Happy New Year!
Happy New Year.
“And a very Happy New Year to you too!”
“We grit our teeth and smile, relieved that at least Christmas is over and the next big excuse for our loved ones to drink themselves under the table is a little way off. In Al-Anon, we understand your dilemma.
Christmas is the season of good cheer. When he or she brings another crate of alcohol in, you are prepared for any critical looks they may see in your countenance.
‘It’s Christmas. Lighten up. Let yourself go. Have fun’… While you can only wonder just how bad this Christmas will be watching the fun go down the drain hole. For so many people, Christmas is an ordeal. One that seems even worse than last year. You say to yourself. ‘Never again’. And before you know it it’s next year and it is even worse.
In Al-Anon, we can’t offer you a cure. We can’t save your marriage if an alcoholic is determined to ruin it. But we can offer you ‘Detachment with love’.
My name is Bob. I had (and still have) the most wonderful love affair with Diddley. I didn’t even know she was an alcoholic. But as the years passed by and the drinking and accidents became increasingly difficult, I caved in. My mental health had taken a bashing that I was unaware of until it snapped. Diddley helped me back into the sunlight, but never stopped drinking.
But I was desperate and found Al-Anon. At first thinking they could solve the problem. I soon found that I was the one who now had the problem. Diddley is no longer with us. She drank herself to death three years ago. We will all miss her forever. But, when you wish me ‘Happy New Year’, I will do my best to make sure it is.
When I wish you the same, I hope you will remember this and other stories from your friends and acquaintances. I have found a way forward through Al-Anon simply by going to meetings and learning from the experience of others. I have no idea how I would have coped otherwise. And, like many others, I still go each week. To help others maybe, but also to continue helping myself.”
Hogarth’s famous cartoon does indeed depict a nightmare vision. But, if you have first hand experience of loved ones incapable of standing; in constant danger of accidents and serious injury; humiliating themselves and you too, then the term “cartoon” has an alternative meaning.
The article above was written in response to a request to members of Al-Anon to write their own vision of what a Happy New Year could entail. This from a family charity whose members suffer abuse and unhappiness from living with or encountering alcoholism in their daily lives.
In Al-Anon, we have “Traditions”. Twelve of them. Just for guidance. Here is Tradition 11:
“Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, films, and TV. We need guard with special care the anonymity of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) members.”
In short, this means that the overriding responsibility is to protect the anonymity of members. To ensure that the unique ability for anyone to walk into an Al-Anon meeting and feel safe. A freedom to share their experiences, concerns, fears and distress caused by the alcoholic behaviour of their loved ones and others who share their lives. This freedom is, in our experience, unique.
This desire to protect members has inevitably led to Al-Anon being less well known than it could be otherwise. Since there are meetings in most towns in Britain and all over the world, this may seem surprising but, of course, it is also indicative of the desire to protect those it wishes to help. So articles like this blog are welcome in putting the message across, without actively promoting it.
It may take a little courage to walk into a room of strangers, but you can be assured of a very friendly welcome. Meetings follow a set format and, as a newcomer, you will be read the Newcomers’ Welcome and, maybe, given some useful pamphlets. There is no commitment at this stage or, for that matter, any other. How you use the fellowship is entirely up to you.
At meetings, or on the internet, you will find a lot of literature to help you find answers to the problems of life you are encountering. Some can be downloaded free:
Here is a typical leaflet:
There are books too. A very popular one is “Courage to Change”, seen above being read by me. Nothing replaces the meetings in what we call “the rooms”. Literature is an additional source of information.
There are no membership forms to fill in. Surnames are never used. Some groups offer telephone numbers of members happy to talk to others.
There are no fees but, of course, a meeting room has to be paid for – and tea and biscuits, maybe. So the hat is passed round for contributions that are the main source of income to the fellowship. It couldn’t be more simple.
And finally, for now, each meeting usually ends with the Serenity Prayer adopted from Alcoholics Anonymous. Non religious, non political, non most things. “God” is the God of your understanding. Some feel a “a higher power” is generated by a group of similar minded people. Once again, it is up to you. The closing statement at a meeting always says: “Take what you like and leave the rest.” It can be truly liberating.
The Serenity Prayer.
Lighting a Candle for Diddley
Now here is a true coincidence. Or maybe not. Al-Anon Family Groups can be found all over Britain. There are dozens in London. Bobby’s group is part of the North London area. “Area” is a term where representatives of the groups in that “Area” meet periodically to discuss every day affairs of the fellowship. North London meets in the church rooms of St George’s, Bloomsbury. Fine room, yet unassuming. That is until you go round the block to the front of the church and discover one of London’s great churches. A Nicholas Hawksmoor design.
Now look at the spire…
And go back to Hogarth’s Gin Lane…
Drawn 267 years ago. There is St George’s exotic spire rising above the squalor. Spooky or what? Spiritually, you could imagine a connection. We will write a story about the church in the future.
This week’s candle is lit in St George’s Bloomsbury on Christmas Eve 2018.
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