Do you drink to escape from your troubles and worries? Do you drink because you are shy with other people? Do you drink alone? Do you drink at work? Is your family suffering because of your drinking? Do people call you a “dronkie” behind your back?
If you answer “yes” to one of these questions, you may be an alcoholic. Alcoholics are people who cannot control their drinking.
“Anyone can be an alcoholic,” said Philemon T, a member of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). “It does not matter if you are a doctor, a teacher, a student, a bus driver or a union member.”
The AA helps people who have drinking problems. It is not a clinic, a church or a group of doctors. The AA is just a group of people who are alcoholics themselves. They all have one aim – to stop drinking.
“The only way to stop drinking is to find out from other people how they stopped,” says Philemon. “But first you must really want to stop drinking.”
LIVING WITHOUT LIQUOR
At the AA people learn that if they want a better life, they must find a way to live without liquor. They also learn that alcoholics can never be completely cured. Philemon has not touched a drop for 15 years – but he still calls himself an alcoholic.
“I am still an alcoholic because I know that if I just take one drink now, maybe I will not be able to stop. I have seen that happen to other people time and time again. They have one drink after many years and that’s it. They can’t stop.
“Most people make a mistake by thinking that once you have stopped drinking, then you are going to get healthy again. That is not true. Alcoholism is a disease that cannot be healed or cured.”
JOINING THE CLUB
The AA is different to most other organisations. It does not go out looking for new members. But new members are always welcome. “We do not force ourselves on anybody. People come to us when they are ready for help,” says Maria, another member of the AA.
How does a person join the AA? “The first thing you must do is admit that you have a problem with alcohol. This is a very difficult thing to do,” says Philemon.
“When you are ready to talk about your drinking problem, you must come to a meeting. After the first meeting, you can decide if you want to become a member. We do not have application forms and we do not keep a list of members. So nobody outside of the AA will know that you are a member.”
CHOOSING A SPONSOR
When you join the AA, you must choose a ‘sponsor’. A sponsor is a member of the AA who helps you with your problems. He or she is the person you trust and respect. You can tell your sponsor about your deepest secrets and the problems you have about staying off the booze.
Every week members meet to talk about their problem – alcohol. “We call these meetings ‘fellowships’. These meetings give us strength to stay away from alcohol,” says Maria.
“Finding a way to stop drinking is not easy. Most people want to stop drinking but they do not know what they will do in the place of drinking. That is why we say that you must have a force greater than yourself. So some people become Christians, others start believing in ancestors. Anyway, this ‘force greater than yourself helps you to believe that there is no need to drink.”
LOVE AND UNDERSTANDING
Philemon says that one of the biggest problems for alcoholics is the public. “People do not understand that we are ill. They think that we drink because we want to. But we are like all sick people. We need support and understanding from our families. That is why we have our sister organisations, AL-NON and ALTEEN.”
AL-NON is an organisation for the friends and family of the alcoholic. It helps them to understand that alcoholism is a disease. It also helps them to help their friend or relative in the fight against drinking.
ALTEEN is for the children of the alcoholic. It helps children to understand that the alcoholic parent is ill – and that they must give the parent all the love and understanding that they can.
The AA is doing good work helping people to help themselves. They have helped many people to give up drinking. But are we being unfair if we say there is more they can do – like looking at why people drink in the first place?