Dreaming bigger: More space for recovery groups on wish list
Behind a nondescript storefront in downtown Brainerd, there are people working together to change their lives. Some who arrive there to attend meetings count their sobriety by the hour. Others, by thousands of days. They come to this small buildi...
Behind a nondescript storefront in downtown Brainerd, there are people working together to change their lives.
Some who arrive there to attend meetings count their sobriety by the hour. Others, by thousands of days. They come to this small building from all corners of the lakes area, each with their own story and life experiences behind the addiction that led them to seek help. Their addictions come in all forms-alcohol, crystal meth, prescription drugs and other narcotics. Some who attend are not addicts themselves, but are affected by addictions of the ones they love.
On a Thursday at the lunch hour, 15 people contemplated readings, shared their triumphs and struggles, congratulated one another on milestones and offered sponsorships to one another. Everyone had the opportunity to share in the hour-long meeting, although each minute was used down to the last one.
Sometimes, according to leaders within the Lakes Area Alano Association, meeting attendance is more than double those who attended that day. This can leave little time for full participation, they said, and the building at 615 Maple St. contains just one large room-not amenable to simultaneous meetings. The space, first acquired two years ago, was intended to be suitable for the community's need for Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Al-Anon meetings for at least five years.
Attendance has grown explosively, however, leading those at the helm of the nonprofit charged with assuring space needs are met to begin fundraising efforts for a larger space. Since the mid-1990s, when LAAA got its start, the number of meetings accommodated has grown from six to 38.
Maury Graham and Paul Ruff are two of the people on a mission for donations supporting the move. On an April morning over coffee, the pair explained the traditions of the groups-emphasizing anonymity and expressly discouraging promotion through public relations-makes expressing the needs difficult for them.
Graham and Ruff both found success in their sobriety through Alcoholics Anonymous. But their roles within the association are driving their desire to seek recognition of a space nearing capacity.
"Our product is building and meeting space," said Ruff, the association's treasurer. "What the groups do with our product is their business. They conduct their meetings and are all self-supporting. ... We don't make any decisions for them."
"We are the rest of the story," added Graham, a consultant and fundraiser for the association. "Our entire mission is to save as many lives as we can, quite frankly."
Graham said there are numerous locations throughout the Brainerd lakes area hosting meetings, although a dedicated space such as the Maple Street building ensures there are no competing interests. "With 38 meetings a week, the churches can't handle the capacity," Graham said, noting many other community groups use those spaces.
Every day of the week from 7:30 a.m. through sometimes as late as 9:30 p.m., passages from what's known as the "Big Book" are sometimes explored and stories are shared, while coffee and soda-and sometimes tears-flow. In 2015, participants attended the lunchtime meetings alone 6,000 times at the building, according to Ruff. Given the facility's proximity to the Crow Wing County Jail and the courthouse, many of those participating in the DWI and drug court programs are referred to meetings occurring there.
Similar shared experiences among those with a common bond are occurring in communities across the United States and the world. According to January 2016 estimates, more than 2 million members of Alcoholics Anonymous attend nearly 118,000 meeting groups worldwide. Another 63,000 groups of Narcotics Anonymous participants meet in 132 countries, and more than 20,000 groups of those affected by others' addictions meet in Al-Anon.
For each of those members, the journey toward sobriety is both an individual endeavor and one propelled by the support of others. Graham and Ruff hope by acquiring a larger space, they can bring more people into the fray.
So far, the group has raised about $13,000, but much more is needed to reach the goal. Graham said in his fundraising efforts, he's explained to people donations to this cause do not only help the addicts and alcoholics seeking solace-they also help their families and loved ones, including their children.
"This is also about the kids," Graham said.
Need help? Want to donate?
Get in touch with the Lakes Area Alano Association at email@example.com or by phone at 218-825-3770. You can also reach them by mail at P.O. Box 1134, Brainerd, MN, 56401.
The Lakes Area Alano Association is located at 615 Maple St., Brainerd.
Visit www.brainerddispatch.com/news/4027111-lakes-area-alano-association-recov... to view a list of meetings.
CHELSEY PERKINS may be reached at 218-855-5874 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchChelsey .