A man raised a plastic fork to his mouth in the Saint Thomas Parish Life Center and chocolate cake crumbs spilled back onto his small paper plate. He skewered another piece with a still shaking hand, scraping with it a pink rose petal of frosting and he looked up and smiled. “(AA) is saving my marriage. It is saving me,” he said. The meetings at Saint Thomas give him the support to change and the safety to be open about his addiction. “I’ve been sober six months,” he said with resolution, “and my wife is part of Al-Anon.”
AA (Alcoholics Anonyms) has been meeting at Saint Thomas for more then 50 years. The 12-step program is centered around acknowledging and accepting problems, realizing God is in their lives and making a conscious change. It’s structure and support has helped members begin and maintain a sober life. Al-Anon was created because it became clear alcoholism does not just affect the alcoholic. It wreaks havoc in the lives of alcoholics family members and friends. The support system Al-Anon provides has saved marriages, families and friendships.
Just minutes before entering the AA meeting, the Great Hall was described by long time AA member Mary Jo D., as a place which emanated “sanctuary.” Days prior, my heels had clacked across the empty linoleum, but upon entering I found the space filled. It buzzed with greetings, smiles, hugs and laughter. The same warmth I feel from the Saint Thomas parishioners seemed to be in the very breath of those who came up to me again and again. “Thank you for being here,” they said. “Thank you for all Saint Thomas has done for us,” they beamed. “This saved my life,” I heard over and over. The members described their AA group as their family, and the spoke of Saint Thomas as being their home. Mary Jo D. plays golf at the Overlake Golf Course bordering the church. From the green she can see the tops of the steeple. “I look at it,” she smiled, “and it brings me peace.”
Five minutes into the meeting the door to the kitchen opened a crack and small boy, with bouncing golden curls slipped through. His face lit up as he ran around the front of the Parish Life Center. Everyone laughed and he giggled all the more, until his father corralled him into a corner and swooped him up into a hug. He was taken back to the nursery, but escaped twice more. It was funny yes, but the escape artist was a clear reminder how necessary childcare is to both AA and Al-Anon members. Parents struggling with addiction and mental strain need these meetings. Without proper childcare their attendance would be nearly impossible. Our expansion of childcare facilities would give AA and Al-Anon the ability to increase this vital help.
The Monday and Friday night meetings at Saint Thomas represent two of the oldest AA groups on the Eastside. Our parish’s role in their success continues to be vital day in and day out. Though many parishioners are not aware of the difference they are making, Saint Thomas’ positive impact continues. In a typical month Saint Thomas is visited more than 1,500 times by AA members with sobriety ranging from one day or week, to nearly 40 years of continuous sobriety. Saint Thomas’ blessing in their lives is nearly immeasurable. AA is excited about the changes coming to the Great Hall and looks forward to its development for both Parish growth and their own.
by Mikaela Cowles