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‘Blown away by the unflinching honesty’
AA meets professionals and politicians in England, Scotland and Wales
Alcoholics Anonymous did three successful presentations in October to politicians and professionals – in Westminster, to the Welsh Assembly and at Holyrood.
Four MPs, three peers and 44 other visitors turned out to the event at the Houses of Parliament in Westminster in October, including representatives from drug and alcohol agencies, health services, police, churches, street pastors, social services, housing associations and the criminal justice service.
The event was sponsored by Fiona Bruce, MP who opened by speaking of the problems caused by excessive drinking and of her experience and high regard for the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Jon Kuhrt, chief executive of the West London Mission, which hosts many AA and other 12 Step meetings each week, was among those who attended.
He said: “I have spent time in quite a few Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in the last few months as part of my job, as CEO of West London Mission which is based at Hinde Street Methodist Church. Here, we host 68 different recovery group meetings every week with around 200 people a day coming into the church building for AA as well as many other 12 Step groups. So it was an honour to be invited to AA's parliamentary reception last month.
“As with the groups I have been to, I was blown away by the unflinching honesty and inspiring stories I heard from the three speakers that evening at Parliament. They were remarkably honest but also hopeful - and they show-cased the transformative power of meeting and sharing the burden of addiction - both with God and with others.
“It was a good opportunity to share the largely hidden work of AA and celebrate its work to help liberate people with addictions.
“As a Christian, I am fascinated with the arresting form of spiritual honesty I have seen at AA. I have never been in environments where there is so much references to God alongside so much swearing! There is an absence of self-pity and a deep gratitude for a very real salvation from the hell of destructive behaviour. It means that the spirituality at AA is unvarnished, unreligious and deeply refreshing - and I believe that there is much the church can learn from what happens each day at AA meetings."
Tony Mercer, a health and well-being manager from Public Health England, spoke of his experience of working with AA and How It Works in his perception. He said it was extremely worthwhile for professionals to developing their knowledge of AA and build a relationship with the fellowship. He particularly emphasised the value of attending open meetings.
AA members Sue D and Trevor H told their stories. Both have long-term sobriety and gave moving testimony of how AA had transformed their lives from the very desperate situations that brought them to the fellowship.
Fellowship member Alan T chaired the event, giving a brief introduction to AA and conducting a question and answer session at the end.
All delegates were provided with a pack of essential AA materials. AA’s sister fellowship Al Anon was also present with a stall and two members available to talk with delegates.
The audience was attentive and appreciative, and most stayed for some lively informal discussion afterwards.
The event, in its 13th year, was organised by a committee made up of AA members involved in service on a number of different committees.
MSP Maree Todd hosted the event in Scotland. She told the audience of 25 professionals and others how the fellowship works and her experience of its work.
Sandy MacV, a trustee of AA, did a presentation of what AA is and what it is not.
Nick Holroyd, a lawyer who is a non-alcoholic trustee, told his moving and heartfelt story.
Nick Holroyd said: "I came to work for AA knowing little about how AA works, it’s structure or very much about the 12 steps. I have learnt so much about how alcoholics can live rewarding lives without alcohol and how they give so much time in service to the fellowship particularly in ensuring that the still suffering alcoholic can become aware of the strength and hope offered by the programme. I experienced the impact of drinking alcohol on people in my job as a solicitor and one client sadly died as a result of his drinking. I regret not knowing more about AA during my career and I now see it as essential that work continues to inform professionals in health and other areas about the reality of recovery through abstinence from alcohol."
Dr Ash Khan, a psychiatrist and former trustee, explained how AA works and why.
Anne-Marie S, from AA’s service office in Scotland, shared her own ‘experience, strength and hope’. A question and answer session was followed by very positive and encouraging comments from Maree Todd MSP, and ‘thank you’s’ from Sandy MacV, including guests for their attendance. The event closed with Serenity Prayer.
In Wales, the assembly member Rhun ap Iorwerth hosted an event that was attended by 27 members of the professions in the fields of medicine, probation and social services. Seven fellowship members answered questions.
Rhun outlined how first-hand experiences of how the AA model of mutual aid has a positive effect for individuals. "I believe it to be a well-evidenced way of helping individuals through the most difficult of experiences in their lives,” he said.
All three events take place annually and fall under AA’s remit of working with professionals and others to 'carry the message to the alcoholic who still suffers’.
For further information contact AAInformation@gsogb.org.uk
Alcoholics Anonymous, 10 Toft Green , York YO1 7NJ. Telephone no 01904 644026