No drinks will be served at this celebration, only a non-alcoholic toast to half a century of sobriety. On Monday evening, the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) will hold a felicitation function for AA member John K, to congratulate him on 50 years of sobriety. Since the AA in India is 53 years old, Mangalore-based John is one of its oldest members.
John (72) says, “I come from a middle-class Roman Catholic family in Mangalore. There were no taboos about alcohol in the village I grew up in. Village women would crush Ayurved tablets in brandy and put them on their babies’ tongues when they were ill.” He adds, “Liquor was always served to guests. At the age of six, I used to drink the leftover liquor. I would drink from huge jars at home, scooping out the liquor with coconut shells. By the time I was 12, I was a full-fledged alcoholic.”
John says he worked his way through school “failing thrice because alcohol affected me physically and mentally”. He would pick fights at marriages, churches and social gatherings. John’s mother would weep as he was brought home, carried by villagers after he had fallen down in a stupor on the road. “I tried to quit, but failed on several occasions.”
Then, on September 20, 1959, when a priest told him to go to an AA meet in Mangalore, things changed for the St Aloysius College student. John says he was an agnostic, but discovered God and AA. Through that power, he has managed to stay off drinks for 50 years.
He married in 1965 when he was a sober 27 years, and taught English literature at St Joseph’s College in Bangalore. He is the father of five children three boys and two girls. Now retired, John K signs off with, “This is not my glory, but the glory of AA. Even if one person gives up drinking because of me, it is worth it.”
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