Alcoholics Anonymous organises national convention at Kovalam
Thiruvananthapuram: A fellowship of people from various walks of life with very little in common except one problem — alcoholism. That was what a two-day national convention organised by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) at the Animation Centre in Kovalam turned out to be.
"It was mainly an exercise in sharing our problems and recharging our mental and spiritual batteries," said a member who identified himself as Issaac Thomas. The AA members are "faceless" by choice, mainly because it protects them from being identified as alcoholics.
But anonymity helps them overcome individual egos in the quest for a solution to a terrible malaise that has dogged their lives and thus, the lives of those close to them. It also helps them cut across personal and social barriers to hold hands in a spirit of rare brotherhood.
Chairman of AA national board of trustees Lawrie Fernandez said the Kovalam convention was aimed at popularising the programme in Kerala. Media support was crucial for this. However, success in battling a social problem like alcoholism was not measured by statistics alone.
Mr. Fernandez, who is based in Mumbai, said he gave up drinking 35 years ago. "Some of the younger members tell me, `Sir, you stopped drinking before we were born.’ This is why we say AA is also for alcoholics yet to be born," he added with a smile.
Membership is open to all and is free. S.K. Bhalla, who heads the public information wing, said a desire to quit the bottle, even if it was a "fraction of a desire," was all that an alcoholic needed to enrol. "Denial is the biggest part of this disease. You have to first admit that you have a problem," he said.
Terry, a former jockey from the United Kingdom who has settled in Kovalam for the past two years, lost his job and his family before he quit drinking three decades ago. "AA guaranteed me my life provided I followed its 12 steps. The most important of these was that I attend the weekly meetings without fail," he said.
The 12 steps are based on the trial-and-error experience of early members of the fellowship. AA believes alcoholism has no known cure, but it is possible to reverse its effects on the body and the spirit. The key lies in attending the weekly group meetings without fail and participating in what are called "sharings."
The members sit around in a group and each one talks about his experiences for eight to 10 minutes. Explains Mr. Bhalla: "You listen, your mind foggy, and then you suddenly start identifying with one of the sharings. Slowly, your closed mind starts opening… "
Many of those at the convention had tried out hospitals and de-addiction centres earlier without success. This is because alcoholism has a high relapse rate without peer support, which the fellowship seeks to provide, the members said.
The AA Trivandrum Group meets every Wednesday and Saturday at Kovalam Animation Centre at 6 p.m., and on Sundays at Lourde’s Church in PMG Junction at 6.30 p.m. Those interested should contact Chandramohan (0471-3256766, mob.9387756766), Jacob (9447699906) or Terry (98472-1944