Are you curious about what to expect at your first Alanon meeting or your first Alateen meeting? I don't know what it is about that first meeting. It can be absolutely terrifying.
What's ironic is that, generally speaking, you will not find a more kind-hearted or caring group of people on earth than at an Alanon meeting.
Still, there's something frightening about the prospect of walking into a room full of strangers and discussing the intimate details of your life.
You know what?? You don't have to.
You do have to walk into the room and take a seat. From there, all you really have to do is listen. And you'll soon discover that the people will feel less and less like strangers once you realize the common bond and understanding you share.
Every Alanon meeting has a set format and structure so that there are no surprises. The same goes for Alateen. I like that. When you go back for your second Alanon meeting, you can expect the same format. The only thing that changes is the topic of discussion. Even that is predictable.
You'll soon discover that there is a certain culture and protocol at an Alanon meeting. For instance, if the meeting starts at 7:00 p.m., the meeting will start at 7:00 p.m. - and usually on the dot. It will last one hour, no longer.
People often show up for their first Alanon meeting looking for someone in charge. You won't find anyone. Just like Alcoholics Anonymous, one of the traditions of
Al-Anon is that members are all but trusted servants; no one governs.
You will, however, find a Chairperson who has volunteered to lead (or chair) that particular Alanon meeting. Usually this will be someone who has a number of years in Al-Anon recovery. Most Al-Anon meetings begin with The Serenity Prayer. If you don't know it by heart, hopefully you will soon. As a Christian, I love the long version of this prayer. It seems to give me that sense of calm and perspective that I so often need. And it gives me hope in whatever circumstance I find myself.
After reciting together the Serenity Prayer (which is just the first four lines of what you see above), something like the following is read at the beginning of every Alanon meeting:
"We welcome you and hope you will find in this fellowship the help and friendship we have been privileged to enjoy. 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/Alateen 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.
We urge you to try our program. It has helped many of us find solutions that lead to serenity. So much depends on our own attitudes, and as we learn to place our problem in its true perspective, we find that it loses its power to dominate our thoughts and our lives. The family situation is bound to improve as we apply the Al-Anon/Alateen 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.
The Al-Anon/Alateen program is based on the Twelve Steps (adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous) which we try, little by little, one day at a time, to apply to our lives along with our slogans and the Serenity Prayer.
The loving interchange of help among members and daily reading of AL-Anon/Alateen literature thus make us ready to receive the priceless gift of serenity. Al-Anon/Alateen is an anonymous fellowship. 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/Alateen."
Next, the preamble is usually read by the Chairperson:
"The Al-Anon Family Groups are a fellowship of relatives and friends of alcoholics who share their experience, strength, and hope in order to solve their common problems. We believe alcoholism is a family illness and that changed attitudes can aid recovery.
Al-Anon is not allied with any sect, denomination, political entity, organization, or institution, does not engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any cause. There are no dues for membership. Al-Anon is self-supporting through its own voluntary contributions.
Al-Anon has but one purpose: to help families of alcoholics. We do this by practicing the Twelve Steps, by welcoming and giving comfort to families of alcoholics, and by giving understanding and encouragement to the alcoholic."
Introductions are made around the room with first names only. If you choose, this may be the only time you'll have to share anything with the group. Not too hard, huh?
Some groups read through some or all of the following:
√ Twelve Steps
√ Twelve Traditions
√ Twelve Concepts
Don't worry about understanding these right away. Be patient with yourself. You'll come to know them well in time. As they say, take ONE STEP AT A TIME. Go slow. Take it easy.
For now, just concentrate on one thing only:
"Suiting Up and Showing Up"
Just commit to going to LOTS of Al-Anon or Alateen meetings in the beginning.
This all sounds like a lot - Like the hour-long meeting should be up by now. But all these preliminaries really only take a few minutes at the beginning of the Alanon meeting.
A topic of discussion is suggested either by the chairperson or by someone else in the meeting. Maybe someone has had a particularly bad week, dealing with some issue that relates to alcoholism or the alcoholic in his/her life. Or perhaps someone is struggling with a particular Step that they are working on and wants to hear some feedback from the group.
Every meeting will differ as to the topic of discussion, as long as it relates to the primary purpose of the Alanon meeting: To help families and friends of alcoholics.
When I first started attending AA and Al-Anon meetings, it was not what I expected in terms of a "meeting". But there was something reassuring to me in the structure.
Usually, when a group of people (whether large or small) gather together for discussion of any kind, you expect a lot of interchange back and forth. The more outgoing people tend to dominate while the more reticent hang back and listen. People tend to talk over each other or interrupt (whether meaning to or not). The topic can sometimes take a different turn, even getting WAY off track.
You can expect none of this in an Al-Anon or Alateen meeting! So if you are a "talker", you'll have to learn to listen and to wait your turn to speak. It's just the way it is. Try going to your first few meetings and JUST LISTEN. You'll get a feel for the structure and protocol.
So what if it comes your turn to share and you JUST DON'T WANT TO?
Then don't!! Simply say this: "My name is _______, and I think I'd like to listen."
At the end of the meeting you might hear the following read:
"In closing, I would like to say that the opinions expressed here were strictly those of the person who gave them. Take what you liked and leave the rest. The things you heard were spoken in confidence and should be treated as confidential. Keep them within the walls of this room and the confines of your mind.
A few special words to those of you who haven't been with us long: Whatever your problems, there are those among us who have had them too. If you try to keep an open mind you will find help.
You will come to realize that there is no situation too difficult to be bettered and no unhappiness too great to be lessened. We aren't perfect. The welcome we give you may not show the warmth we have in our hearts for you. After a while, you'll discover that though you may not like all of us, you'll love us in a very special way—the same way we already love you. Talk to each other, reason things out with someone else, but let there be no gossip or criticism of one another. Instead, let the understanding, love, and peace of the program grow in you one day at a time.
Will all who care to, join me in a closing prayer."
So what is the "Closing Prayer", you ask? In my opinion, the very BEST prayer: The Lord's Prayer. It's short, sweet, and says it all! Reciting this prayer, holding hands together, at the end of each meeting has been a tradition in meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon for decades.
If you think you're too cool to hold hands and say a prayer . . . JUST DO IT! If you don't know the words, just listen. No one will notice or care if you don't know the words. Here they are, just in case:
And that's it! You've just attended your first Alanon Meeting! Now hang around afterwards and get to know some of the people . . . but only if you want to! Remember, no one will ever MAKE you do anything in Al-Anon or Alateen. Nice, huh??
If you'd like to read more about what to expect at your first Alanon meeting, do some surfing around the official website.
I wish you the very best, and I'll be with you in spirit at your first Alanon meeting! Go to at least five meetings before you decide against the program. You'll be so glad in the long run that you stuck with the program. Miracles happen there! Don't miss out on yours.
Don't forget that there are lots and lots of great books on the subject of alcoholism recovery. I think I've read most of them! Many of them have helped me learn and grown in my new-life-in-recovery. So do some reading!