Thursday, March 25, 2010

The fellowship is a safe place?

We hear that the rooms of Al-Anon are a safe place.  I certainly have felt comfortable to share my story at these meetings.  But there are situations that may arise in which a spouse or relative is "stalked" by an alcoholic who comes to the meeting. 

I have read that if a wet drunk shows up at an AA meeting, that person is helped by a couple of the members.  I can't find anything about what to do if an intoxicated person shows up at an Al-Anon meeting.  I would like to think that this is a rare occurrence but with individuals who are separating from the alcoholic, such a situation could indeed arise and in fact has occurred recently.  

The first thought that came to mind was that a couple of men who were there could see if the "new" man would like to go talk in a separate area.  Or perhaps a couple of the women could take the crying spouse to another room.  This presents a potentially explosive situation though.   Maybe the best course is to ask the intoxicated person to leave and if they don't, then call the police.  I was wondering what the thoughts are of those who have experienced this.

The thought that someone would feel unsafe at an Al-Anon meeting hasn't crossed my mind until now.  Most of us believe in "Live and Let Live" and aren't too comfortable dealing with potentially unsafe situations at a meeting. However, Tradition One states that "our common welfare should come first".  Al-Anon needs to be a safe place for people who are troubled by someone else's drinking. 

Any suggestions would be much appreciated.  It is a subject that will likely be brought up at a future group conscience meeting.


  1. I've experienced what you describe more than once at Open AA meetings, but never at an Al-Anon meeting. I like your idea of a couple people taking the person aside and engaging them. Many come to our rooms to momentarily escape unsafe, uncomfortable environments. I think that we need to focus on "the greatest good for the greatest number," while still trying to be of service to the new person. Not an easy problem, but something that needs to be dealt with. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. you get some answers, that's worrying isn't it.

  3. I do think it should be worked out ahead of time. I was menaced once at a yoga class held at a church. Which sounds odd, but AA meetings were also being held at this church, so someone obviously had directed this man to one.

    He was very intoxicated. He came into the darkened room where we were doing yoga and said he wanted to "observe." Which wasn't his intention at all. The instructor continued with the class and the man started whispering obscenities directed at me under his breath. I complained and the instructor and other participants, male and female, went about their business and very yoga-like just ignored him. I couldn't though, I felt too vulnerable, and gathered my stuff and left.

    Eventually, the church had to recruit volunteers to staff the door during the hours meetings-classings were being held. They had walkie-talkies (in the days before cell phones) and had a system in place for calling for help. Being prepared, I'm sure, nipped a lot of problems in the bud before they became trouble.

  4. We have had this happen at CoDA meetings a couple times. As long as the person who is drunk is not being abusive we all stayed polite and the leader of that day's meeting asked the person to please take their turn. One time the person drunk did not want to and they just got up and left. Another time the drunk person kept talking and talking and the meeting just went on as if the person wasn't there.

  5. i haven't heard of al anon problems of that type but will ask around.
    re dodgy aa ppl. i have not experienced any 'trouble' at aa meetings.
    or stalking. other than new women being preyed on by sleazy males in aa.
    if a dunk shows up, it is a service position of some men to talk to them after the meeting, or takl to them outside DURiNG the meeting if they wont shut up. drunk s must not be allowed to disrupt the primary purpose, thats why some1 talk to them.

    my exp is that most drunks are just looking for attention and are reasonable if spoken to reasonably.

    u wld hav to be more specific re stalking. police sounds a bit heavy handed and unnecessary but if a woman had been beaten half to death by a bf and he showed up with a weapon and had a history of gbh i might be tempted to call the cops. but to be honest thats never happened.
    i find alkys, even drunk ones very unthreatening.

    if u have a specific person/situation in mind it wld be easier to give better feedback. otherwise its very generic..

  6. I think you have some good suggestions. Start with the seperation, and if things escalate to where someone may be in danger call the police. Better safe than sorry. I finally had a chance to read your blog post from yesterday: It was so touching. Yes we alcoholics are complex people, but having someone to love us and accept us for who we are is priceless! Thank you for sharing and being so honest.

  7. I agree that someone taking the person aside and talking with them may be the best way to diffuse the situation. At least you are in a room that is filled with people who have been in uncomfortable situations with someone who has been drinking. If the person gets out of hand and someone feel in danger for their safety, call the police.

  8. I've experienced what you describe in both an Alanon meeting (though not the stalking situation you describe) and at an AA meeting. What I would advise (not necessarily what I did) was:
    1) Pray
    2) Look around the room for some guidance from other group members - a nod or a look seems to be all that it takes
    3) Support and act on what seems best for the unity of the group

    I'm reluctant to call police but have done it once - I'm still second-guessing as to whether that was right.

    Blessings and aloha...

  9. I totally agree with Sarita Uhr.

    Start with the seperation, and if things escalate to where someone may be in danger call the police.

  10. We have had intoxicated people come in to our Alanon meeting a couple of times. not stalkers. And two men(double winners) did get up and talked to them... I don't really know what they said or did because they took him outside. I did hear them say that the AA meeting didn't start until noon....

  11. Anyone who arrives intoxicated at an Al-Anon meeting is in the wrong place because he or she is abusing alcohol. If somebody arrives drunk at an AA meeting, he or she may be in the right place (depending on whether there is a desire to get sober) but will be asked to sit quietly because 'it will be the alcohol speaking and not the person'. There is great compassion and tolerance for the still suffering alcoholic in AA. We've all been there.

    But for Al-Anon members, the presence of a drunk is a reminder of what they need to detach from and newer members may feel distressed and relive the old sensations of being threatened and powerless, manipulated by the alcoholic. I feel the intoxicated person should be asked to leave.

  12. I've been to AA meetings that have been disrupted by drunk people. when this happens, some of the long time sober guys typically offer to take the disruptive person aside to talk after asking a few times that they be quit and listen. I've never seen anyone get to the point where they've been escorted out.

    but I would say that the police ought to be called if someone is not cooperative and continues to disrupt. Safety is paramount.

  13. will check out the thoughts from others...I'm not sure how you would go about handling this...but great question

  14. You've posed a tough question, Syd, because each situation is a different story. Alchohol does odd things to people...making one of us giddy and silly while making the other one suicidal or vengeful.

    I think you need to take each situation as it comes and I agree with the commentor who said that it would make a new person to Al-Anon very nervous to have an intoxicated person there.

    I hope you tell us what your Group Conscience figures out.


Let me know what you think. I like reading what you have to say.