There are six groups of “Alcoholics Anonymous” (AA) community in Voronezh, one of which is women’s. The free meetings are attended by about 70 people, undergoing the Twelve Step Program. Who comes to the meetings and what the therapy is, read in the cover of RIA “Voronezh.”

Who is in the groups

The meetings are held every day in different districts of Voronezh. The majority of the members attend the meetings two or three times a week. When they feel they are weakening and ready to surrender, they come more often.

Two and 30 people gather at the same time. The meeting, attended by the correspondents of RIA “Voronezh”, gathered 12 alcohol-dependent people, of whom five were women. The majority of them look good. One man even looked like a top manager.

It is not customary to disclose your profession, but after the meeting, in private, we found out that AA group included an artist, a programmer, a psychologist, a driver, an office worker, a doctor and a homeless person.

Who can attend the meeting

The meetings are open and closed. The one, attended by the journalists of RIA “Voronezh,” allowed relatives of the alcoholics and sympathizers for them.

The group therapy is for those who has realized that they cannot cope with the dependency on their own. The main requirement for a new member of AA group is to look honestly at the situation and call a spade a spade. Introducing yourself, have enough courage to pronounce the diagnosis “alcoholic”.

Outsiders and beginners are embarrassed – it is not easy to restrain a smile after the applause, you feel like an American film character. But the feeling of a farce disappears after several stories.

Speeches of AA meetings participants

- I’m Lyuba, an alcoholic. I have a tunnel thinking, an obsession. I do not exist after the first shot. I have come here after another breakdown. I’ve been clean for three months and six days. I’m no longer afraid to be sober.

- I’m Igor, an alcoholic. I got here being a 50-year-old man. I’ve been sober for four years and three months. I’m very grateful that no one has pressed me here, no one has bothered me and has not claimed to know how to help me. I wanted to learn to “be finished with” from those who managed to do it. My main achievement – love has woken up in me. My soul has come to life, and now I love those who are with me.
Igor, an alcoholic

- I’m Alexander, an alcoholic. I had problems with alcohol, but two years before I came here, I had almost stopped drinking. I came here when I caught myself in disgust for drunkards in the streets. Such an uncontrollable hatred convinced me that I was sick. I came here to keep myself in sobriety. I am grateful that no one here forbids me, imposes anything to me. All I do is my choice. I feel great because I can be honest with myself. I feel freedom.

- I’m Vlad, an alcoholic. I have been sober for two years already. Before that, I had undergone an uncountable number of psychotherapies for alcohol dependence, stayed in rehabilitation centers – everything was in vain. As soon as I left the centers, I fell without preludes; I lived in a horrible cartoon. I lost everything and everyone. Once my life was on a thread. I realized that I was about to die. I came to the group of anonymous alcoholics. Here, there are people like me. They understand me, support me. Thanks to God and them, I’m sober today.

- I’m Olya, an alcoholic. I reached the point when even the madhouse doctors did not take me, even for money. I came out from there and immediately started drinking for two weeks, then got there again. I have not been drinking for eight months. But I am a “dry alcoholic”. I think all the time about drinking alcohol. I do not know what to do with myself.

What is the basis of the therapy in AA society 

The meeting begins when the presenter (this role is taken by the group members in turn) reads out the Twelve Step Program. The meaning is simple: only an alcoholic can help another alcoholic. A conversation with a person who has the same problem can replace a glass of gin.

Bill Wilson from the USA developed Twelve Step Program in the 1930s. Doctors said he was an incurable alcoholic as his daily norm was two or three bottles of gin. When everyone turned away from Wilson, he decided to heal himself. Now his “Twelve Steps” work all over the world. The Alcoholics Anonymous society includes more than 2 million people from 150 countries. In Russia, the first group appeared in 1987. Now there are 530 of them, six of which are in Voronezh.

What rules should be observed

The main condition is to be “clean” at the meeting, not to drink any alcohol.

All the information about AA groups members is confidential. You disclose only your name, and no one will be against it if it is an assumed name. The profession, social status and so on are not disclosed, because they do not matter. The only thing that matters is the disease and the way the person fights with it.

Each group has its own rules, set at its own discretion. The general rules are as follows: the meeting lasts an hour, the presenter sets the topic, then the members speak out in turns, sharing their experiences. Everyone is free to leave the meeting at any time.

An alcoholic can choose his or her mentor from those who has mastered the Twelve Step Program. Often people have friendly relations outside the meeting as well. This is not forbidden.

The participants choose a “treasurer,” the one who will buy tea and sweets, answer the hotline calls, go to rehabilitation centers.

What is done in case of breakdowns

According to the meeting participants, breakdowns happen. The main principle of AA society is a free choice. Nobody condemns anyone and insist on anything. After a breakdown, if people want, they continue to attend the meetings.

Alcoholics Anonymous and Religion

- The AA Society is not associated with any sect or religion. You do not have to be a believer. As a rule, more than half of the people who come here  are agnostics or atheists. AA is not a religious program, but a spiritual one, the participants of the meeting say.

