I WOKE up with a jolt when my girlfriend called me up wailing on the phone, “Oh my God! I can’t do this anymore!”
She had spent the whole night worried sick about her boyfriend, not realising he had collapsed outside her front door from drinking too much.
By day, he was a totally different person. I found him sharply intelligent, well spoken and a really likable guy.
Once, she heard him crying in the shower and banging his fist against the wall because he was so horrified by the bruises he saw on her arms. Bruises he had inflicted but had no memory of the incident.
She threatened to break up with him many times but what held her back was the remorse he felt from drinking too much.
She held a heart-wrenching belief that he could change.
She didn’t want to believe what she read in the ‘Big Book’ from Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). It states in no uncertain terms that once a person is an alcoholic, they are always an alcoholic, which is why the only “cure” is to go sober.
But, how many alcoholics from the estimated 140 million in the world (according to statistics from the World Health Organisation) have the strength and resolve to go ‘cold turkey’? Sadly, his condition went from bad to worse and she became a frantic partner, in need of professional help herself.
The reality is that we all live among alcoholics. We walk past them on the street and may rub shoulders with them at work but do we even know how debilitating the condition is?
Sustained alcohol abuse actually damages almost every organ in the body, including the central nervous system and the brain.
According to the National Health Service in the United Kingdom, alcohol is also the second biggest risk factor for cancers of the mouth and throat (after smoking). That’s just physical manifestations but what about the families it ruins or the mental anguish and strain it place on everyone around the alcoholic?
If you have ever been connected to a person who’s an alcoholic, you don’t come first in their life. Period. They are slaves to the bottle.
Partners fall into the trap of trying to ‘save them’ but people have to help themselves first, not just because someone else wants them to.
The good news is that alcoholics don’t need to suffer alone. The AA organisation, for one, operates all over the world.
It is a fellowship of men and women from all walks of life who come together to share their experiences and to support each other through their drinking issues.
The only requirement for membership is the common desire to stop drinking.
In Malaysia, it has been around since the late 60s. I recently spoke to a member in Kuala Lumpur who has been sober for 18 years and he has seen so many people helped through these sharing sessions, which are available every day.
“There are so many suffering in silence but they do not have to. We are here to help each other because we have gone through it ourselves. Our doors are always open,” he said.
If you have any fears that you might have a drinking problem, you might want to try answering these 12 questions from AA:
·Have you ever decided to stop drinking for a week or so, but it only lasted for a couple of days?
·Do you wish people would mind their own business about your drinking and stop telling you what to do?
·Have you ever switched from one kind of drink to another in the hope that this would keep you from getting drunk?
·Do you need a drink to get started, or to stop shaking? If so, this is a pretty sure sign that you are not drinking “socially.”
·Do you envy people who can drink without getting into trouble? (As in have you wondered why you can’t take it or leave it like most people?)
·Have you had problems connected with drinking during the past year?
·Has your drinking caused trouble at home?
·Do you ever try to get “extra” drinks at a party because you do not get enough?
·Do you tell yourself you can stop drinking any time you want to, even though you keep getting drunk when you don’t mean to?
·Have you missed days of work or school because of drinking? (How often have you called in sick because you were too hung over?)
·Do you have memory “blackouts”?
·Have you ever felt that your life would be better if you did not drink?
According to AA, if you’ve said “yes” to four or more of these questions, you could already have a drinking issue on your hands.
For enquiries on AA Malaysia, call 017-254 0116 or visit www.aamalaysia.org