The drink and us: There's hope for the young

Sandra was part of the damaged goods when her mother's drinking fractured home life, but she found strength and focus in fellowship. She tells that Alateen can help young people regain life.

Sandra grew up in a very middle-class alcohol-affected family.

As much as it appeared very normal, things were very wrong.

``The house was still running, jobs were still going, everything was fine on the outside,'' she said.

``But you walked on eggshells inside.''

Inside, that's where the secrets burned, where the shouting and arguments behind closed doors confused and isolated a young teenaged girl.

It's where a gloom hung in the air, it's where Sandra didn't want to be.

Her mum was the drinker.

She worked two jobs but drank in the closet, always secreted it away, but eventually her illness became the elephant sitting in the middle of the lounge room that no one was willing to talk about.

Sandra, not her real name, was not subjected to violence or abuse but was emotionally deprived and felt intensely lonely and had little self-esteem.

``I had feelings of not depression but I was always searching for something to make me feel better,'' she said.

She reacted in a teenage way, spent as much time away from home as possible, out with friends.

``I did everything early, I rebelled,'' she said.

She evaded the genetic trap of alcoholism herself but in her way was cruelled by the disease.

She needed support independent from her family and once her mother had hit the bottom and met realisation that she needed to act they both found shafts of light.

Sandra was 16 when her mother started attending Alcoholics Anonymous.

Her mum liked the life, AA helped her recover and thought her daughter might be able to experience some of the same.

So it was that Sandra started attending Alateen and her life started returning from muted to vibrant colours.

Alcoholics Anonymous offers help for the drinker, Al-Anon offers help and hope to their families and friends. Alateen offers strength, learning and tools for life for young relatives and friends of alcoholics.

``It probably helped me stay in school and get through school,'' Sandra said.

``It gives you tools to help with what you're dealing with and it's very much about it not being your fault.

``You learn that you didn't cause it, you can't control it and you can't cure it.

``But you can start to enjoy your own life regardless of what's going on at home.''

Sandra would take an Alateen survival book to school with her for quick looks in the privacy of her bag when she needed strength.

She'd cut up Al-Anon slogans on slips of paper to keep in her pocket _ one day at a time, easy does it, first things first, how important is it?

They helped her maintain perspective, and the fellowship at weekly Alateen meetings helped her escape.

Her mum stayed sober but for a while the road was emotionally rocky. She and her husband divorced.

Alateen helped Sandra complete year 12. She became a Bachelor of Arts and gained post-graduate qualification in education.

She left Alateen but couldn't do anything else but return to it as a sponsor for other young people. She became Australian Alateen chairperson.

Her mum has stayed sober for 16 years. Sandra says their relationship has grown through the fellowship of AA.

And the daughter, now a radiant mother, is certain of what Alateen gave her.

``Hope,'' she says without hesitation.


source: Alcoholics Anonymous Reviews