Alcoholics Anonymous History In Your Area
History of Alcoholics Anonymous in Malaysia
Alcoholic Anonymous • Malaysia •
KL – Group Pertama
In September 1971 a sober man known as Enos C. sat in the YMCA in Jln Davidson waiting for fellow alcoholics to join him. Days past, as the advertisement he had placed in the Malay Mail failed to elicit an immediate response. His patience eventually won out when Pat M., by chance, read the Alcoholic Anonymous advertisement and decided to visit Brickfields. The bond between the English rubber planter and English wife of an expatriate formed when two alcoholics recognized the similar desire to stay sober. Both familiar with the AA program, particularly the twelve steps, they joined to build a community of like minded individuals seeking sobriety. Over the years AA has grown into a robust organization led by Malaysians, with members from all walks of life and ethnic class and religious backgrounds sharing a common goal and the collegiality of the AA framework.
Moving Forward in Fellowship
The founders, notably Pat M., stamped an early identity on the organization. As is the tradition, members and visitors (who are always welcome) shared life experiences. Open communication, trust and a common commitment bonded strangers who listened and formed a support network in the struggle with alcoholism. The organization moved from the YMCA, where meetings were held weekly, to Jalan Alor for bi-weekly gatherings and expanded from a handful to regular members to scores of members by the 1980s, and although the numbers fell in the early 1990s, the current chapter is comprised of over twenty regular members and numerous visitors. As is the norm, members have sponsors who provide support in the recovery process, often taking calls in the wee hours of the night or early morning when the urge to drink can overwhelm an alcoholic. After moving to St John’s in 1974 an expanding to meetings in General Hospital in 1982 (later disbanded) and St. Andrews in 1985, the AA chapter in Kuala Lumpur now meets three times a week at St Johns, known as Group Pertama. AA in KL is active and vibrant. This year will mark the 36 years of this organization in which nearly two thousand people have participated by attending meetings or reaching out to individuals interested in recovery.
Reflection of Malaysian Society
AA welcomes all people suffering from alcoholism who are interested in recovery, irrespective of background. Traditionally, AA in Malaysia has been comprised of all races in the country and from different class backgrounds. Meetings are held in English on Monday and Thursday nights and Tamil on Friday nights. They are united in the human experience they share, battling the disease of alcoholism. The composition of Malaysia’s chapter of AA mirrored changes in Malaysian society from the 1970s. Through the early years the organization was led by expatriates, primarily in rubber planting and financial services. Common networks in the expatriate community, who had ties abroad, consolidated an AA core. But the Malaysia Chapter’s local membership expanded steadily. Through the 1970s the majority of members were introduced to AA through word in mouth, although the organization continued to advertise in Malay Mail until 1975. Some were referred by friends and family, others strangers who reached out to a person in need. Some were just passed a crumbled slip of paper with a phone number. Each person who walked through the door showed courage in taking the critical first step in recognizing a problem and an openness to change. They were welcomed by comrades, who shared principles and goals. With the exodus of a large part of expatriate community in the late 1970s, the Malaysia Chapter was forced to rejuvenate itself with local members. By the end of the decade the organization had become truly Malaysians, led by Malaysians with a core Malaysian membership from all walks of life.
One of the most difficult decisions the Chapter faced in its first decade was to distinguish between alcoholism and narcotic abuse. Often these are shared addictions and toward the end of the decade the Malaysia Chapter began to have a number of members suffering from both. After extensive discussion, the Malaysia Chapter decided to recognize the special circumstances of each condition and a group of AA members led by Omar and Wagner founded Narcotic Anonymous in 1994. This separation reflected increasing awareness in Malaysian society of addictions and a reduction of the stigma associated with these conditions.
Key Role of Individuals
A central tenant of the organization is that AA is not about specific individuals. The founder of AA, Bill W., refused honorary degrees, believing strongly that every individual’s struggle is an individual journey and no one should be signaled out for their efforts over others. While not contradicting the intent of Bill W.’s example, specific individuals played pivotal roles in Malaysian AA Chapter.
Through the 1970s the organization was led by Pat M., whose commitment to building AA in Malaysia made a lasting impact. Her drive to expand membership and regularize meetings set in place a pattern that would continue for decades. Her organizational verve set in place a pattern that was followed by others, notably John M., Linda, Kanda, Paul, Saba, Omar, Nathan and more. From leadership style, different interpretations of priorities and personalities, the Malaysian Chapter reflected the contributions of members. Sometimes the input was leading a successful meeting, other times it was sharing an inspirational experience, yet others answering the phone and listening or sharing a meal …. all critical in the difficult struggle against alcoholism.
Many alcoholics have health problems from earlier drinking bouts, especially with their livers. Not surprisingly, Master L. was not the only death in the AA Malaysian Chapter. One member, Kanda, died of a heart attack in a meeting. He passed away while talking during a meeting, and his friends, after failing in their effort to resuscitate him, worked to assure that his death was legally registered and his family was notified. The vulnerability of members and the shared comradeship offered support even at the most difficult times.
The centrality of Everyday Struggle
For every alcoholic, the struggle is “one day at a time”. It is a private battle that each alcoholic faces whether it is in a restaurant or the privacy of one’s own home. It is nor just about the struggle with alcohol, but the management of factors that trigger alcohol consumption. Alcoholism is not a choice, but a disease that requires intervention and constant vigilance. AA provides a community to support each other, comprised of members while are also battling the disease for sobriety. It is through this shared experience that members can face the obstacles in their struggle, be rewarded for their success and be accepted for any mistakes.
The Malaysian AA Chapter was worked hard to put in place conditions that welcome anyone. It has not always been easy. The Chapter faced a lull in membership during the mid-1980s, fostered by infighting among members. As one senior member noted, “AA members started practicing the disease with each other.” The Chapter splintered with meetings held in different locations and overall membership dropped. Beyond the personality conflicts, there were differences in interpretation of the program, which are part and parcel of the evolution of an organization. A similar lull occurred in the late 1990s, with calls of mismanagement tainting the organizers. Yet, here too, the Chapter bounced back, resolving differences internally and with discussion. The pattern within the Malaysian Chapter has reflected the pattern within the organization as a whole, acceptance, tolerance and discussion – with the common bond of a shared AA framework as a foundation.
As the Malaysian Chapter reaches its 36 year anniversary, it is proud to acknowledge that the meetings have saved lives and build a fabric of support that has enriched lives. The Malaysian Chapter, like those elsewhere, now has Meetings in Penang and Johor Bahru within Malaysia and welcomes anyone, just like Enos C. did in the YMCA years ago.
By : Dr. Bridget Welsh
Copyright © 2007 AA Kuala Lumpur, Group Pertama. All rights reserved.