In this calm part of a church in the Masigarh neighborhood of NEW DELHI, just five minutes on foot from Escorts Hospital, a group of ladies confront and defeat its fiercest foe. One of Reena’s final memories from the time she was an alcoholic is of her father entering the room and saying that he could smell death. But that is over. Reena has been alcohol-free for more than a year, and she attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings along with many others like her once a week. Honesty is the key, they claim, to be able to treat it. “It is a nasty world out there,” Reena tells the group. “The ladies share their strengths and collectively battle what they describe a “sickness.” Few women have the confidence to be forthright about their feelings. They have made the decision to get therapy and search for a life without alcohol in defiance of the stigma. 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. However, I returned to drinking and had a yearning for more after each 40-day cycle. Then I went to AA, where I learned how to accept the fact that I was an alcoholic. Priya, who started out as a social drinker, stated, “The sharings helped me see myself and be honest about dealing with the problem. She did not realize she was an alcoholic until she was out of control. Her cousin Trisha, who is in her early 30s, listens to Priya speak while smiling sagely. She is also battling alcoholism and has been able to resist the urge for more than three years. Manya, 45, follows her and says, “By the time I attained sobriety, my daughter was 18 years old and my son was 22. I come to the session and pour my heart out. I express all that matters to me, and then I move on with the following week. Their entire lives, she says, they had witnessed their mother’s drinking. “But now that I am in control, I want to give back as much as I can to my family,” Manya said. “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.” The session ends after everyone has spoken, not before the promises to walk the talk are made all over again. Those who sign up for the AA program are first given 90 daily sessions. After successfully completing this course, participants may switch to once-weekly meetings. They demonstrated that the struggle is substantially harder for alcoholic women. Anil Bandola, the creator of the Asha Kripa Centre, a nonprofit rehabilitation center, notes that women are still reluctant to ask for assistance. He continued, “Women from the higher strata have started coming up to seek help, but this number is not too large. The stigma and lack of support at home keeps women away. The middle class and lower middle class lady never comes out to talk about alcoholism.
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