I walk into the room and look at the faces of the people sitting around the tables. No one looks familiar–many are busy in conversation. I casually slip into an empty chair at the end of one table. The lady across from me says, “Hi”, and I smile and nod. She looks friendly enough but the lines on her face seem to tell a different story. I wonder if that’s how I look to others.
The man next to me stops talking to his buddy and turns to me and says, “Hi”, too. He gets that same smile and nod the first lady got from me. I’ve got plenty to go around. He asks if this is my first time; I smile and tell him, “Yes”. He smiles big and reaches out to shake my hand. “Glad you’re here tonight”, he says. I’m not sure but I think he really meant it.
I planned my arrival to get there right as the meeting started, hoping I wouldn’t have to talk to anybody so I’m relieved to hear the leader speak up and start.
What the leader read seemed to put into words some of the feelings I was having. Then they all took turns talking about what had been read. For so many years, I had been hiding how my life REALLY was, and here they were talking about it out loud. What kind of place IS this? It seemed odd that everybody sat there and listened, I mean ACTUALLY listened, to what was being said. Nobody interrupted or corrected anybody. I even found myself nodding my head in agreement with some of the things they said. We even laughed a few times! Wow-I don’t remember the last time I really laughed.
I don’t even recall what I said when it came to be my turn to talk. They told me I didn’t have to share-that I could just pass if I felt like it. But I did manage to get a few words out about why I was there. Lots of “thank you’s” and a few “keep coming back’s” and I was done!
Once the meeting was over, more than a few people came up to me and welcomed me. They suggested I attend at least 6 meetings before I decide if this is for me. “Then”, said the lady with the lines on her face (smiling now), “if you don’t think you want to come back, we’ll gladly refund your misery!”. This time I didn’t just smile, I actually laughed out loud. Something told me that the old misery will have to find a new home.
What follows is a portion of the opening that is read at the beginning of most Al-Anon meetings:
“We who live or have lived with the problem of alcoholism understand as perhaps few others can. We, too, were lonely and frustrated, but in Al-Anon, we discover that no situation is really hopeless and that it is possible for us to find contentment, and even happiness, whether the alcoholic is still drinking or not.”
“The family situation is bound to improve as we apply the Al-Anon ideas. Without such spiritual help, living with an alcoholic is too much for most of us. Our thinking becomes distorted by trying to force solutions, and we become irritable and unreasonable without knowing it.”
“Anonymity is an important principle of the Al-Anon program. Everything that is said here, in the group meeting and member-to-member, must be held in confidence. Only in this way can we feel free to say what is in our minds and hearts, for this is how we help one another in Al-Anon.”