Delegates from across Asia and the Middle East will gather for an Alcoholics Anonymous convention next week in Dubai for the first time to spread the message that all hope is not lost for those stuggling with addiction and substance abuse.

More than 100 delegates are expected November 6 and 7 to further disseminate the organisation’s mantra to recovering alcoholics that they are not alone and that sobriety is possible with guidance from members who have already walked the long road.

Ahead of the event, senior AA delegates from 15 countries across Asia gathered in Dubai on Thursday for the Alcoholic’s Anonymous regional bi-annual meeting to discuss public communications strategies for the next two years.

Stressing the importance of anonymity as the organisation’s name makes clear, Asia Oceania AA regional chairman John L — a lawyer from Australia — said the need for self-supported, non-judgmental assistance for people with a drinking problem has never been greater.

John told a press conference yesterday that the key element of AA’s success is that under a collective global group, “one alcoholic carries the message to another alcoholic” offering the promise of a better tomorrow for those who believe they have been bested by a weakness that some argue is a disease.

He said that alcoholism is extremely difficult to champion given that “it’s cunning, baffling and powerful”.

“The purpose of the regional meetings is to see how we can, at a country-to-country level, carry the message,” he said.

Mary, a staff member of AA’s general service office in New York, told reporters that AA celebrates its 80th anniversary this year, founded in 1935 by New York stockbroker, Bill Wilson, and Akron surgeon, Dr Bob Smith.

Following the publishing of the Alcoholic’s Anonymous book chronicling 30 personal stories published in 1939, the organisation over the decades mushroomed in 180 countries to now include 115,326 groups with more than two million sober members.

Ahead of its time, AA was among the first to recognise “that alcoholism is a malady of the mind, body and emotions. AA is based upon one alcoholic sharing with another, that was the founding spark,” Mary said.

Dubai’s AA group was founded in 1977 by Tom L, an Indian expatriate and Dubai resident who was recognised in December 2007 on the 30th anniversary of his efforts with an award by the Emirate of Abu Dhabi National Rehabilitation Centre for “continuous outstanding contribution towards recovery”.

The group works, Tom said, because only abusers and users truly understand the deep emotions behind powerful addictions. When users and recovering abusers connect, something powerful happens.

“We call it the language of the heart. It’s one sufferer to another sufferer,” Tom said in an earlier interview with Gulf News.

It’s estimated that roughly 300 members are now active in the Dubai AA group.

With the help of a 12-step programme towards sobriety, the hardest part of the road to recovery is making it to the first meeting after which members encourage new members to attend as many sessions as possible within the first three months.

New members are also encouraged to accept help from a so-called “sponsor”, an experienced AA member who has stayed sober for years and understands the trials of giving up the bottle.


• AA was founded in Akron, US, in 1935


• Dubai AA group was founded in 1977

* The Alcoholic’s Anonymous book has been translated into 69 languages

• AA is now established in 180 countries, including the UAE

• Globally, there are 115,326 AA groups

• AA now has an estimated two million sober members

SOURCE: Alcoholics Anonymous