Russians Warily Turn to Alcoholics Anonymous in Battle With Alcohol
One-time Russian prisoner Andrei tried to quit drinking 22 times, going for cures that lasted from one to six months. But each time, he went back to the bottle. Then 14 years ago, the 58-year-old tried Alcoholics Anonymous, attracted by the different approach, which was not about doctors reprimanding the drinker, but taking personal responsibility.
And after going through the 12-step programme five times, the Muscovite with deeply-furrowed face and intense dark eyes, said he felt confident he could stay dry.
The Alcoholics Anonymous method of treating alcoholism first came to Russia from the United States more than 20 years ago, but is still not mainstream in a country where hard drinking is often viewed as inevitable and ingrained in the national psyche.
The AA movement of “mutual aid” groups created in the United States in the 1930s first came to Russia at the end of the 1980s during the perestroika era, as the country opened up under the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Yet more than 20 years later, Russia has just 400 AA groups with 10,000 members—a tiny number for a population of 143 million where alcohol abuse and its social effects are a national scourge.
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