Students start Al-Anon group on campus

John MacDougall spoke about drug dependency in the Centrum Nov. 21. Submitted photo.
John MacDougall spoke about drug dependency in the Centrum Nov. 21. Submitted photo.

A new Al-Anon group started by Concordia students and open to community members will hold its first meeting on campus tomorrow.

As part of a social work methods class taught by professor Laurie Dahley, eight students made an action plan to start the Al-Anon group. Al-Anon aims to support family members and loved ones of alcoholics by providing a safe space for them to talk about the issues they face.

“Alcoholism is a huge issue … it’s a taboo topic to talk about,” said Junior Brenna Kjellberg, a student in the class. “It’s so important to have a support group.”

To raise awareness and conversation about the topic, the students brought John MacDougall, director of spiritual guidance at Hazelden, to campus as a speaker Nov. 21.  Hazelden is a nonprofit dedicated to helping those who struggle with alcohol abuse in their lives. MacDougall talked about his own experiences as an alcoholic and his experiences in helping others become sober.

“Alcohol becomes the most important thing in the world,” he said. “Gradually the disease takes over more and more of our lives, but we’re the last ones to notice.”

That is why it is important for people to intervene and help that person understand they have a problem, he said.

The students starting the Al-Anon group saw a real need for a group like this on campus. Kjellberg said everyone in her action group for the social work class was affected by an alcoholic or knew someone who was affected.

“We’re really passionate about (this topic),” said Kara Shugren, a Concordia senior in the class.

Stephanie Benson, also a senior in the class, said Dahley had heard through the Counseling Center and campus pastor Tim Megordan that this was an issue on campus and that students wanted a group to connect with.

She said students that have been affected by an addict friend or family member can to go to the Al-Anon meeting even if they have not been severely affected.

“You don’t need to have some traumatic history,” she said.

Jenn Paquette, a senior in the action group, thinks that even if an alcoholic family member or friend was not a huge influence, the issue still matters and should be talked about.

“It does matter,” she said. “It still affects you.”

Benson said that the group will be a confidential space where students can say what they need to say to heal.

“Everyone has stuff they don’t want others to know,” she said.

The first Al-Anon meeting will be held at 8 p.m. Thursday in Bishop Whipple 249 and is open to students and community members.


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