Some 200 people this weekend attend the 13th Alcoholics Anonymous Malta International Convention.
Jack stands at the corner of the busy street, clenching his hands tightly in his grey hoodie pockets, staring blankly ahead at the bustling street, unaware of being jostled about.
Finally, his mood changes and he barges into the building.
Finally, he has found the courage to admit to himself that he has an alcohol problem. But he does not want it to completely take over his life.
So he has decided to take action and seek help.
Jack is one of around 100 people in Malta who has sought to join Alcoholics Anonymous, which knows its origins in Akron, Ohio, US in 1935 after a meeting between Bill W., a New York stockbroker, and Bob S., an Akron doctor, who were both hopeless alcoholics. They had met and immediately discovered they could help each other in a way that nothing and no one else could more than when two fellow sufferers connect and share their experiences.
In 1959, an Irishman suffering in the same way brought AA to Malta.
“There are now nine meetings in Maltese and 12 in English taking place in Sliema, Valletta, St Julian’s, Mosta and Victoria, offering a way for alcoholics to recover from their suffering,” an association spokesman explains.
Today Alcoholics Anonymous estimates there are over two million successfully recovering members in more than 180 countries, with a growing fellowship in Malta.
Referring to the preamble read at the start of every meeting, he explains: “Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experiences, strength and hope with each other so 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 AA membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organisation or institution and does not wish to enter into any controversy, neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics to achieve sobriety.”
He adds: “We who are in AA came because we finally gave up trying to control our drinking. We still hated to admit that we could never drink safely. Then we heard from other AA members that we were sick. We found out that many people suffered from the same feelings of guilt, loneliness and hopelessness, the way we did.”
Anyone who thinks they may have a problem with drinking can just turn up to a meeting and find out more about Alcoholics Anonymous.
The AA programme of recovery is based on the principle of an alcoholic who no longer drinks being able to help another alcoholic. An alcoholic in recovery will pass on the story of their own drinking problem, describe the sobriety they have found in AA and invite the newcomer to join the informal fellowship of AA.
Many people suffered from the same feelings of guilt, loneliness and hopelessness, the way we did
The heart of the recovery programme is in ‘the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous’. These are a set of principles that are spiritual in nature and that if practised as a way of life, can expel the obsession to drink and enable the sufferer to be happy, useful and whole.
There are open meetings for alcoholics and their families and for anyone interested in solving a drinking problem or helping someone else to do so. Closed meetings, on the other hand, are for those who think, or know that they have a drinking problem. All meetings have a set format, although the topics and themes change regularly.
The spokesman says they do not keep records on how successful or not these meetings are as “members of AA are free to come and go as they please”.
“As alcoholics in recovery we know we can never safely drink and so, one day at a time, we do not take that first drink. Continuous periods of sobriety bring many benefits to ourselves and our families.
“We live and stay sober one day at a time. Regular member meetings see other members recovering from alcoholism and spend time with new members passing on their experience.
“If a member slips or relapses, they are encouraged to come back to meetings and continue to work on the programme or recovery one day at a time.”
Alcoholics Anonymous tries to reach out to members of the public by cooperating with the medical profession, employers, prisons and schools. Members are also available to give talks and information. The public may contact AA volunteers via e-mail, its helpline and Facebook page.
Family members are also given support in the form of Al-Anon, with meetings of their own.
This weekend some 200 people from 20 countries will be meeting in Malta for the 13th Alcoholics Anonymous Malta International Convention to be held at the Seashells Resort, Suncrest Hotel in Qawra.
They will meet “to celebrate recovery from alcoholism”.
Anyone is welcome to visit the convention for the day or weekend to learn more about Alcoholics Anonymous.