'Say "no" to drinking today'

Surekha Monday, January 19, 2009

Mumbai: Youngsters are taking to drinking at an early age. The average age for alcohol consumption has come down from 19 years to 15 years in the last couple of years. An average rural man spends about 24 per cent of his income on alcohol while the urban man spends around 32 per cent. Eighty per cent of hospital admissions occur due to alcohol consumption directly or indirectly. These were some of the startling figures shared at an event organised by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) recently. It witnessed the presence of Leonard Blumenthal, a non alcoholic friend of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and chairman A.A. US/ Canada to address this very grave problem of alcoholism. This being his first trip to India, he plans to hold meetings in Mumbai, Pune, Delhi and Bangalore before heading back to Canada.

Blumenthal, who was nominated a class A trustee of the General Service Board, AA in the year 2000 became the chairman of the same in 2005.

Class A trustees are those who have never been alcoholics while class B trustees comprise recovering alcoholics. Blumenthal started his career as a teacher, then got interested in alcoholism and addiction and worked with the government helping them set up counselling centres and conduct counselling programmes. He then got introduced to AA and decided to become a part of it.

He says, "AA has changed the lives of many people but still more awareness is needed."

AA is a voluntary fellowship that takes no money or grants from anyone. It runs only on the contribution of the members. "Even I am not allowed to contribute as I am not an alcoholic," says Blumenthal. The members are not made to register or sign any form. They are free to come when they want. "At the meetings no one tells others what to do. They merely share their experiences, which acts as an inspiration," he says.

Blumenthal adds, "No one here says we will completely stop drinking. They only decide not to drink today. And as this decision is made everyday, a gradual change takes place."

He believes that the most difficult step is to accept that one is an alcoholic. After that it is to decide you want to change. Jo-Anne, a class B trustee of AA says that she was the second from her group of friends to come to AA and has been sober for many years now. "AA has been responsible for many miracles like mine," says Jo-Anne.

The statistics as regards alcohol consumption are alarming, with about 350 million deaths occurring worldwide every year due to alcohol consumption. AA is trying to do its bit and is slowly expanding to reach many more people. Today it is present in 180 countries and there are about 850 groups in India. There is more than one AA meeting occurring in Mumbai everyday.

The event also saw celebrities Pooja Bhatt and Mahesh Bhatt grace the occasion.

Daily News & Analysis, Mumbai India

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