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Tue, July 23

Group gives youth safe refuge from alcohol

Courier photo illustration/Nathaniel Kastelic

Courier photo illustration/Nathaniel Kastelic

Editor's note: The Daily Courier changed the names of those featured to protect their identities.

Like many children today, Anne never had a safe place to run as a child when her dad drank and abused her and her family.

Only after turning 17, when her father entered rehabilitation, did Anne learn alcoholism is a disease.

At the same time, Jessica never understood that her father was an angry alcoholic until she became older. To her, that type of life was normal.

"Nobody understood," she said. "No one wanted to talk to me about it. (The situation) was shame-based."

Now adults, Jessica and Anne are certified sponsors for Alateen, a 12-step support group for teenagers, 10 to 18 years old, who are growing up in a household with alcohol and/or drug abuse.

However, it was their painful childhoods that brought these two women together and drove them to help other teenagers growing up in similar situations.

For the first time in years, the international group Alateen is starting weekly meetings this Wednesday at the Safe Harbor Center, 520 W. Delano Ave. in Prescott. Meetings will start at 6 p.m.

"It's horrendous what happens to these children," Anne said. "I want to give them a safe place, and I didn't have a safe place."

Remembering their pasts brought hints of tears to Anne's and Jessica's eyes. They said they remember the shame associated with growing up in such a household. They want Alateen to help teenagers understand the alcoholism, how to protect themselves in cases of abuse and recognize the choices they can make for themselves.

Even if teens feel the need to join the group, Jessica strongly emphasized the importance of parents taking their kids to the meetings.

"If they bring (their children) five to seven times, that's not enough. They need to be consistent for years and years," she said.

Tom is one parent who's looking forward to the formation of Prescott Alateen and is helping with the outreach. Tom began drinking at 13 years old, and now follows

the guidelines of Alcoholics Anonymous.

"I have two children who have been directly affected by alcohol," he said. "Now that I'm clean and sober ­ the aftermath of devastation ­ I wanted a program other than therapy. I knew there was a practical program effective for teens."

Tom said his oldest son was embarrassed when his dad drank, and didn't want him to attend his birthday party, something that hurt him deeply. However, he understands his son's feelings, and wants him to participate in Alateen.

"I think once he realizes the number of kids in the community (that are like him), that he's not alone, it'll cure some of the shame," he said.

In addition, Jessica said many children believe their parents' actions are their fault. During Alateen meetings, she'll talk about the three Cs:

• You didn't cause it.

• You can't control it.

• You can't cure it.

"When I first saw this, I was like, 'Oh my God.' And I was in my 20s by then," Jessica said.

The group also will give teens tools to use around their parents, such as teaching them how to find a safe place when needed. Jessica called Alateen "good mental nutrition."

Most of all, these three individuals want to help adolescents.

"I just feel like, if we can help one kid, I mean, I'll feel great," Tom said.

For more information on Prescott Alateen, call 708-9446.

Contact the reporter at slopatin@prescottaz.com

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