Speech: Al-Anon Family Groups

On September 24th, I spoke in Gordon MacDonald’s Members’ Business debate on Al-Anon Family Groups. Below is a transcript of my contribution.

I thank Gordon MacDonald for securing the debate. This is a topic that should be debated in the Parliament again and again. Our relationship with alcohol is such a big issue that I hope that a debate on it is secured on at least an annual basis so that we can talk openly about Al-Anon.

Most folk in Scotland have relatives or friends who live abroad. Most of us also have an alcoholic in the family or within our circle of friends. At first, most of us do not understand the relationship with alcoholism, but we need to come to understand what is happening to the alcoholic, the symptoms of alcoholism and the effect that the condition has on other members of the family. I think that I am right in saying that, for every person suffering from alcohol addiction, another eight or 10 people are suffering all the symptoms. The madness, the irrationality and the extraordinary behaviour of the alcoholic are often reflected in what become the madness and the irrationality of the lives of those who are trying to live with that person. Al-Anon absolutely understands that.

Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about Al-Anon is the friendships that are made when the alcoholic first comes to understand or realise that he or she is sick. The organisation that befriends and understands and is constantly there to remind the person suffering from the symptoms of alcoholism is a wonderful thing to be part of.

For the wives—and, increasingly, the husbands—who attend Al-Anon, there is the knowledge that they are part of not only a self-help group, which is literally what Al-Anon is, but an organisation that is truly international. As we have heard, AA started in Ohio in the United States, but the organisation is now international to the extent that, wherever one might go, there will be an Al-Anon meeting taking place, if not that night, the following night or the following morning. There are Al-Anon friends around the globe, because, as we know, every addict is a recovering—not a recovered—alcoholic.

Many of us have had the experience of living with alcoholism or someone who is recovering from alcoholism, and nothing settles it like an Al-Anon meeting. The genuine help from Al-Anon is to be welcomed, so I am delighted that Gordon MacDonald has raised the issue in the Parliament. We need to spread the word about Al-Anon to the many hundreds of thousands of people across Scotland who still do not know about it, as it brings incredible comfort. I thank Gordon MacDonald very much for bringing the debate to the Parliament, and I thank the members of Al-Anon who are in the public gallery for the work that they have done and continue to do to bring people to sobriety in Scotland.

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