In a few languages, my name translated means “princess.” As a young child, I would watch movies depicting a princess locked in a watchtower, hoping a prince would magically rescue her one day. I dreamed of what it might be like to be a real-life princess and experience the majestic nature of that reality.

Enter the disease of alcoholism. Cunning. Baffling. Powerful. From the time I was a little girl, the disease of alcoholism was very prevalent in our home, and its effects ripped our family apart. To protect myself and my siblings, I built a fortress around us so high it was unscalable. I locked my heart and mind in chains and hid the key away in a vault buried so deep it would never be found. Alcoholism caused so many promises to be broken that I believed I must be unlovable. I couldn’t imagine allowing myself to be hurt one more time. The fortress in my mind served as a means of survival. I often felt like my siblings and I were sitting in the watchtower, looking between the bars and seeing only sadness and despair, with no hopes of rescue.

In high school, my friend introduced me to Alateen. Through application of our Legacies and participation in service, slowly but surely, my chains came unlocked, one at a time. Eventually, I found my heart and mind free, vulnerable, lovable, and open to new ideas and possibilities.

Many years later, I found myself, along with fellow World Service Office (WSO) Volunteers and Staff, journeying to visit Al-Anon international service structures in Turkey, Bulgaria, Hungary, Switzerland, and France. These structures—each in varying degrees of development—warmly welcomed the WSO team. Together, as trusted servants, we discussed service topics and attended recovery meetings conducted in the native languages. I had no idea what was spoken in the recovery meetings, but my heart and mind knew the message of Al‑Anon was shared.

The journey concluded with a stop in London to host and attend the 2022 International Al‑Anon General Services Meeting (IAGSM). London, England, is home to world-renowned buildings, architecture, and castles. What a gift of the program to see this landscape—which once represented hopelessness, sadness, and despair in my imagination—in its true form, suddenly beautiful and majestic. And yet there was more. The real magic permeated the meeting room as members from 18 General Service Offices from north to south and east to west gathered together, “Connecting Hearts and Minds Around the World” to ensure the message of hope is available to anyone, anywhere, who reaches out for help.

By Sarah S., Director of Programs

The Forum, March 2023

Feel free to reprint this article on your service arm website or newsletter, along with this credit line: Reprinted with permission of The Forum, Al‑Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Virginia Beach, VA.