Cheers to Sobriety

72-year-old Rohit Rana (name changed on request) remembers the exact day and time when his life changed for good. It was on August 21, 1982, after he passed out after drinking an entire bottle of whiskey, that he attended his first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in Pune. He was angry with his wife who made him attend the meeting, but now, over 30 sober years later, he feels that they have never been closer.

"The first step for an alcoholic is to admit that he has a problem. And I had the toughest time admitting that," he reminisces. Rana is now an active member of the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) group in Pune and works towards helping other "lost souls" in the city.

With the new year celebrations picking up in Pune, the meetings at AA are taking a more practical turn. Usually, the AA meetings take place almost every day at one venue or the other, where the members, all anonymous, share their experiences with each other. This time, however, they talk about enjoying the festive season without falling prey to the temptation of alcohol. "It is not that big a deal, you know. Most of our members practise utmost self-control," he says. "But it does not hurt to be careful in advance," he adds.

To make sure that they are not tempted to drink, some members from the AA Pune are organising a alcohol-free party. "They just want to spend time with their family and friends who understand what they are going though – and can relate to their struggles of staying sober," explains Rana. But for their more "senior" members, who have been sober for a long period of time, there are no temptations even if they attend a normal party that serves booze. "I throw parties in my garden all the time," says Rana. "I serve alcohol to my friends myself. It does not bother me any more," he says proudly.

But the battle against intoxication is long, but rewarding. "We have a motto at AA. Don't drink today, you can drink tomorrow. But the catch is, tomorrow never comes! That we, we go through our lives, one day at a time," he says laughing.

With the number of AA Pune members rising, Rana feels hopeful that more and more people want to be sober. "We have around 2,300 members and 19 groups in Pune itself. After Amir Khan's show Satyamev Jayate aired in July earlier this year, we have been getting more than 150,000 calls per day. That is a sure sign of hope," says Rana.

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