The Thanksgiving holiday, for all of its familial tradition, can be a stressful day for anyone.
But it can be a make-or-break day for someone recovering from addiction.
“When I got divorced, I was all by myself,” said Wade M., of the Brighton Chapter 1 of Alcoholics Anonymous. “Alcoholics run everyone off. We’re embarrassed. You feel shame and guilt. The people you love don’t want you to be like this, but you keep hurting them. You know you’re hurting them but you can’t quit. So, most people can’t wait for Thanksgiving, the family and kids and the house and everything. For me, I just moved from apartment to apartment.”
In recovery for 8 1/2 years, Wade M. — he asked us to use the group’s “first name, first initial of the last name” identification convention for this story — said he spent most pre-sober holidays alone in a series of one-room apartments and hotels.
“Who do you end up with? People just like you, addicts and alcoholics,” Wade said. “And everyone is feeling sorry for themselves, but they say ‘Hey, I have a bottle.’ And that’s what you do.”
The Brighton chapter will be open throughout Thanksgiving, continuously Nov. 24 and Nov. 25, with hourly meetings and fellowship, offering an alternative to that bottle. It’s called an Alcathon, and Wade said he’s seen it done in other cities. This is the first year that Brighton has hosted one.
“The deal is that people need to have a place to come, a safe place to come and a place with meetings,” Wade said. “The excuse is, ‘I couldn’t find a meeting that was open. I just couldn’t find one.’ Well, we’re open from Wednesday night prior to Thanksgiving and it’ll end at midnight on Thanksgiving. You’ll be able to find a meeting.”
Wade said they’ll plan to have meetings every hour, as well as a potluck supper, games to play and opportunities to just sit and talk.
The chapter has been the same location for 45 years, Wade said, at 147 S. 2nd Place in downtown Brighton. The chapter’s website, www.brighton1aa.org, has become increasingly more important since COVID. Members added a camera and screen to the meeting space during the COVID lockdowns, allowing them to continue to offer meetings via the Zoom networking platform. They host regular meetings at noon Mondays through Saturdays and 7:30 p.m. every day, with special 6 p.m. meetings Mondays and Thursdays and at 10 a.m. Sundays.
“What happens over the holidays, people relapse,” Wade said. “They’re by themselves or they’re lonely. But these Alcothons, we have a meeting every hour on the hour. And we’ll take it a step further. If they need a meeting, we’ll have a meeting. There will be food, and we’ll have music if they want to listen to music and play games if that’s what they want. Whoever comes, we want to give them a place.”
He doesn’t expect people will stay there the whole time.
“Then there’s the situation where you’re at your brother’s house and everyone is drinking,” he said. “If your sobriety is strong, it may not matter. But if your sobriety is weak, it really matters. This gives you an opportunity to break away for a little while and just get some peace.”
Thanksgiving has always been a tradition at the Brighton branch, he said.
“We’ve always had the Thanksgiving potluck up here,” Wade said. “Last year was the first time ever we missed it. We’ve had a Thanksgiving meeting with people bringing in food and sides and, as soon as the meeting is over, it’s game on. It’s food to no end.”
He doesn’t expect that to change, although the holiday will be a bit more formal. At least two members of the chapter, a man and a woman, will be on hand at all times.
“In AA, men work with men and women work with women,” Wade said. “So if a woman hears about this and comes in, she can feel comfortable because there will be at least one other woman there.”
They’ll be prepared the listen, to advise and to counsel — if that’s what’s needed. The chapter’s Thanksgiving meal will be served right after the noon meeting, he said.
“This place will be packed,” he said. “Not only will there be members, there will be their kids and family. And anyone who comes, there will be food for them.”
If it’s a success, they plan to have more Alcathon’s over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
“If you come to a meeting, it’s the people in the room and how welcoming they are that’s going to get you to come back,” he said. “You have to start a new way of life and they can tell you how they did it, it’s better if you feel welcome.”
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