The General Service Office (GSO) of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) India, which operates from a tiny municipal school in Byculla, was bursting at its seams as nearly 100 AA members and volunteers attended to a torrent of calls after a national TV show flashed AA’s helpline numbers and website details, on Sunday.
In its ninth episode which first aired at 11am, Satyamev Jayate focused on alcoholism and featured interviews with experts and recovering alcoholics, including AA member Laxman. As the show’s producer and host Aamir Khan announced the number on air, AA offices across the country braced themselves.
Gajanan, Rotated trustee of AA India who was at the AA office in Mumbai, said, “The number was first flashed on the show at 11.37am and at 11.40am we received the first call. Within 20 minutes, the AA website had crashed. At 12.30am, all telephone lines were jammed and missed calls started piling up. Within the next hour, we received 8,600 missed calls.” By 4pm, AA centers across India had received 13,000 calls which jumped up to 28,000 by 7 in the evening after the show aired. At the time of going to print, More than 31,000 calls were recorded.
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of recovering alcoholics who follow the universally accepted 12 Step program for recovery from addiction. Mr. Gnyaneshwar, general manager, AA India, said, “After a lot of groundwork, the show’s research team came to the conclusion that AA programme is a reliable recovery source for alcoholism that is available pan-India and completely free of cost.”
In India, there are at present more than 1,100 groups with approximately 30,000 members. But members feel this is just a small proportion of the actual number of alcoholics who are suffering from a lack of awareness about a recovery programme that actually works.
Agreeing that the show is the biggest boost that the Alcoholics Anonymous India fellowship has ever received, the members say the biggest difference will be felt in parts of the country where AA self-help groups are yet to be set up. Gajanan said, “Many areas such as Assam, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Bihar and large parts of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh do not have AA groups. Once we receive calls from a place where a self-help group is missing, we will send a team of AA members who will help the locals set up a self-help group to conduct regular meetings and help alcoholics practice the recovery programme.”
One of the most lasting effects of the show is in the form of the donations that are generated via viewers who wish to contribute to the cause. But AA India politely declined the monetary help because the fellowship, in principle, does not accept donations from outside sources. All AA activities are funded by members of the fellowship only, said, chairman, public information, AA India.
He added, “We will pool in our own resources to reach out to alcoholics across the country. We are expecting to spend a lot of money in the next six months to reach out to alcoholics.” Alcoholics Anonymous is rumored to have members from all strata of society, including the rich and powerful. Here again, due to the principle of anonymity, members’ full names & identities are never declared.
Eventually, members feel the biggest contribution of the show will be in creating awareness that alcoholism is not just a ‘bad habit’, it is a full-fledged disease which has a reliable cure.
Elated over the tremendous response, AA members in the city are gearing up for a busy week. Similar AA call centers have been set up in Chennai, Hyderabad, Pune, Guwahati, Chandigarh, Kolkata, Calicut, Delhi, Bangalore and Nagpur, among other cities. The show will be aired 14 times in the coming week in eight different languages, and the calls are expected to keep pouring in. AA members are ready to cooperate with government agencies to keep the momentum going even after the show stops airing.
To streamline the process, a 15-member team of volunteers took down basic details from callers, who included alcoholics themselves or family members and well-wishers
Their numbers were then passed on to nearly 100 AA members who sat in the corridors of the municipal school in Byculla from which the AA office operates
The members answered all queries and connected the caller to AA members in their vicinity who in turn will ensure that the alcoholic attends a local AA meeting within the next 48 hours to begin his recovery.
As per the latest news, people have started attending AA meetings in various groups all over India.
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If you know of someone who has a drinking problem & needs help guide him to AA the contact details are as follows:-
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