Illustrated by Angelina Scorzelli, Millbrook High School Art Department
Alateen is for teenagers whose lives have been impacted by someone else’s drinking. This could mean they live with someone who abuses alcohol, but sometimes the active drinking has stopped, or the active drinker may not live with them; however, the effects of the abuse can still be damaging. In these meetings I found support and understanding from people my own age who were going through similar difficulties.
Alateen gatherings are often held in a room next to an Al-Anon meeting with sponsored Al-Anon members. I was chauffeured by an older relative and attended many meetings where I met other teens, some of whom became my friends. Together we shared our stories and feelings under the guidance of the Alateen Group Sponsor.
The meetings were a welcome place for me, a place of safety with no judgment, regardless of our problems. At a time when I felt unsettled about myself and my family life, Alateen offered comfort through the support of others who understood my situation. We learned that although our stories were not all the same, the feelings we had were.
Many years later as an adult, my life had become unmanageable due to my response to someone else’s addiction. Even though drugs and not alcohol was the issue this time, I knew I could use the Al-Anon program to help me. I found a local meeting and was greeted with the same warmth and support I had witnessed in Alateen. I quickly found out that there was not an active Alateen meeting available in our area; this was disappointing, and I wanted to help change that. As a product of a family affected by alcoholism, and a mother of three children, I wanted to make sure that when and if my children needed a place to talk, that Alateen would be available in our community.
After spending a few years going to Al-Anon business meetings and lobbying for Alateen, it was determined that if we didn’t have teens asking for help, there wasn’t a need for Alateen. I continued to voice my opinion, often with an emotional component that stemmed directly from my concern for my children and my own connection to Alateen.
In 2016, I was offered the opportunity to become an AMIAS (Al-Anon Member Involved in Alateen Service) by training in an adjoining county. Excited at the possibility of bringing Alateen back to my area, I signed up for it.
Over the years, the requirements for AMIAS have changed, but the training that I received outlined the regulations and safety guidelines we would need to follow, as well as ideas for meetings and how to get an Alateen meeting started.
A few months later, I was certified as an AMIAS. I was finally on the way! First, I found a community room at a church that would allow a group to have meetings there. Then, I found another AMIAS willing to make a weekly commitment to a meeting. Together in April 2017, we held our first Alateen meeting in Montgomery, NY.
At our opening meeting, I was amazed at the openness of the teens and their willingness to help each other. It is rewarding to offer a safe place for them to share, like I’d had as a teen. All Alateen meetings are totally anonymous, and just as with Al-Anon: whom you see there, what you hear there, when you leave there…stays there!
In August 2017, I organized a 60th-anniversary celebration of Alateen at a recovery-friendly farm. We hosted a bonfire, barbecue, meeting and a party. Due to the success of that celebration, we chose to hold another Alateen party this winter and are planning more for this year.
As this story is being written, there are currently two Alateen meetings in Orange County and one in Dutchess County. The need for more Alateen groups to be formed in the Hudson Valley is huge, and we are all doing the best that we can to change that. We are in the process of getting more AMIAS trained and certified so that more Alateen meetings are accessible to our youth in the local communities.