Being an alcoholic is never on anyone’s bucket list, however, alcohol is an equal opportunities destroyer attacking people from all walks of life. The chains of alcohol can be very light until we try and break them. Although the word ‘alcoholic’ may conjure up outdated images, the truth is that people who have become dependent on alcohol are struggling with a real disease and not a moral failing. Many drink to avoid anxiety without realising that drinking alcoholically can, in fact, cause anxiety. The Oxford English Dictionary defines an alcoholic as ‘someone with alcohol dependency’. Perhaps the word is not outdated but our perception of what constitutes a modern-day alcoholic is.
Alcoholics Anonymous say they will never call anyone an alcoholic, that is for each individual to decide. However, they do say that if alcohol is costing you more than money, maybe it’s time to look at your consumption. AA has been running a public information campaign which runs throughout the year at various times at airports, train stations, tube stations and other areas of high visibility. They are also launching a series of short films aimed at professionals, the armed forces, young people, prison and probation services and a general public information film. Alcoholism is everywhere.
Every day in thousands of households across the UK, people are struggling with a real drink problem.
According to Alcoholics Anonymous, people turning up for their first meeting are not sleeping on park benches, are not homeless, are usually employed. Outwardly they appear to have normal lives. Many of them appear to be very successful with good jobs and a family and a mortgage. They get up; they go to work, they come home, and they drink.
Sometimes they drink at work, at lunchtimes perhaps, or maybe they have begun to hide their drinking from their colleagues and their families. They may have become aware themselves that it might be a bit of a problem. Mostly they don’t think it’s a problem at all. They dismiss criticism of their behaviour; they may not be truthful about their levels of alcohol consumption. A lot of them feel unwell a lot of the time, a constant low hum of a hangover that gets louder now and again when they have really hit the bottle. They don’t know what will happen when they pick up a drink. Sometimes they can control it; sometimes they can’t. For some, it has already passed way beyond any form of control.
Alcoholics Anonymous has been in the UK for over 70 years. AA meetings are free and available to anyone who has a desire to stop drinking. No waiting lists, no referrals. Their meetings are everywhere, in every city and nearly every town across the UK, every night of the week. Daytime meetings are available too; meetings stay open on Bank Holidays and at Christmas and New Year. In the UK alone there are about 4,500 groups meeting weekly with a membership which is estimated at more than 40,000 according to an AA survey in 2015. Worldwide it is estimated there are more than two million members across 181 nations and numbering 117,000 groups.
Far from the preconceived idea of a problem drinker these AA meetings include men and women of all backgrounds for whom the nightly drink became a nightmare. Using a twelve step programme and support of others who have stayed sober, they help the drinker stop and stay stopped. Then they offer help and support to live a happy and contented life free from dependence on alcohol. As spelt out in its Preamble, which is read out before every meeting.
“Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for AA membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organisation or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.”
AA has a national free helpline where first-time callers are offered help by an AA volunteer who will share their experience on recovery and offer to put them in touch with an AA member who will take them to their first meeting. Some people find details of their local meetings from the AA website or other sources and come along on their own. If drink is costing more than money then there is help available today.
AA will also attend workplaces, schools, colleges, health centres etc to speak with groups as well as setting up stalls for events and providing posters and literature for agencies.