Staying Sober, Rebuilding Lives
A group of Roatan residents meet regularly to help one another stay away from alcohol

December 1st, 2006
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Coffee, books and AA magazines at the Roatan home group meeting.

Coffee, books and AA magazines at the Roatan home group meeting.

AA Roatan Home Group was founded by two American Expats in 1992 and since then, thousands of open and closed meetings were held. Every Monday and Thurdsday at 6:30pm between two and 12 people come to the AA meetings at ?Que tal Café? in Coxen Hole. A Wednesday 7am meeting at Roatan Life office by AKR attracts several other recovering alcoholics. Roatan Home Group meetings are open to anyone interested in learning about AA.

Meetings at ¿Que Tal Café? begin with a serenity prayer and passages read from Alcoholics Anonymous basic recovery book. “If it wasn’t for these meetings I don’t know where I would have been,” said a woman in her 30s. One of these meetings, at end of November, attracted seven members- several men in their fifties and sixties, some in their 30s, a couple of women.

The members are more comfortable talking about their experience on basis of anonymity that offers them a sense of protection and comfort. “The stigma goes away as understanding of alcoholism as a disease becomes widespread in the community,” one AA member explains.

Issues of low self esteem are an often heard topic of discussion. “My ex-husband did drugs and I drank and then we would fight,” says a woman in her 50s. “I was lucky to abstain during my pregnancies.” Her face is tired and weathered. The mental and emotional scars run deep amongst AA members. They are an articulate group and they do have stories to tell. They are stories of struggle, sadness, but also achieving useful lives and success.

Many AA members believe that alcoholism is a disease with mental, physical and spiritual elements. For people who want to stop drinking AA program offers a way to address all of these elements. “People need to understand that recovery is possible,” says a AA member in his fifties.

The meeting gives many examples of this positive transformation. “My life began the moment I walked through the doors of AA. I learned of how not to drink one day at a time,” says a man who hasn’t had a drink in 33 years. Recovery takes place at a different pace and depends on an individual. The AA group attracts a variety of people at different stages in their recovery process. Some can count on decades of sobriety, while others are at the beginning of this process.

“I remember being called a promising young man, but alcohol prevented me from doing the things that I wanted. When I was drinking, I no longer had a choice,” said a AA member in his fifties. AA considers an alcoholic to be a person who lost the ability to control their drinking. That moment is sometimes hard to recognize.

As the Bay Islands population increases, alcoholism is becoming a growing problem. While AA focuses on the recovery of its members, Roatan Home Group has done talks to local schools about how AA could help in offering an answer to alcoholism in the community.

The contact between other AA groups in Honduras is sporadic. There is an English AA group in Tegucigalpa and in Coxen Hole a Spanish speaking AA home group meets almost every day. The cultural and language barriers are the reason why Roatan hosts both Spanish and English language AA groups. The program allows recovering alcoholics to heal on their own terms and members are accepted no matter how many times they relapse or fail.

Al-Anon, a twelve-step program for relatives and friends of alcoholics, has begun to meet in 2006, but struggles to find enough members to keep it going.

AA has followed a decentralized structure, with no hierarchy and little administration from the day of its founding in 1935. The only core and sole principle in all AA groups is the 12 step program. All else is dependent on the priorities and beliefs of the group members. The Roatan group, like all AA communities, has little structure and only a rotating secretary position.

The main purpose of A.A. members is to stay sober and help other alcoholics do the same. Still AA is not the only organization and method of coming out of alcoholism. In US there are several other organizations offering alternative ways towards sobriety: Rational Recovery, SMART Recovery, Lifering. “We [AA] don’t have a monopoly on getting out of alcohol addiction. Some people find solution to their alcoholism thru church organizations and support group,” says the founder of Roatan Home Group.

AA twelve step program has inspired many other recovery organizations that base themselves on the will of their members to overcome addiction. Gamblers Anonymous, Emotions Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous all trace their roots to AA. [/private]

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