New support group to aid students with family alcoholism

By Michelle Nosratian

A student-facilitated support group overseen by student counselor and humanities teacher Luba Bek will meet over second semester in an attempt to help students cope with family members who have an alcohol addiction.

“The group is about helping students not feel guilty, teaching them how to become emotionally removed when they need to be and learning not to put the blame on yourself,” Bek said.

The group, which remains unamed as of yet, was proposed by a student living with a parent with an alcohol addiction who came to talk to Bek. Bek pledged her support to the student’s cause and the group was born. Bek first brought up the idea at a dean meeting.

“We were not sure how it would look for school to have such a group, or if it would contribute to a bad image,” Bek said. “Turned out [Head of Upper School Harry] Salamandra was very supportive.”

The group bears a resemblance to Al-Anon, a national organization similar to Alchoholics Anonymous that functions as a support group for family members of alchoholic individuals, and Alateen, the branch of the group dedicated specifically to young adults. However, the group will not use the twelve-step program, the guiding principles outlining a course of action for recovery from addiction popularized by Alchoholics Anonymous.

“The twelve-step program is not for everyone because it requires those in recovery to believe in God,” Bek said. “Also, if a Harvard-Westlake student went to an Alateen meeting, he or she would be surrounded by people of different socioeconomic backgrounds. It would be harder for others in the group to identify with his or her situation.”

The group is confidential and students interested in joining must contact Bek to find out where it meets.

“This group is similar to Project 10, the support group for gay and lesbian students on campus, in that the when and where details are completely confidential and revealed to members only,” Bek said.

Bek has started advertising for the group in deans’ offices and the daily bulletin.

“We decided to start advertising for a group during second semester because it would be less difficult for a student if he or she wants to leave the group,” Bek said.

Although the flyer says that the support group is for students who are dealing with parents suffering from alcoholism, Bek assures that students dealing with siblings and other family members with any kind of addiction are also welcome.

“I’m optimistic about starting and continuing the group,” Bek said. “It’s in a safe environment for kids where they could feel comfortable talking.”