Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. This is what is known as ‘the preamble’ to the fellowship known as Alcoholics Anonymous.

AA is an international mutual aid fellowship founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr Bob Smith in Akron, Ohio. AA’s stated ‘primary purpose’ is to help alcoholics ‘stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety’.

The fellowship uses suggestions that were formulated by the success of Bill Wilson and 70  subsequent men and women in the prelude to the publication of the ‘Big Book’. They are known as ‘the founding members’ and their stories are included in the Big Book to offer identification, support and guidance to other men and women seeking recovery.

Recovery describes abstinence or sobriety from alcohol. Alcoholics are advised to recover a day at a time, but to celebrate their sobriety, and often refer to their ‘AA’ birthday as being the day they first spent sober, and then remained abstinent thereafter.

The suggestions include 12 steps. These steps are reflective statements that the fellow would work through with a ‘sponsor’ (a fellowship member who has a period time of recovery, works the steps, has a sponsor and attends regular meetings of AA).

Fellowship members usually find recovery by coming to meetings and learning about the disease of alcoholism. Many members come knowing they suffer from alcoholism, many come knowing they have a problem with alcohol, but not understanding why. Some members come to find out more and realise that from what they are listening to, they suffer from alcoholism.

The 12 step programme has been taken and used in many treatment facilities and therapeutic strategies worldwide, and other fellowships have sprung from this original text.

AA in Qatar

AA has a strong fellowship in Qatar, which may seem surprising for a Muslim country where alcohol is regulated, but the alcohol status of the country makes no difference to the suffering alcoholic.

The group is healthy and buoyant with between 30 to 40 active members and many more who pass through for work or who are on vacation. The majority of the group are Westerners, however there are a number of Qataris who attend and also representation from South Africa, Sri Lanka, India and the GCC countries. The majority of members are men (approximately 70%).

The group has been running since 1988. Most referrals are from friends, family members and employers; some are also referred from Naufar, a facility for the treatment of substance use and related behavioural disorders, under the Ministry of Public Health.

The group predominantly meets at HMC’s Psychiatric Hospital, with additional venues at Qatar Red Crescent Society and The Pearl‑Qatar. Work is underway to restart an outreach meeting in Al Khor.

Meetings cover a wide range of AA topics to suit newcomers and established members alike and take a standard format: Speaker meeting, AA speaker tapes, Big Book study, 12 Steps, 12 Traditions, As Bill Sees It, Daily Reflection, Living Sober, and a Meditation meeting.

AA Qatar has a regularly updated website that details all meetings and locations, with helpline numbers, an email contact and availability of public information. The meetings are run and attended by fellowship members, who also run a committee to take care of any business that arises. As with all AA fellowships, members adhere to 12 traditions that are used to assist in the day-to-day management of the group, such as declining outside contributions and to ensure anonymity for all members.

There are essentially two different types of meetings: Open and Closed. Anybody can attend an Open meeting to find out more about AA, whereas Closed meetings are reserved for those who have a desire to stop drinking. Most meetings are Closed but there are some Open meetings – visit the website for up to date details.

Anyone is welcome to join a meeting – the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no fees for AA membership; the group is self-supporting through their own contributions, and does not have any any religious or political bias.

It is not just for people ‘addicted’ to alcohol, but rather for those who have a problem with alcohol – for those who have a desire to stop drinking.

A Brief History of AA Qatar

  • Group formed by John L from India in 1988.
  • New members were initially expatriates who were already members in their home countries.
  • In the beginning meetings were in members’ homes. However, in 1989 Doha College provided the first official AA venue in Doha; this ran for six years with two meetings per week.
  • Between 1995 and 2002 the meetings went back to members’ homes. The group was small but solid.
  • In 2002 Father John gave the group a meeting room in the Parish Centre, with meetings every Friday.
  • In 2003 a third meeting each week was introduced, as membership had increased due to the growth in population. The Sofitel Hotel and Qatar Red Crescent Society were both added as venues.
  • In 2004 the group got a meeting room in the Psychiatric Hospital where they still meet to this day.
  • In 2007 two new venues were introduced – Al Ahli Hospital (in use until 2016) and the Canadian School (in use until 2011).
  • Between 2010 and 2012 Captain Al Ansari allowed access to Doha Prison to conduct meetings with inmates.
  • In 2016 the group returned to Qatar Red Crescent Society for one of its meetings.

If you need a few drinks to help you cope with life, you may have a problem with alcohol. Contact Alcoholics Anonymous: 5560 5901 / 5540 0746 (males); 5505 9489 (females) or email [email protected]

Click here to the visit AA Qatar website.