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In a quiet church, women battle alcohol and stigma
Published on 6 Dec. 2010 12:21 AM IST
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In this quiet corner of a church in Masigarh area, barely five minutes on foot from Escorts Hospital, a group of women confronts and fights off its worst enemy. “I lay drunk on my bed. My father entered the room and said that he could smell death,’’ Reena recalls one of her last memories of the days when she used to be an alcoholic.
But no more. Off alcohol for over one year now, Reena and many others like her meet as part of Alcoholics Anonymous once every week. The women share their strengths and together battle what they call a “disease’’. Honesty is the key, they say, to be able to cure it.
“It’s an ugly world out there,’’ Reena tells the gathering. Not many women can muster the courage to come out in the open. Standing up to the stigma, they have chosen to seek help and look for a life beyond alcohol. The board outside reads “If you drink it’s your business. If you want to stop it’s your business. Need help, contact Alcoholics Anonymous at: 9811908707’’.
Every week is a new beginning. Some of them return with stories of how they managed to win the battle that week, some share their troubled moments and others speak of mundane developments that made a difference.
The weekly exercise helps each one to start again and the echoes of “We can do it’’ motivate them to live another week without succumbing to the temptation.
“Hi! I am Priya. I am an alcoholic,’’ a young woman in the group speaks out confidently. They all sit in a circle and the sharing begins. Composed and sober, the pretty young woman spoke of her 10 months without alcohol and how she volunteered under the Alcoholics Anonymous programme to show the way to others trapped in the same mess.
Priya used to work in the US but was brought back by her parents as alcohol had wrecked her life. “I went through two rehabilitation programmes here. But after each 40-day cycle I was back drinking and craving for more. Then I came to Alcoholics Anonymous where I was taught to face the truth that I was an alcoholic.
The sharings helped me see myself and be honest about dealing with the problem,’’ said Priya, who began as a social drinker. The reality of being an alcoholic descended upon her only when she had lost control. Trisha, her cousin who’s in her early 30s, hears Priya talk with a knowing smile on her face. She, too, is dealing with alcoholism and has managed to fight off the craving for over three years. “I come to the session and pour my heart out. I say everything that matters to me and get on with the next week,’’ she added.
Manya, 45, speaks next. “By the time I reached sobriety my son was 22 years old and daughter 18. They had seen their mother as an alcoholic all their lives,’’ she tells. “I would drink and become someone completely different. In the morning I would not know who I had flirted with the previous night, why my husband’s face was swollen or why the children were angry,’’ Manya pointed.
“But now that I am in control, I want to give back as much I can to my family,’’ she adds.
The session ends after everyone has spoken, not before the promises to walk the talk are made all over again.
According to AA members, the number of women coming out and seeking help is less but it’s on the rise. The AA programme first offers 90 daily sessions to those who join. Once this course is successfully completed, members can shift to once-a-week meetings.
They revealed that for women alcoholics the fight is much more tough. Anil Bandola, founder of a charitable rehabilitation facility under the banner Asha Kripa Centre, points that women are still not coming out to seek help. “The stigma and lack of support at home keeps women away.
The middle class and lower middle class woman never comes out to talk of alcoholism. Now, at least women from the upper strata have started opening up to seek help. But this number is not too large,’’ he added.

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