Kick That Nagging Habit

Surekha S

November 9, 2009

Mumbai: Santosh (name changed) admits he is not proud of the things he has done in his life. His biggest regret, he says, is the day he beat up his wife under the influence of alcohol.

"I still don't remember it as I had a blackout. However, that was a defining moment. Some neighbours forced me to attend a meeting, where I spoke to several people who shared my problem," says the 38-year-old, who has been sober ever since he started attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings six years ago.

Not only has Santosh recovered from his own alcohol addiction problem, but he has also helped several others with a similar problem. "That," said SK Bhalla, chairman, AA-India, "is the basic idea behind this purely voluntary organisation."

Alcohol addiction makes no distinction between age, sex, religion, economic status and social background. "Naturally AA-India too makes no such distinctions either. The only requirement for membership is the desire to stop drinking -- there are no dues or fees for AA membership," said Bhalla, who has himself overcome an alcohol addiction problem.
AA describes alcoholism as a two-fold disease involving "obsession of the mind and craving of the body".

"We maintain absolute anonymity as there is a lot of social stigma attached to addiction," explained Bhalla. All metropolitan cities in India have AA, but Mumbai has the maximum members -- about 3,000. Newcomers are asked to answer a set of 12 questions, through a process of self examination, to identify their problem. "Four main questions are classified as CAGE -- Craving, Anger, Guilt and Eye-opener. If a person experiences all of the above, it definitely means that he/she has a problem with alcohol," said Bhalla.

Normally, 50% of all alcoholics who attend 90 meetings, stay sober for the rest of their lives. The remaining 50%, who are in denial, go back to drinking. However, 25% per cent of them too come back. So the recovery rate, if people try sincerely, is 75%," said Bhalla.

(For further details contact AA Helpline --2301 6767)

DNA Read the World, Mumbai India


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