Wednesday, January 22

Do you have a drinking problem?


DARREN (not his real name) used to love a good drink. Special occasion or not, there would be a glass of wine or ice-cold beer in his hand, and as the day progressed, so did his tipples.

Then one morning, he woke up and couldn’t remember how he got home or what happened the night before.

“All I could remember was attending a new year party and helping myself to the free flow of beer and wine,” he recalled.

Looking back, Darren, who has kicked his drinking problem, told thesundaypost what he experienced that night was a blackout — which is typical with alcoholics.

“Apparently, during that time, I was functioning normally but just didn’t realise it. Waking up in bed and not remembering anything that happened last night, was the last straw for me,” he said.

Darren, based in Australia at the time, consulted his doctor friend who advised him to attend a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), founded by Bill Wilson and Dr Bob Smith in 1935.

“When he told me I was an alcoholic, I was in denial. Me? An alcoholic? Impossible,” he said but heeded his friend’s advice and attended his first AA meeting.

“The next morning, I was sitting stark naked in the toilet when a flash of enlightenment came over me. I’m an alcoholic.I was suddenly seeing the world in a different light and everything just clicked,” he added.

No more drinks

Darren immediately stopped drinking and attended regular AA meetings to overcome his addiction.

“Mentally, it was quite hard. After work, I didn’t pop by the bar like I used to and when I stopped drinking, I found I had time on my hands to do what I wanted,” he said, revealing that alcohol was his way of destressing.

“I travelled a lot and work was so hectic. It became so stressful that I turned to alcohol and drinking became the norm for me.”

Today, 30 years on, the reformed alcoholic is proud to say he hasn’t had an alcoholic drink for the past three decades.

“Alcoholism is a disease that has no cure. The only way you can go into remission is to stop drinking. Period,” he said, pointing out that whether a person was a social or a heavy drinker, piling on the alcohol could eventually lead to alcohol addiction.

He likened alcoholism to an allergy, saying “one drink can set off the craving.

“If you don’t drink, you don’t get the craving. But the horrible thing about this is although I have remained sober for three decades, my ‘disease’ has progressed.

“If I started drinking again today, it wouldn’t be from where I left off 30 years ago. The cumulative effect of my past problem would still be a factor — as if I had been drinking throughout the three decades of my abstinence. That’s the horror of this disease,” he stressed.

Darren said not only would the alcoholic be affected physically and mentally, their families and friends would also suffer indirectly from the “fallout.”

Helping alcoholics

According to him, alcoholics make up seven per cent of any given population, regardless of race and religion.

Darren has been organising AA meetings to help alcoholics in Kuching.

“These meetings, carried out under strict anonymity, will see recovering alcoholics sharing their problems and describing how they achieved sobriety through AA,” he explained.

“Usually, people come and say what their problems are – what’s on their minds – and often, they will come to realise they aren’t alone and there are also people with worse experiences than theirs. At the meetings, you will learn to accept and love yourself for who you are.”

To achieve personal recovery, Darren said, the meetings emphasised the 12 steps describing the experiences of the earliest members of AA, founded by Bill Wilson and Dr Bob Smith in 1935.

He added that newcomers would be encouraged to find themselves a sponsor.

“A sponsor is someone from the AA meeting who has experience in recovery and who will guide the newcomer through the programme. You can call him or her if you need someone to talk to outside of the AA meeting.”

Now, the small local non-profit AA has only three members and Darren believes this is due to people being in denial or perhaps ashamed of coming forward.

“I suppose one could say cultural issues may refrain them from admitting they are alcoholics but rest assured all AA meetings are held in the strictest tradition of anonymity to protect the reputation of the members and AA.”

Darren stressed AA had proven one of the most effective organisations worldwide in combating alcoholism and other addictions but for it to succeed, those looking for help needed to know where to find it.

If you think you have a problem with alcohol or are an alcoholic in need of help, call 012-8050222 or 019-4823496.