For the family
Al-Anon Monday morning wakeup
In my little search for nexuses of spirituality in Northern Nevada, I’ve been to more types of churches, synagogues, mosques and temples than I can count. Sometimes, they tumble together in my mind, and I’m not quite sure what denomination what church is anymore. At any rate, I believe the most soulful get-togethers I’ve attended have been the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Those meetings are where hopefulness and hopelessness collide, and if you want to hear direct declarations of a higher power’s influence in another’s life, those are places to go.
Until this snowy Monday morning, though, I’d never attended an Al-Anon meeting. Al-Anon is the AA-related group to support friends and families of alcoholics and drug addicts. The honesty and camaraderie I saw pretty much ripped my heart out. So there ya go. You want to turn a critical eye on yourself, drink yourself under the table on Friday and attend an Al-Anon meeting on Monday. Drown in the hypocrisy.
The meeting was at 9:30 a.m. in a multipurpose room at St. John’s Presbyterian Church. With the snow, it started pretty late, but there were only four participants, excluding myself. It was extremely intimate. I walk a pretty thin line when I write about AA, NA or Al-Anon, seeking to preserve everyone’s anonymity and yet getting out enough information to help people understand there are places to seek help when you, your friend or family member is controlled by alcohol or drugs.
The meeting began with a moment of silence followed by the Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
I wish I could just reprint the readings that started the meeting, but they’re too long. There were three readings on Monday morning: the newcomer’s greeting (read especially for me), the AA’s 12 steps and the 12 traditions.
We were seated around six folding tables with about 16 chairs and the short slogans—"Think,” “Easy does it,” “One day at a time"—scattered around the tables. I was told that some of the other meetings have much larger attendance. (The Tuesday 1 p.m. meeting, also at the church, was recommended.)
The topic of the morning was compassion. “It’s supposed to be joyful this time of year, but it’s not always joyful this time of year,” said the woman who took the leadership role. “Compassion is extremely important.” She said she developed compassion by going to an AA meeting, and she related an anecdote of her ex-husband’s recent travails regarding alcohol. “I had such hate for the alcoholic before I found compassion. … I learned not to enable the alcoholic. He’s got to deal with his own consequences. … Today, I have choices, but so does the alcoholic. I’m so grateful. I’m a grateful member of Al-Anon. I have so many tools now that I can just pick up and use because of this program.”
Honestly, I could recount any of the stories told by the group, and it would be just as relevant and poignant. One thing I found interesting in the group is that all the people who spoke mentioned that they were not living with a drinking alcoholic, but, as one said, “He still has the ‘ism’ of alcoholism.”
I’m not going to presume to offer anyone advice, but I know there are many children, friends and family who don’t know where to turn when their world revolves around another’s addiction. It may be that there’s some serenity available in a group such as the one I visited on a snowy Monday morning.