By Joan F. Simoneau, Community Reporter
Marlborough – Do you know a teenager who is hurting and embarrassed by someone's drinking? Perhaps he tells lies to cover up for that person or for what is happening in the home. Or she may feel she is causing the drinker's behavior and believes no one could possibly understand how she feels.
There is help for young teens and all who suffer from the effects of alcoholism in a family member or friend. There is Alateen, an integral part of the Al-Anon Family Groups. Alateen members meet to discuss their common problems, share experiences, encourage one another, and learn effective ways of dealing with their personal problems.
Margaret Dwyer of Marlborough has been working with the Youth Ministry and Life Teen groups at local and area churches for many years and became increasingly aware of how many young people are suffering from the behavior of drinkers in their lives.
“Teens dealing with parents or siblings with substance abuse issues have nowhere to go to get support,” she said.
Dwyer participated in a Metrowest Adolescent Health Survey, which further substantiated the problem, and shared results of the survey with a member of the Mayor's Youth Commission John Nicholson. He joined forces with her to learn about Alateen and to help remedy the situation. The Youth Commission was in the background helping as Dwyer, a member of the Marlborough School Committee, eventually met with teachers at the High School to explain the action being taken.
In a letter to Maureen Gruelich at Marlborough High School, Dwyer said: “This past year has been a real learning experience for me as I am not familiar with Alanon – which is for family members of alcoholics. In order to be a sanctioned Alateen meeting, Alanon has a number of rigorous safety protocols in place. Included among them are that two adults who have been active Alanon members for at least the past two years must be present for a meeting, and the meeting is closed to only teens and the sanctioned adult leaders. All members are completely anonymous. Last December I watched a family deal with a father going to an inpatient facility to dry out. The three teens had nowhere to go to connect with other teens facing the same feelings and issues. The closest Alateen meeting was in Framingham, which was simply not possible for them to get to.”
Word has been spreading at Marlborough High School, and students in the area are responding. The first local Alateen meeting was held in early January at the Marlborough Public Library and will continue each Thursday at 7 p.m. Dwyer is talking with educators at Hudson High School and the Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School to gain their support in getting the word out.
As members of the Alanon fellowship, Alateens share ideas and experience to gain a better understanding of the disease of alcoholism and, with the help of the Twelve Steps, they realize they do not have the power to change another person. They learn how to shift their attention from preoccupation with the loved one's alcoholic behavior to a heightened awareness of their own identity and self-improvement. They begin to gain confidence in themselves and hopefully, start a happy and fulfilling life.