Alcoholics are often shunned by society. The sad reality is that few try to understand the struggle they face on a daily basis, for society has deemed them “bad decision makers” and “long since given up on them.” “Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes,” says Kumar*, a one-time [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Toast to Alcoholics Anonymous

A helping hand to alcoholics for 50 years in Sri Lanka

Alcoholics are often shunned by society. The sad reality is that few try to understand the struggle they face on a daily basis, for society has deemed them “bad decision makers” and “long since given up on them.”

“Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes,” says Kumar*, a one-time addict who has managed to turn his life around thanks to Alcoholics Anonymous.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a fellowship of men and women who share their experiences with each other to solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. Founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith in Akron, Ohio, AA has reached out to millions of alcoholics across the world and is open to everyone from all walks of life, its only requirement being a desire to stop drinking.

A non-profit organisation AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, or institution.

At an age where many would consider enjoying a quiet life, 75-year-old Kumar’s goal is to pass on the message AA taught him years ago. By sharing his own experience Kumar has helped restore several broken families.

Kumar took his first drink at a five star hotel “for kicks” at the age of 19. Posted outstation for employment, he joined a tennis club where having a drink after the game was part of the lifestyle.

What started off as mere social drinking, gradually evolved into a heavy drinking problem. “Soon I was overburdened with financial problems and this led me to gambling. I was working overtime too, but every cent I earned was spent on liquor,” he says.

Kumar’ s teacher wife kept the home running all through the years he was in denial. “To me my problem was my wife and boss.”

After receiving treatment in hospital for over a month, Kumar managed to stay sober for six months. But it all went downhill again when one evening he decided to go have a beer. “The next day I visited all the pubs that I had missed out on during the past six months.”

“Soon the people I used to drink with began to avoid me,” Kumar related.

“One day my boss called me a ‘bebadda’ – this affected me deeply.” Kumar realised that his drinking pattern was completely out of control. “In the mornings I would promise my wife that I wouldn’t drink but I would come home in the night after having broken that promise.”

Kumar was the father of two beautiful children; soon his family welcomed another baby. “The day my daughter was born was the day I promised my wife that I would give up drinking for the sake of the family. But that evening I ran into an old friend who said that we had to go celebrate the birth of my daughter.”

The decision he made to have a drink that day would continue to torment him for the next one and a half years. “The peak came when a promotion was rejected because I had stopped going to work regularly at the time. This was when I realised that I had to do something. My wife was threatening to leave me with my children. I didn’t want to lose my children.”

On December 30, 1975, Kumar got himself admitted to hospital. “There I met an old friend who had been to the AA fellowship.”

Kumar attended his first AA meeting on January 23, 1976.

“Fate had brought me here. At the meeting I listened to the others sharing their life stories. Nobody condemned me. Nobody told me that I was an alcoholic,” he says.

This was the start of Kumar’s long road to recovery. “I live my life according to one of the fundamental principles of AA ‘One day at a time’. It’s has been a long rocky road but I made it there in the end,” he tells us.

Kumar now dedicates his time to helping people with alcohol problems. “For every single alcoholic, ten people may suffer,” he says.
AA was the first to categorise alcoholism as a physical, spiritual and mental illness. Medical science followed suit by describing it as a psychosomatic illness.

How do AA members maintain sobriety? Kumar explains that AA is a programme of total abstinence. Members stay away from one drink, one day at a time. Sobriety is maintained through sharing experiences, strength and hope at group meetings and through the suggested 12 steps for recovery from alcoholism.

“Admitting that we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable is the first step that we take,” Kumar says adding that eleven other steps mentor the alcoholic to a complete recovery.

AA came to Sri Lanka in June 1964 and from a six- seven member meeting at the YMCA Colombo, AA has an active membership of over 400 today.

Anyone may attend the open meetings of AA which consist of talks by a leader and two or three other members who share their experiences about their past and their recovery in AA. Some meetings are held to inform people about AA, and doctors and public officials are invited. Closed discussion meetings are for alcoholics only.

Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of AA. Anonymity is an assurance to newcomers that their membership will not be disclosed,” Kumar says.
Parallel programmes to AA are Alanon and Alateen Anonymous. “Alcoholism is a disease that affects the whole family, therefore it is necessary for the wife (Alanon) and children (Alateen) to manage their lives. This in turn will support the recovering alcoholic,” Kumar added.

(* Name changed to protect identity)

When and where they meet

AA meetings are held at the following venues- anyone can attend.
- Sunday- St Anthony’s Church, Mount Lavinia (contact no- 2736952)
- Sunday- No 38A Christuraja Mawatha Mahabage, Ragama (Contact no 0710832929)
- Monday – St Mary’s Church, Lauries Road, Bambalapitiya (contact no – 2810692)
- Monday- Negombo Base Hospital (Contact no- 0728884469)
- Wednesday- St Peter and St Paul Church, Ragama (Contact no- 0755567783)
- Thursday- No 38A Christhuraja Mawatha, Mahabage, Ragama (Contact no- 0710832929)
- Saturday- St. Sebastian’s Church Wellaweediya (contact no- 2810692)

Share This Post


Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.