Tuesday 22nd Jan 2019
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Looking at the Modern Cure for Alcoholism

Cover Story


One of the most common solutions for the cure of alcoholism is the 12-step programme as promulgated by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). The first group of AA came into existence in the year 1935 and since then it got spread to different parts of the globe and reached India in 1950s. AA works on the principle that it is only the alcoholic that could affect and contain the drinking habit of another alcoholic and the non-alcoholic would never be able to put that much impact on the alcoholic. It indeed is true because the person who had never experienced this addiction and never felt himself helpless before alcohol, it would be a little difficult for him to be able to understand the craving for it as it is the player who knows the game better than others. The AA meetings today take place all across the globe and alcoholics hear from other alcoholics as to how they managed to get rid of this disease. Talking to a few of the members of AA, one may clearly make out how much they are relieved and happy for their joining the AA group. For some it gave them a new life as they were on the verge of collapsing and many of them attempted suicide as well before coming to AA.

The whole of the AA thing is a spiritual one as it was the spiritual spark that led to its genesis. It only struck Bill, the founder of AA, when he found that his own friend, who was an alcoholic himself, had managed to stay away from alcohol and was living a normal and happy life. It is interesting to note that the first point after the acknowledgement that indeed the alcoholic has no power over alcohol, the second point immediately compels the person to believe in a ‘power greater that himself.’ It is this belief in the power greater than the human beings that gives the alcoholic a sense of relief and a sound determination that there is still a chance and he could cure himself of this disease. The big book of AA, which is its basic text, reports that the friend of Bill admitted that “God had done for him which he could not do for himself. His human will had failed. Doctors had pronounced him incurable. Society was about to lock him up.” It was basically his faith in God and the total reliance on him that made him quit the bad habit. He became more organised from within and hence faced even the deadliest and the strongest cravings with ease and tranquillity. Bill was aghast and surprised when his friend refused to drink which Bill offered to him. Upon enquiring, he replied, “I have got religion.”

AA rejects the idea that the philosophies of life could overcome alcoholism. Had it been the case many would have recovered from it long ago, it reports in the basic text. So the crux of AA is nothing but the strong belief in God and this God would then deliver them from the evil and open the boulevard for them. However, their idea of God or the spiritual being is not limited or confined and hence it even incorporates the atheists and agnostics as well in its sphere. The main point is to submit to God, and then contemplate and do self-correction so as to find out what made you falter at that particular moment when you gave in to cravings for alcohol.

The remaining points are about contemplation, self-correction, admittance of guilt and wrong and most importantly seeking help through prayer and meditation to become close to God and know what His will is and the strength to carry out that will. The basic text reinforces the need of spiritual awakening or rise of God-consciousness and argues that every person has the potential to get rid of this habit, provided he remains honest and “does not close his mind to all spiritual concepts.” The person can only be defeated by an attitude of intolerance or belligerent denial.

While conversing with the members of AA and later while reading the basic text I was wondering that all this was relatively similar to the ideas which Islam promulgates and most importantly Islam does not limit itself to a single problem which the humans face rather it takes everything in totality and gives the solution to all the worries and miseries of humans. The belief in God at which AA lays great emphasis or the one which has power over us and can deliver us from our problem, is the corner-stone of Islam, the Tauheed. Obviously, there are stark differences in the approach of AA as it is something which has come out of the minds of the people and through their own experiences. However, the pivotal point which gets reinforced here is that spiritual awakening or God-consciousness is an indispensable part of cleansing oneself of the evils which encompass us. The philosophical argument may sound very good and compelling but when it would be about implementing the ideas there would definitely be serious contradictions.

Hence the bottom line is that no matter what evil one has involved oneself in and no matter how many wrongs one has committed against his own self, the only place of refuge is with God and we all must make a resolve to take a U-turn and try our utmost to walk the path which God has ordained us for.

Allama Iqbal has rightly said: Na Kahin Jahan Mein Amaan Mili, Jo Amaan Mili to Kahan Mili / Mere Jurm-e-Khana Kharab ko Tere Afwe Banda Nawaz Mein (My dark misdeeds found no refuge in the wide world— / The only refuge they found was in Your Gracious Forgiveness).

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