At the same time, the meeting attended by the journalists of RIA “Voronezh” was held in the territory of an Orthodox church. And after the words “I’m sober today,” the group members added: “Thanks to you and God.”

- I am Maxim, an alcoholic, and I could not imagine that the drunkards would tell me about God. I was quiet, shy. Alcohol first gave me freedom, then enslaved me. My brother became an alcoholic, then he died, my wife left me, I slashed my wrists, I got in a psychiatric hospital. I was nowhere, and then I came here. I heard about God and believed. I am not empty anymore, I thawed. Now I believe that I was not born in vain. At least, my hard, hopeless, savage experience will be a good lesson for someone ...

Who finances AA groups

AA meeting are free. Often those who come here are homeless people who do not have money even for the biscuits and tea, which are on the table.

AA Society exists only thanks to voluntary donations. At the end of the meeting, attended by the correspondents of RIA “Voronezh”, a straw box was passed round. The participants threw coins and small bills.

They say they support corporate poverty, because money and power are as evil as alcohol.

- The box is passed round in connection with our seventh tradition, which states that each AA group should fully rely on its own strength, refusing external assistance. The collected funds go for renting premises, literature, tea and biscuits, printing products (stands, leaflets, business cards), Artem, a participant of the meeting, explained.

Do we need AA meetings in Voronezh?

AA groups member lists are not maintained, so you can only make a rough analysis. Since 2011, the number of AA groups in Voronezh has increased from one to six.

- Officially, there are 13 thousand alcoholics in Voronezh. But this is only the visible part of the iceberg. Multiply by five to see the real magnitude of the disaster. According to my estimates, even by eight. Every 12th resident of our city, including children and the elderly, is dependent.
PYOTR STROGANOV Deputy Head of The Department of Medical and Social Rehabilitation of Narcological Patients at Voronezh Hospital No. 18
- To make a person stop drinking, a serious program to work with his or her brain is needed. The main condition is the patient’s desire to be cured. Those who attend AA groups, go there voluntarily, it is their conscious choice and the main rule. For example, people often come to our Department not to be cured, but simply to lower the dose. Therefore, 30-35% returned. Parents who bring here their children just wear rose-colored glasses. They think they can force them to undergo treatment. So, they pay their 16 thousand rubles the seventh, and even the tenth time. AA is a serious help in the treatment. 
Eduard Zhivotyagin Head of the Narcological Department of Voronezh Hospital No. 18
- An alcoholic first drinks to feel good, then – to stop feeling bad. At first, alcohol is a friend, then it is a small dirty dog, then it is an enemy and a master. At the last stage, only medication does not help. The support of the people who have a similar problem is very effective.
SERGEY MORDVINOV Psychologist helping to cope with dependency
- Any treatment begins with accepting the disease. The AA program is based on this. I’ve also undergone it. The experience of people who, like me, were at the bottom, and then managed to dig themselves out of this hole was the most helpful for me. I have not been drinking alcohol for 16 years.
SERGEY LEBEDEV Social worker (consultant) in a specialized hospital where alcoholism is treated

Where should alcoholics and their relatives go?

Hospitals and churches in Voronezh are ready to provide free assistance to alcoholics. The narcological departments of Voronezh hospitals for people with dependencies have 225 beds and are ready to provide medicated treatment. There is a sobriety group, organized by priest Yevgeniy Leshchenyuk at the Epiphany Church (17a 25 Oktyabrya Street).

“AlAnon” community operates for relatives or friends of alcoholics. Its contact number is 8 900 929 76 14.

“Alatin” is a community for teenagers with drinking relatives or friends. In Voronezh, the group has been gathering since 2012 on Mondays at 18:30 at the address: 19a Taranchenko Street.

The trust line of “Alcoholics Anonymous” community in Voronezh is 8 (473) 293 49 31, 8 952 955 87 41

Addresses of “Alcoholics Anonymous” group meetings in Voronezh

“Vdokhnovleniye” (“Inspiration”)

Where: 28a Domostroiteley Street, (The Church of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land)
When: Wednesday - 19:00-20:00 (open meeting), Friday - 19:00-20:00 (open meeting)

“Fortuna” (“Fortune”)

Where: 131a 45 Strelkovoy Divizii Street 
When: Sunday - 18:00-19:00 (open meeting)

“Polovodye” (“High Water”)

Where: 131a 45 Strelkovoy Divizii Street
When: Tuesday - 19:00-20:00 (open meeting)

“Vybor” (“Choice”)

Where: 17a 25 Oktyabrya Street (The Epiphany Church)
When: Monday - 20:00-21:00, Thursday - 20:00-21:00, Saturday - 20:00-21:00 (open meeting)

“Nadezhda” “Hope” (women’s group)

Where: 34 Tsyurupy Street, third floor
When: Tuesday - 19:00-20:00

“Den” (“Day”)

Where: 34 Tsyurupy Street, third floor
When: Saturday - 12:00-13:00 (open meeting)