‘Alcohol addiction now a major killer in Sri Lanka' – AA

 By Steve A. Morrell

They were all confirmed alcoholics, who said they were trying hard to kick the habit. Some said they abstained for three weeks, many others for 10 days. There were also those who claimed to have kept off booze for more than a month.

Their stories were a tragic confirmation of what alcohol did to their families, children, business associates and to themselves.

"Don’t mistake our fellowship with religion. It is not a religious cult, nothing to do with worship. We belong to a cross section of religions. We meet to talk and guide those heavily dependent of alcohol and persuade them to kick the habit, though it is easier said than done", says Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which volunteers to help addicts.

AA itself comprise activists who have themselves been heavily dependent on alcohol at one time and are now off booze. Among them are expatriates, who have now dedicated themselves to reach out to their fellow human beings in trouble after they started "hitting the bottle".

The AA volunteers hold responsible positions or were at one time in good jobs. There were those who lost their jobs because of alcohol addiction. Families were torn apart and marriages disrupted. Death claimed their lives at an early age. People as young as 40 years died terrible deaths because of cirrhosis of the liver.

Alcoholism is also know as ‘Alcohol Use Disorder’ (AUD). The user age in Sri Lanka is 15 years upwards. AA claims that 65 persons, both men and women, die each day due to alcohol addiction. This translate into 23,400 deaths per annum in the country.

Apart from Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs), alcohol in now a major killer.

How did you get into the alcohol habit?, *Chamoise, an AA activist, was asked. "I didn't consume liquor till I was about 40 years. I have a family, my husband and children. I was in a job and was not too badly off", she replied.

"We had a ‘shot’ each day. A sort of relaxing drink after a days’ work. That sort of thing. Soon one led to two and the routine was never enough. The addiction grew. I said to myself I could control consumption ‘tomorrow’. That day never came. I lost my job and the stress got me drinking from morning", she recalled.

She continued: "My husband was equally bad. He was able to keep his job, although warned he could be dismissed. My family was breaking up. Worse, my son and daughter were also addicted and I dared not tell them this was wrong".

"My addiction has now continued for six years. Nobody could tell me this was wrong. I decided to join AA, who were confirmed alcoholics with families. Some young, some mature people. We interact and talk of our addiction, and the wretched ancillary mess we are in", she said.

"Knowing each persons’ addictive problems, we gain strength and the will to fight the addiction. Yes, I abstained over the past five weeks", she added.

Will you start drinking again? "Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. Something I have no control over might trigger it off again. That is the sad circumstance we are in", she noted.

Alcoholics who give up drinking could suffer from withdrawal symptoms, apart from hallucinations, tremors and seizures. They should be placed under medication. Kicking the habit is entirely self- dependent, AA said.

The AA has prepared some questions to help determine whether a person has a problem with drinking: Do you drink because you have a problem? To face stressful situations or when you get mad with others; friends, parents?

Do you drink alone often, rather than with others and stay away from work? Do you try to stop or drink less and fail? Do you drink in the morning before school or work? Do you gulp drinks as if to quench your thirst?

Do you suffer from loss of memory because of liquor? Do you avoid being honest with others about drinking and get into trouble with the law?

AA is an International Group formed over 60 years ago to help people with drinking problems. The group is active in Sri Lanka as well. What AA does is offer a program recovery. What they don't do is solicit members, make medical diagnosis, prescribe treatment plans or drugs or provide hospitalization. They also don't keep attendance records or case histories.

AA assured that the organization is prepared to help people eager to kick the alcohol habit. They meet at St. Mary's Church, Bambalapitiya on Mondays & Fridays at 6.30 pm, St. Andrews Scots Kirk, Kollupitiya on Wednesdays at 6.45 pm, at No. 60, Horton Place, Colombo 7 on Saturdays and St. Anthony’s Church, Mount Lavinia on Sundays at 10.00 am.

The programs are not held every week, but on selected days during the week. The group sessions are conducted in English and Sinhala, subject to their audience.

A wide cross section of people are addicted to alcohol. Among them are professionals. It's not necessarily restricted to any particular group, AA said.

(*Name is fictitious)

animated gif
Processing Request
Please Wait...