Group gives voice to alcoholics’ family and friends

There are six groups throughout Fife.
There are six groups throughout Fife.

So often when alcoholism is discussed, the focus is on the alcoholic.

But the disease affects more than just the person – it impacts everyone around them.

And there is a place where these people can meet. Al Anon has groups around the world, where friends and relatives of alcoholics share their experiences and stories in the hope of solving common problems.

One long-term Fife member, who asked not to be named, has attended the group for decades, long after her husband defeated the disease.

“When we got married my husband did not drink at all,” she explained.

“I had no experience of drinking as my parents only had one sherry at Christmas.

“When we moved to the area there was a pub nearby and he said he’d go because it would be a good way to meet people.

“I thought it was a good idea. But I was proved wrong.

“Initially it was normal drinking but then it grew to be every night and all weekend.

“I knew nothing about alcoholism – that it was an illness, that it changed behaviour.

“When he went out he was nice but when he returned he was argumentative, but never violent. He was nasty with his tongue though.”

While the alcohol affected her husband, it also started to affect her mind.

She tried scheme after scheme, all of which failed, making her feel “less adequate”.

“I thought there must be something I could do to help,” she explained.

“I thought up all these schemes but they all failed. I thought it had to be me, that there was nothing I could do.

“I was insane with a mixture of resentment and self pity. That’s how families are affected.”

Eventually her husband came home one day and said he wanted to attend an AA meeting.

She joined him at the meeting and, while there, the chairman asked if she had heard of Al Anon.

“I’ve been going ever since,” she explained.

“I thought I had come to the wrong place because I could hear people laughing.

“All I could do was cry – my life was such a mess.

“I sat and listened and cried. Gradually I stopped crying.

“People were living their lives and getting on with it, which I wasn’t.

“The way we get better is by supporting each other because we’ve all been there.

“We share our experiences. Gradually, you pick up positivity and slowly I started to realise life was worth living again.

“I don’t think I would ever have gotten better without Al Anon, because it made me realise I was ill mentally and emotionally.”

While there are 44 Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) groups in Fife, there are just six Al Anon groups – in Cupar, Methilhill, Kirkcaldy, St Andrews and two in Dunfermline.

Meetings tend to last around 90 minutes, with everyone invited to get involved in the discussion.

Everything discussed in the meeting is confidential and strictly kept between those attending. Al Anon is not a religious organisation.

The first meeting of every month is open for anyone to attend.

Urging people affected by alcoholism to attend a meeting, the woman added: “What we want to do is get the message out there that there is help. There are no waiting lists, no costs.

“Once I came to Al Anon and realised alcoholism was an illness, that was a turning point for me.

“I think family members don’t realise how sick they’ve actually become.

“Everyone is affected. Only someone who has lived with alcoholism knows how bad it is.”

For more information about Al Anon, the times and dates for meetings, and the helpline number, visit