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Al-Anon helps families cope with alcoholism

Alcoholism has many faces, but the ones that seldom get seen are the ones belonging to the family of the individual struggling with the disease. Al-Anon was created to give those people a face, to give them same opportunity that the person on the road to recovery would have.

“I was introduced to Al-Anon about 20 years ago,” said Fran in an open letter. “Until then I didn’t know there was such a thing. I was very lonely and frustrated and angry because of alcoholism. I was very glad to be introduced to Al-Anon.”

Fran’s last name is protected by Al-Anon’s anonymity policy.

According to the Web site – www.al-anon.alateen.org – the anonymity offered by the group gives the participant “confidentiality” when “sharing in the program and creates a safe place to get help.”

“It basically protects the newcomer, and lets them know that they are safe” said Julie M., Al-Anon’s Assistant to the Director of Public Outreach. “The reality is that there is still a certain stigma attached to alcoholism. But it’s basically to protect the newcomer and to let them know it’s a safe, secure and confidential venue.”

Since 1954, the American Medical Association has recognized alcoholism as a chronic, progressive disease.

“I grew up in an alcoholic home,” said LeeAnne, a member of Al-Anon. “We are all just there to help each other.”

Currently, Al-Anon is celebrating their 55th anniversary.

“I’m not surprised that it’s lasted this long,” said Julie M. “It’s lasted because of our singleness of purpose. We do not let ourselves become diverted from our primary purpose of helping families and friends of alcoholics. As long as there is someone out there suffering, we’ll be here to help them.”

In 2001, there were over 26,000 registered groups in over 115 countries. The literature produced by their organization has been translated to over 30 different languages, according to their Web site.

According to Julie M., that number is still around the same give or take five years later.

“We who live or have lived with the problem of drinking or drugging understand as few others can how bad things can get,” said Fran. “We urge you to to try our program. It has helped many of us find solutions that lead to serenity.”

Historically, the families of people dealing with alcohol and drug addiction would attend the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

That’s the way it stayed for 12 years.

Al-Anon was founded in 1951 when AA co-founder Bill W., urged his wife Lois W., to get in touch with the families of the AA program-members. After that, the first World Service Office was opened in the state of New York to provide service to 87 groups located nationally and internationally.

“Al-Anon is a fellowship of friends and families of alcoholics who gather together for mutual help to recover from the effects of someone else’s drinking or drugging,” said Fran. “It was the next best thing to a psychiatrist for me. We focus on making things better for ourselves.”

According to www.al-anon.alateen.org, “living with alcoholism has been described as living on a merry-go-round, where each family member, friend and employer plays a role with the alcoholics in their lives. These behavior patterns are like the script of a play, repeated over and over, centering on the alcoholic. A player can earn a new role by attending Al-Anon and gaining an understanding of the disease. When this happens and the person changes their behavior, they are rewriting the script.”

Al-Anon, like AA/NA works a 12-step plan towards complete recovery from the disease.

“The steps can be very useful in all our lives, whether there is alcohol or drugs in it or not,” said Fran. “Without God in my life, I could not have made it.”

In the Demopolis Area, those interested in attending either an AA/NA meeting or an Al-Anon meeting, they can do so by visiting their facility located on East Washington Street.

“If you come and join the group and stick with it, you too can also be helped one day at a time,” said Fran. “One meeting will not help that much. Without such spiritual help, living with an alcoholic or addict is too much for most of us.”

Those seeking guidance can call 205-652-2025, 334-217-1109, 295-5393, 289-1703 or 289-4753.

Part two of this series will appear in Tuesday’s edition of the Demopolis Times and will focus on Alateen.