Al-Anon reaches the other side of alcoholism

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June 2, 2015 8:15 AM

Alcoholics Anonymous is well known and has been assisting people in Lloydminster for a long time, but there’s another AA that is also making a difference.

“For every alcoholic there are about four people affected, so Al-Anon should actually be bigger than AA,” said C.J., a local member of Al-Anon.

Al-Anon - officially Al-Anon Family Groups - is the cousin program of AA. It provides support for family members and friends affected by alcoholism. Like AA, members of Al-Anon are kept anonymous and use either initials, first names or a pseudo name in any interactions with the media.

Al-Anon has chapters all over the world and meetings in Lloydminster take place four times a week.

“I came to Al-Anon 20 years ago and when I came, I didn’t really understand alcoholism and how it was affecting me and how I had maybe been affected in the home I grew up in,” said C.J. “My father was a binge drinker, so when I got into a relationship that had similar behaviours, I didn’t really recognize them to be anything different than what I thought was normal.”

Al-Anon also practices the Twelve Steps, Twelve Traditions and Twelve Concepts of Service that help foster the personal growth of those in the program.

“It’s given me self-esteem, it’s given me leadership qualities that I didn’t know that I had - I had them but it mentored them for me and allowed me to grow in that I had self-worth, self-esteem, a freedom of spirit that I had but I didn’t know how to live out,” said C.J.

Whereas AA members are addicted to alcohol, Al-Anon works with those facing a different kind of addiction.

“Alcoholism is 15 per cent booze, 85 per cent personality,” said Marilyn, Al-Anon’s public outreach co-ordinator for Saskatchewan. “We’re addicted to the alcoholic in our lives. We do things that help them or maybe we do things that hinder them. Maybe we are causing more problems by our reactions to them.”

In May, Al-Anon Lloydminster held its annual roundup, where members from the Border City and surrounding areas gathered for a two-day conference. The weekend event featured workshops and speakers that shared their experiences of struggling with an alcoholic.

“We’re not causing the person to be an alcoholic, but we’re making situations in our family worse by what we’re doing,” Marilyn explained. “They’re trying to get better, they’re working on their personality problems and their drinking and so if we’re a couple, or part of a family with an alcoholic, we need to work as well. It’s a two-way street.

“Alcoholism is very widespread and I think it’s worse than a lot of people realize. The stats say alcohol affects 35 per cent of the population, I think that’s very low. There are a lot of alcoholics out there that have never gone to AA, they’re closet drinkers, nobody knows they’re alcoholics.”

While Al-Anon doesn’t receive the mainstream attention that AA does, C.J. says that people in need of help shouldn’t feel embarrassed to reach out.

“Sometimes shame, sometimes guilt, sometimes fear keep people from reaching out and sometimes people say, ‘It’s not my problem, it’s the alcoholic’s problem and I’m not the one that needs the help.’ But the bottom line is that we’re a contributing factor. The alcoholic is drinking, but we’re trying to control our environment, we’re trying to manage our lives and that creates us problems in the end.”

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