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“Those who don’t have an alcoholic at home tend to give pity and sympathy, and we in Alateen have learned that pity is destructive. I don’t know what I would do without Alateen because it has given me answers to many problems and taught me that I am not always right just because I don’t get drunk”

Often wondered what it is like going to a meeting and telling everyone there what your life is like? Here is an excerpt of an article Edith Lynn Hornik-Beer did for The Sunday Hartford Courant magazine, the oldest existing newspaper in the United States.

By Edith Lynn Hornik-Beer

In a church in a small town in Connecticut a 17-year-old girl made the following confession to a group of fellow teenagers who call themselves Alateens and who all have one thing in common: an alcoholic parent.

“Before I came to Alateens I used to be fresh to my father because in my eyes he was nothing more than a drinking bum. I tried to avoid talking let alone listen to my mother because the seemed queer to me.

“Then one day my mother begged me to go to Alateen. I did not see why I needed it. I didn’t drink. But I went to please her.

“Since that first night Alateen has taught me that my father is not a drunk, but a sick person with a disease combining an obsession of the mind and allergy of the body. I also found out that my mother is not queer but that my father’s alcohol has made my mother neurotic. Mostly Alateen showed me that I needed help too, and that at the same time I could help other teenagers with the same problem by giving them understanding and compassion when they told their story.

Meetings are open only to the teen members and their sponsors except once a month when parents and guests may come. At the open meetings avowals are made similar to the one the 17-year-old Connecticut girl made in the church. In these confessions, names are never mentioned and specific personal acts are never described. The sponsor who is a successful Alcoholics Anonymous member or who might be an alumna of Alateen makes sure that no one telling his story violates anonymity or good taste.

At the closed meeting teenagers discuss their individual problems in a manner similar to group therapy. This writer was invited to witness a closed Alateen meeting.

At the closed meeting a new member said:
“This is my first time here and I didn’t think I would speak up because I always thought I was the only one with a drinking problem at home. We live on a pretty good street and I am embarrassed to look a neighbor in the eye for fear he knows what goes on at our house. Then I get like a fury in me and I go home to smash every whiskey bottle I can lay my hands on.”

The old members all nod knowingly. This is not a new story —–

Teenagers who belong to Alateen never feel alone. In between meetings when things are rough at home they can phone the group’s adult sponsors or fellow members who will discuss the immediate problem with them without interfering in the parents’ way of life. All Alateen groups are self-supporting through its members’ voluntary contributions. At each meeting a basket is passed for contributions. For more information go to the Resources link.

What strikes one first at a closed meeting is that members are encouraged to vent their feelings no matter how embarrassing they may seem.