CEDAR KNOLLS, NJ - Keith had a shotgun to his chin when his wife walked in the room. At the time, he was an alcoholic. 

“I couldn’t see my life without it,” he said, referring to alcohol.

Keith started drinking at thirteen and realized that when he drank, he fit in. Speaking to people was easier, he cracked better jokes and he was more outgoing in general. Eventually, drinking became what he knew. It consumed his life.

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At the first-ever Al-Anon “Day of Sharing” in Cedar Knolls this Saturday, over 70 people who either knew people in recovery or were in recovery themselves attended workshops and spoke about their experiences with alcoholism.

Keith joined Alcoholics Anonymous after his near suicide attempt and began to work himself out of his drinking habits and self-centered ways.

Al-Anon attempts to help people understand that alcoholism is a family issue and that through both listening and being heard, people can change their ways. Al-Anon works to offer hope to the family disease known as alcoholism according to their website, https://nj-al-anon.org/.

Angela, the District 2 Representative for Al-Anon, said that alcoholism can be a very “hopeless and despairing disease.” However, the day of sharing that was held at the Notre Dame of Mount Carmel Church was meant for people to know they’re not alone.

The event gave people the opportunity to be in a safe space with others where they can share their stories and participate in workshops. Pam, an attendee, said that the workshops helped her deal with issues in her work and family life in addition to alcoholism.

Alateen, a part of the Al-Anon program that consists of younger members, also had attendees at the day. One of them, Chris, said that his father relapsed last year. “I knew that day would come,” he said, “but I didn’t want to believe that.” It was a heart-wrenching experience for him.

Chris has been in the program since he was nine and said he’s had to grow up a bit faster than most kids his age due to his father’s problems with drinking.

Now, Chris is working to help other people to realize that alcoholism “isn’t like the movies” and that recovery only comes when “you’re honest with what you’ve been through.”

Despite the relapse, Chris said he’s proud his Dad is working on himself. “I love my dad no matter what, you just have to hope,” he said.

For many teens or younger family members, alcoholism is hard to talk about. Carol, who works to help students, said that many of them don’t want to come to an adult for help. Through providing information at schools, she said, it helps them to realize their situation and motivates them to seek the help they need, whether it be for themselves, for a friend or for a loved one.

For many at the event, their problems with alcohol snowballed because they didn’t speak about them, “When I was drinking, all I did was beat myself up in my head,” Keith said.

But when he began to go to meetings and speak about his issues, “the walls broke down.”

“When we ask for help, that’s when we’re more of a man,” he added.

His wife Kathy went to meetings with him in their near 30 year run with the program and she said that the ingredients for recovery are the “steps, slogans, meetings and readings.”

“And without someone stepping up and speaking,” she added, “none of us would be here.”

Angela said that the day was a great success and she hopes to continue holding the event annually.