The Maltese AA has very few young members, although it is known that heavy drinking among young people is high compared to other European countries. There may be need to set up a ‘Young People’ in AA group branch, as some other fellowships overseas have done, dedicated to people between 16 and 35.
New trends in alcoholism in Malta include a significant rise in the number of women seeking help for alcohol dependence. Sedqa reports that the number of women seeking help has risen from 16 per cent in the past 15 years to 25 per cent.
According to both Mr Mangani and the chairman of Mental Health Services, psychiatrist Anton Grech, the rise could show lower diffidence by a more empowered gender to open up, rather than an actual rise in the number of female alcoholics. However, more research is needed in this area.
Multiple substance abuse is also on the rise. Many drink heavily and take cocaine to keep awake and function better, says Mr Mangani.
The story of a recovering woman alcoholic
“It was customary when my father came home from work every evening for us all to gather around the kitchen table, a half-gallon of Scotch in the centre and drink as we chatted about our day, waiting for his permission to go out in the evening.
Ironically, I did not like alcohol in my teens and drank a glass of sweet liqueur or wine just to belong. But I soon acquired a taste for it and began to drink a great deal like the rest of my family and friends – we never thought of it as alcohol abuse.
At the weekend, I would go out with my friends and they would get tipsy while I got drunk. I started a serious relationship and things ran smoothly at first. I only got drunk at weddings, parties and social events – and I thought that made my drinking okay, because it was only on occasions.
Slowly I started to increase my intake, drinking as soon as I returned from work, pouring myself a stiff Scotch as I stirred the soup or baked a pie. My relationship suffered and this made me drink more. I stopped working for a while and started drinking from the morning.
Still I was in denial, worrying instead about another family member who I thought was drinking too much. I let myself be persuaded to attend an open AA meeting, where I finally confronted the fact that I was an alcoholic. I left full of good intentions to avoid that first drink, but I succumbed almost immediately.
In the following years I would go for months without a drink but lapse over and over again. I lost good friends who were embarrassed to be seen with me. My own family avoided me.
Finally, I went back to AA. Everyone seemed to be telling my story – the gradual increase of alcohol intake, the loss of husbands and wives, the brushes with the law…
I attended meetings every day at first, which gave me the strength to spend the next 24 hours without a drink and the next. If I am having a bad moment I have telephone numbers of people in the fellowship whom I can call any time, day and night, to help me over that temporary hurdle.
I take one day at a time… my task is simply not to drink that day. I don’t think about tomorrow.
Using this method I have managed to have eight years of sobriety. Yesterday, has gone and tomorrow may never come. But today I am alive and free from the chains that bound me in my active alcoholism.
I am hugely grateful to my friends in the fellowship who have helped me to stay sober and will continue to do so for each new day I choose to stay away from that first drink.”