richmond, Al-Anon meets Mondays at 6:30 p.m., Tuesdays at 8 p.m. and Fridays at 8 p.m., with one Alateen meeting on Fridays at 8 p.m. All meetings take place at the First United Methodist Church.
The Al-Anon member estimates that the Tuesday night group has been meeting for more than 25 years.
Some members come every week, and some drop out and come back again, she said, but “we’re a program of promotion, we invite people, we don’t pressure them to come.”
She said when members come to the meetings, they share “experiences, strength and hope.”
Most people have mutual experiences when dealing with alchoholics, she said. “Some people arrive very angry, and some are very sad.”
A few people come to Al-Anon because they are required to attend one meeting before they are allowed to visit a loved one in a rehabilitation center, she said.
“But, I’ve been told the reason people want to come back is because the members of Al-Anon and Alateen are so serene and comforting,” the member said. “Everybody feels welcome and everybody reaches out. You can talk or you can sit and listen.”
Although every meeting covers a different topic, they always start each meeting with reciting Al-Anon’s 12 Steps, which have been adopted almost word for word from Alcoholic Anonymous’ 12 Steps.
The member said the first step is one of the most important: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol (and the alcoholic) — that our lives had become unmanageable.
“The only one who can decide to change is the alchoholic,” she said. “Usually people will come to a meeting and they’ve tried everything they could to get someone to quit drinking and it didn’t work.”
Some commonly repeated mantras are “How important is it?” and “Let go and let God,” she said, but Al-Anon and Alateen are not religious groups, they are considered a spiritual program.
For more details, visit www.al-anon.alateen.org.
Crystal Wylie can be reached at cwylie@
or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.
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