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Alcoholics Anonymous Orkney

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As part of Alcohol Awareness Week 2020 we are focusing on our great support services here in Orkney and how these different organisations can help those who are struggling with issues relating to alcohol and their mental health. I spoke with a member of the Orkney Alcoholics Anonymous fellowship to get the lowdown on how the fellowship supports its members here in our community. 

What is the background of AA in Orkney?

The Alcoholics Anonymous fellowship has been established in Orkney since the 1970's! It was initially established in Orkney by a native Orcadian, Robbie Sutherland, affectionately known as Cpt Robbie who saw the need for the support of a fellowship within our community and the benefits that AA can bring to those in distress and suffering addiction to alcohol. Since that time Orkney AA has grown and grown, creating a supportive and understanding community within Orkney.

Prior to the Covid19 pandemic the fellowship were meeting 5 nights a week in venues in Kirkwall, Finstown and Stromness. When the pandemic hit and lockdown was imposed we recognised immediately that it could potentially lead to more people within our community having problems with the use of alcohol so we decided very quickly that because our face to face meetings were unable to take place so we set up an online fellowship. This allowed us to continue to support our members and also broadened the scope of our meetings to include others within Orkney and also outwith, with people from all over the world dialing into our online meetings to provide support and fellowship to the members here. 

So what exactly is AA and what happens in a meeting?

The following is read at the beginning of every meeting.  It states what AA is and what it is not; "Alcoholics  Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement is a desire to stop drinking.  There are no dues or fees for AA membership; we are self supporting through our own contributions. AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organisation or institution does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor supports any causes.Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety." 

After this a passage is read from our main text known as Chapter Five : How it works, which details the 12 Steps of AA and also puts them into a human context .

AA meetings have a set format which is universal the world over;

  • AA meetings are held at the same place and time usually every week.  This makes it easy to find for a newcomer and easy for existing members to develop the habit of attending.
  • Before the start time members can get a cup of tea or coffee and biscuits, enabling members to socialise and to put newcomers at their ease.
  • The Chairman for that meeting (it rotates) makes everyone welcome including newcomers or visitors from elsewhere.

What are these 12 Steps you have mentioned?

The 12 steps are fundamental to the process members of AA will work through. They are a series of voluntary steps are taken by an alcoholic to help them to achieve and maintain their sobriety. 

  • First steps include acceptance of the fact that they are an alcoholic although there is no pressure to make any declaration to that effect.
  • In further steps the alcoholic learns to trust and rely on something outside of themselves for help.
  • A number of steps then allow the alcoholic to make peace with themselves by acknowledgement of and making amends for past behaviour.
  • Later steps concentrate on changing present behaviour and passing the help received on to other alcoholics.

The pace at which the steps are taken is entirely dependent on the individual and it is not unusual for it to take a number of years.  Thoroughness is preferable to speed.

What sort of things do members share at meetings?

An established member of the group will have been asked to speak for maybe 15 minutes on the subject of their problems with alcohol.  In general their story will include how things were during their drinking and what they are like now.  For a newcomer this will usually be the first time that they have heard another person describe the nightmarish experiences that only they, the newcomer believes they have suffered. Hearing that others have faced and with the help of AA overcome issues which are similar to your own can have a profoundly powerful effect on those new to the fellowship. 

Once the established member has concluded relating their experiences to the group the meeting is then opened for sharing.  Sharing has a number of purposes.  It encourages identification and acceptance but also gives hope.  It allows folk to “get things off their chests” but also instructs.  Further it develops tolerance and forbearance as speakers are not interrupted or criticised.

Sharing is encouraged but not obligatory.  Some members will share rarely, preferring to listen and that is perfectly fine. 

How do you go about closing the Meeting?

When sharing is over the Chairman will ask if anyone wishes to say anything else or wishes to stay behind to talk over something one to one. Any AA announcement can be made and the meeting is closed with the traditional Serenity Prayer using the word God as each person understands it

God Grant me the Serenity to Accept the things I cannot change

Courage to change the things I can

And Wisdom to know the difference.

Then we do the washing up, go home and look forwards to the next meeting of our fellowship and the fantastic support which it offers us. 

Thank you very much for taking the time to describe what goes on at AA. If anyone is interested in accessing support from the Orkney AA Fellowship how can they get in touch?

Anyone is welcome to come along to our recently reinstated face to face meetings. Due to the necessity for appropriate social distancing at venues we are only currently meeting in the Kings Street Halls in Kirkwall on a Thursday at 7pm and a Saturday and 6pm. 

If anyone would like further information or just a chat about the Orkney Alcoholics Anonymous fellowship then they can get in touch by calling the helpline on 0800 9177650

Orkney Alcohol and Drugs Partnership