'I used to be the hero of parties'

At 7 pm on Thursdays, a classroom of Stracey Memorial High School is diligently filled up. The blackboard reads ‘One day at a time, this too shall pass…’ There is a common goal for the 50-odd adults who occupy the desks there – stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.

 At the open meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, a group that has existed for 79 years worldwide and for 50 years in Bangalore, there is clearly a good amount of recovery. 

The only requirement for someone to be an AA member is the desire to stop drinking. Beyond this, it is the individual’s prerogative. After a volunteer reads out the AA preamble and Twelve Traditions, personal experiences are shared, no judgments passed. 

For Anjum (name changed), life presented three options — continue suffering and cause suffering to others, go to rehab and hope to get well or attend AA meetings and sober up. Having opted for AA for 21 years, he feels that it was the right decision.

“Alcohol is an enigma. When I was 11, I decided to be macho at a Christmas party and downed a bottle of wine. I blacked out in my room that night. They say that if one starts blacking out early in life, you’re heading for trouble. I used to be the hero of parties and would be challenged to drink because I had good capacity. So I’d drink the first, second…sixth shot of vodka and cycle home.

I’d be the ‘punchmaster’ and the ‘designated driver’. After graduating, I stocked up my bar and drank like the big boys did – with Mr Jack (Daniel’s) and Mr (Johnnie) Walker as friends. I even started working in a bar washing glasses and soon became a bartender,” he recalls.

“But alcoholism is an induced schizophrenia. Before I knew it, people started leaving every time I picked up a drink. I would have 22 large whiskeys a day and finish two bottles alone. I started hurting the closest people in my life till I hit rock bottom. It was only AA that saved my life,” he vouches.

Rajiv (name changed) recalls how the first 23 years of his son’s life were spent dealing with a drunk father.

 “I didn’t care about my son’s growing up and never thought I’d see a sober day. It came to the extent that the only use I had for water was to mix it with my alcohol. But this programme has kept me sober, one day at a time,” he says.

What is heartening for Anjum, Rajiv and others who willingly attend these meetings is the feeling of familiarity. Not only do the members acknowledge each other warmly but also bear the common knowledge of the disease they have escaped, the relationships they almost ruined, some worse than others.

 “This is a safe place for me,” states Jivan (name changed). “I met a group of people in this classroom who showed me GOD – Good Orderly Direction.”

Another member states that while he is confused in sobriety, he knows the joy of living because of AA. “I see things with more clarity now. This is a true life. I prayed for a sublime life where I’m at peace with myself and this programme has given me that.”

The demographic of people attending these meetings held across the City vary greatly, with people in their 20s choosing a life of sobriety alongside 70-year-olds. Rohan (name changed), a 23-year-old, started attended Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and AA meetings in 2012. 

   “Alcohol is legal and you can identify those who suffer from alcoholism. But it’s harder to catch drug users because it can be illegal drugs or over-the-counter ones. I used to drink to cover up my drug abuse.

I was resentful towards my parents for sending me to rehab. But I started attending AA meetings and took up a sponsor, who guided me in overcoming my addiction and staying balanced,” he reflects.

As any member will vouch, AA is a life-changing cure, one that costs no money but whose help is invaluable. For details, log in to www.aabangalore.com  

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