Drinking has long been synonymous with the nightlife scene in Singapore, and it probably remains an essential part of most social events where alcohol is deemed as a tool to ease social interactions. I have had my fair share of alcohol intake over the past years, with parties and clubs introducing me to a wide range of Whiskeys, Vodkas, and Beers. It is undeniable that once I discovered booze, it brings about a momentary air of happiness that is unparalleled.
Most of us who had experienced a crazy night of binge drinking would probably have uttered these famous last words, “I am never drinking again,” and I have had many of them, only to fall back in the vicious cycle of another party and another day of regret.
It is not easy for us to reject alcohol—something that brings us so much fun and happiness that we will want to relive those moments again. It reached a point in our drinking culture that regarding someone as an alcoholic is often brushed off as just banter, and I have always wondered, what is the tipping point that will eventually make someone quit drinking alcohol for good.
This led me to the discovery of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), a society dedicated to helping men and women recover from the abyss of alcoholism. It’s something you see commonly in movies, but I only just discovered Singapore does have its own AA as well.
I wanted to know how these sessions held by AA helps alcoholics snap out of their slumber and eventually be on the sober route to recovery. I decided to visit one of the AA sessions to learn more about the help that it provides.
Situated in a medical centre in downtown Singapore, I made my way up to the meeting room that is obscured from public scrutiny and away from passersby. There, I was greeted by a member of AA and duly invited in. Just like the therapy sessions you see in movies, there is a round of ten chairs in the confined space and, frankly speaking, it was a little intimidating stepping into such a session for the first time.
As time started to tick down to the beginning of the session, I was slightly surprised to see that only four seats were occupied, and I was the only Singaporean there. As the session begins, the previously light-hearted atmosphere soon turned into one that is hushed and melancholic. We started by introducing ourselves as, “Hello, my name is (name), and I’m an alcoholic.” Just as in the movies, everyone responds with, “Hello (name).”
The meeting continues with the chairperson of the session reading the AA preamble which states, “Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for A.A. membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. A.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy; neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.”
The session proceeds with reading a chapter from the AA book that is provided to all newcomers. We took turns to read sections of the chapter, “There is a solution” before sharing our personal experience with alcoholism in relation to what we have just read. This chapter illustrates a story pertaining to one of AA’s early members where it describes the disease in terms of the thinking that is established in an alcoholic, and the cravings and lack of control that the alcoholic faced. The chapter’s main takeaway relates to a description of the fellowship and a summary of what it takes to recover—spiritual awakening. The meeting then concludes with a prayer in which you have the option of participating.
Initially, I had doubts regarding the session as the content in the book features spiritualistic ideas about addiction and how it is sufficient enough to start the fight against alcoholism. It seems as though the session was swayed towards spiritual guidance rather than a physical intervention such as one-to-one talks or measures implemented to restrict the usage of alcohol. I doubted if a spiritual approach would make an alcoholic change his ways as I felt it was not a foolproof solution for someone seeking help.
However, what struck me was how willing the participants were to share their personal experiences with alcoholism. There were stories regarding the collapse of a family due to alcohol abuse and family was replaced by alcohol as a priority in the individual’s life. This caused him to spiral into an endless cycle of drunken stupors that eventually made him realise how bad of a father figure he was to his children. The abuse of a family member is the tipping point of his alcoholism, resulting in his visit to AA.
It was during this sharing that I realised that the participants were seeking more than answers from a book. As vulnerable as they are, all they needed was support from the people around them; to give them the acceptance and affirmation of security which gives them the strength to eradicate the root of their addiction.
Growing up in a conservative Asian society, it is not an easy task for us to tell a stranger that we have an addiction, what more to convince ourselves to attend the session. I have always believed that in Singapore, there will be intervention from friends or family before we reach rock bottom that many in AA have faced. When the signs of alcoholism are pertinent, it is unwise to brush it off as a mild inconvenience especially when one’s daily life is adversely affected by it.
The sessions conducted by AA has proven results over the years, although mostly in a Western setting, and it is ignorant to say that it is futile in helping alcoholics with their recovery. The only requirement to join AA is the desire to stop drinking. For those who feel that their life is spiralling out of control due to the usage of alcohol, AA is just a viable option among others for alcoholics to be made aware.
If you are seeking for help and support to battle alcoholism, these are some organisations that you can approach.
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