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Alcoholics Anonymous celebrates 60 years in Fort Macleod

The Fort Macleod Sunnyside Group marked its 60th anniversary Wednesday with a special cake for the meeting at the Alliance Church.

The routine is the same every Wednesday night at 8 p.m. at Fort Macleod Alliance Church.

The chairs are set out in rows, the coffee is brewed and people quietly file in, exchanging greetings and handshakes.

The chairman opens the evening by introducing himself by his first name with the statement, “I’m an alcoholic.”

For 60 years the Fort Macleod Sunnyside Group of Alcoholics Anonymous has provided support and encouragement for alcoholics to achieve and maintain sobriety.

Members past and present came together — about 70 strong — on Jan. 29 for a 60th anniversary celebration.

Speaker after speaker talked about the importance of the Fort Macleod AA group in their lives.

In keeping with the anonymous tenet of the organization, people introduce themselves using only their first names.

One of the members was invited to perform a song at the meeting’s start. It told the story of someone looking for help with the phrase, “I’m down and I can’t fall much further.”

There was a minute of silence for those still suffering in their alcoholism — both inside and outside the meeting room at the Fort Macleod Alliance Church.

As it states in the preamble to the meeting, the only requirement for membership in AA is the desire to stop drinking.

“Our common purpose is to stay sober and to help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.”

That has been the goal since 1960 when the Fort Macleod Sunnyside Group was formed, meeting at the Trinity United Church Hall.

The group has held its meetings in the Main Street building, a bowling alley, the Masonic Hall and Chinook Health Unit.

As the chairman of Wednesday’s meeting noted, “They’ve bounced around but the light has never gone out.”

For six decades people have come together on Wednesday nights to reflect on the 12 steps of AA, share their own stories and struggles, and to offer one another encouragement to stay sober.

One long-time member expressed his gratitude for the Fort Macleod group.

“Glad to be here,” he said. “Glad to be sober today.”

The speakers marvelled at the resiliency and longevity of the Fort Macleod group, noting that other groups have folded in the course of 60 years.

Each one stressed the importance of the weekly gatherings, no matter where they were held.

“If it wasn’t for this group I don’t know where I would be,” said one speaker, noting that because he has been sober he has a job, home and family. “I owe it all to this group.”

Another man told the group that joining AA changed his life at a time he was on a downward slide.

“Once I got into this program, things started turning around for me.”

Another speaker recalled entering the nearby Foothills Detox Centre in 1995 and attending his first AA meeting in the Chinook Health Unit.

The importance of those two things cannot be overstated, he added. 

“It saved my life.”

Some of the people who spoke at Wednesday’s meeting have moved away from Fort Macleod and now belong to other AA groups where they live but returned to help celebrate the anniversary.

Fort Macleod still holds a special place in their hearts.

“It doesn’t matter how far away I am,” one man said. “I’ll always keep this as my home group.”

Another man echoed those sentiments.

“When I come back here I feel at home. These are my people and I feel loved,” he said, adding getting sober was the hardest thing he has ever done. “But it was the best thing I’ve ever done.”

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