Members of Al-Anon in Steinbach appreciate the support they receive through this group and want to let others know of this local resource for those affected by someone else's alcoholism.
They are celebrating 48 years in the community and members want to make sure everyone knows there is a safe place to connect with others who can relate to the challenges of caring about someone who is an alcoholic.
Steinbach Online connected with the group via email to ask a few questions while respecting anonymity, and members were eager to share information about the meetings and how this support group has changed their lives.
Steinbach Online: What is Al-Anon?
Al-Anon members: Al-Anon is a mutual support group for those affected by someone else's drinking. It has one purpose: to help families and friends of alcoholics. Al-Anon is nonprofessional, self-supporting and spiritually based (though not religious).
STOL: Who may attend?
A: The only requirement for membership in Al-Anon is that each member has been affected by someone else's drinking. Members have a variety of relationships with a problem drinker. Spouses, partners, adult children of alcoholics, parents and co-workers can all find help in Al-Anon. Even though people's situations differ, they often share the common effects from the family disease of alcoholism such as fear, anger, resentment and loneliness. It can be easy for people to believe that they are alone, that nobody could understand what they are going through.
STOL: How does Al-Anon offer support?
A: In Al-Anon, members find that they are not alone, that others understand what they are going through. Members share their experience, strength and hope with each other in order to solve their common problems. They come to realize that they can't control or change another person. They learn to detach by taking the focus off the alcoholic and concentrating on their own healing. As they learn healthy ways of dealing with their problems, they find they live happier and better lives in spite of what's going on around them.
STOL: For people who might feel hesitant to attend, perhaps some fear of what others will think of them or their family member, how can you put them at ease?
A: Unfortunately, there is still a stigma attached to the disease. Also, denial and isolation can become a way of life and make reaching out for help very difficult. Newcomers are often relieved to learn that anonymity is an important principle in Al-Anon. As well, the confidentiality of members sharing in the program creates a safe place to get help.
STOL: Are meetings fairly casual or somewhat formal?
A: Al-Anon meetings follow a regular pre-planned format which includes the reading of Al-Anon literature and discussion on a topic such as one of the Twelve Steps, Slogans or other tools of the program. There is a lot of Al-Anon literature available to help members in their recovery. Laughter is often heard at meetings, but tears are fine, too. Members care about each other and often share before, after and even between meetings. There are no dues or fees. Al-Anon is fully self-supporting by voluntary contributions from members.
STOL: Does it take long to feel comfortable in this setting?
A: Newcomers come to Al-Anon with different expectations. Some find a sense of hope, know they are no longer alone, and feel part of the group quite quickly. It is suggested that newcomers attend at least six meetings before deciding whether or not Al-Anon is a good fit for them. While more professionals are suggesting Al-Anon to their clients/ patients, a referral is not necessary. Newcomers may just show up at a meeting and will be welcomed.
STOL: How important is Al-Anon to its members? What do they take away from meetings?
A: Al-Anon offers many tools to help members focus on their own personal recovery. Meetings bring members together to learn from each other as they share their experience, strength and hope. Surveys of members have shown that most felt their mental well-being had improved by applying the Al-Anon principles to their lives. While improvements may be felt even after a short time in Al-Anon, some members remain in the fellowship for many years, using the program in all areas of their lives.
STOL: Where can people find more information about this support group?
A: There is a lot of information for newcomers and also professionals on the website al-anon.org or call 1-888-4AL-ANON (425-2666). For information about Al-Anon in Manitoba and NW Ontario and where to find a group, or a Zoom meeting, visit mbnwo-alanon.org or call 204-943-6051. The Steinbach Al-Anon Group, which recently celebrated its 48th anniversary, meets every Monday at 7:30pm at the Steinbach Cultural Arts Centre, 304 Second Street (back door, downstairs). Contact person: Marlene 204-326-1172.
There is also a support group (Alcoholics Anonymous) in Steinbach for alcoholics. AA is a fellowship of people who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. You can find meeting dates and times on the Steinbach Arts Council website.