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Help for addicts at outdoor meetings

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Artistic surroundings: meetings will be inside Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art if the weather is bad

Those seeking help with addiction are being encouraged to attend open-air meetings at the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art and the lush surroundings of the Botanical Gardens as part of September’s Recovery Month.

The Onion Patch Group of Alcoholics Anonymous holds meetings every Saturday from 9am to 10am, either in the Gardens or, if the weather is bad, surrounded by locally inspired artwork inside Masterworks.

The choice of venue marks a shift from the church basements many AA meetings are held in and the surroundings help to inspire and instil a sense of positivity in participants, says organisers.

One of the Onion Patch Group’s founding members, who has personally dealt with addiction in her past, approached Masterworks’ director Tom Butterfield in 2009 and he was happy to accommodate them.

The member told us: “Those really committed to their recoveries can always be found at morning meetings worldwide and that statistic continues to play out at the Onion Patch Group.

“What is not as readily available are locations with such aesthetic glory to hold them in and many visitors stay on or come back for a tour of the museum.

“And when it rained, our dedicated members found themselves in the plush library, now when it’s inclement or simply too hot we can use Dobbie’s Hideaway below the coffee shop or one of the classrooms.

“While it’s what is shared that makes a meeting special, the venue adds to our attraction and that’s another of the AA group’s principles — attraction rather than promotion.”

The member drew attention to how members had been able to learn about their island and culture through the museum and how they are encouraged to offer their input into how the group functions.

She added: “Each AA meeting is autonomous — that means the members vote on the name, format and trusted servants. Indeed my choice for the name was the Art of Recovery but a majority of our initial founding members voted for the more Bermudian Onion Patch Group and it is indeed more apropos.

“This also means that the members set the tone and vote on whether the meeting is open to anyone or closed to those seeking help only.

“It’s open to anyone. What I have observed over the years is that the 9am Onion Patch Group of AA embodies the same openness, inclusiveness, diversity and welcoming feeling that visitors experience when entering the museum. Coincidence? I don’t think so.”

Anyone interested in attending the Onion Patch Group meetings on Saturday mornings can just turn up at the entrance to Masterworks at 9am where an AA member will inform of that day’s location. For more information visit: www.aa.bm/aa-meetings-in-bermuda

Onion Patch Group members share their experiences at the new venue:

Member 1: “I have battled alcohol and drug abuse. When I first went — I really struggled with feeling accepted and I had a low self-esteem. The atmosphere alone helped me to feel a little bit more comfortable and, after time, I started to warm up to the people. I was trying to get help and often I had to be in a place that was not conducive to happiness but the Onion Patch was totally the opposite of that. I attend many different meetings but the Onion Patch venue is pretty much my favourite.

“We sometimes meet in a classroom where kids go and paint — you come into a room with happy colours and you take a look at all the imagination coming from the younger generation.

“When we are outside there is this energy — it is somewhere very special and it allows people to divulge things in a different setting. I am a recovered addict but I still do the things that will help to maintain my sobriety — I go to meetings and embrace the new people. At one point I didn’t have a life; I shut down and I stayed away from people and places and things. I had to start all over and be taught how to live again. I went from not wanting to go to meetings to looking forward to going to them just from the healing that I received.

“I would encourage anyone dealing with addiction to keep an open mind; just go there and experience it for yourself, listen thoroughly, stay open and see what honestly pertains to you. Then you might want to hang around for a little while and see what else you can pick up. Onion Patch has been a major part of my recovery. I have seen lives change. I am very grateful to those who have made it possible. One of them even gave me a job to do cleaning up after one of our major storms so I really felt accepted and in my heart I felt it was sincere in allowing us to be there.”

Member 2: “I’ve been sober 20 years. I was battling drugs and alcohol. The girl who started it announced it at one of our meetings and so I went [to Masterworks] to check it out. I enjoyed it. It is early in the morning. I go for an hour and I go to church right after. You sit outside, you are under the trees the sun is shining — the atmosphere and beauty — you have this serene feeling of being around people who are struggling like you and there is so much love and so much connection there.

“I go because I really enjoy it, everybody is there for recovery. After all these years you don’t just want to stop because you have people coming in and you need to let them know it helps — we give it away, we don’t keep it — we try to encourage. It is not about the appearance it is the action.

‘Although I have been sober for twenty years it doesn’t mean things don’t show up, so I go to get encouragement as well as give. As far as the Onion Patch, the people are just so sweet, I love it. You leave the Onion Patch with so many friends — genuine friends not just someone you say ‘hi’ to that morning. These people are here for you no matter what.”

Member 3: “My first meeting, I was so scared I didn’t know anything. Being at the Gardens and at Masterworks changed my thinking. I go every Saturday and I love learning about my Bermudian art and historic Bermuda. I keep coming back. Thank you Tom and Masterworks for everything. I love my Onion Patch. One love.”

Lush surroundings: the Botanical Gardens
Beauty of nature: recovery meetings are being held at the Botanical Gardens