An Aboriginal with problems related alcohol is trying to rebuild his original lifestyle

Hello, my name is Harold and I am an alcoholic, I am also an Aboriginal alcoholic. There was a time when a lot of people thought all Aboriginal people were alcoholics, and some of us believed that too. But since I've got into AA and this new way of life, the way of life that I believe all people are meant to be living, I now know the difference.

What I've learned is that alcoholism is a disease and us natives are people, human beings. And human beings get many different kinds of illnesses, diseases. Not all people get all diseases in their life time, some people go through life illness free apart from colds and flue or perhaps an accident.

Now for Aboriginals and alcoholism, let's look closely. Many Aboriginal people never drink alcohol at all, and there are many who do, but only moderately, and there are those like me who simply can't handle the stuff at all. The reason for that is because I am genetically allergic to it. Simply put, when I drink any amount of alcohol at all, I have a physical and mental reaction to it.

Physically, my body craves for more and my thinking changes, my personality changes, I become a different person. I often do things that I would not normally do, and often feel very ashamed of what I'm doing, and knowing that it is wrong but I still do it.

We are not all like that, there is something in our genes, just like some people are asthmatic, some diabetic and it doesn't matter what breed you are. Every race in the world uses some kind of mind altering drug, and in all countries there are some people who cannot handle that drug and it becomes a problem for them, they abuse it. It takes control of their lives, which then affects the lives of those people close to them, family, close friends, loved one's.

In different parts of this country, all the different groups, tribes, used a sedative drug known as pituri. There were different plants used in the various parts of the country but
the effects were the same. Whilst as a child I saw a lot of people who used pituri but I only ever saw one person who couldn't handle it, she was an aunt of mine and when she chewed pituri she lost all senses of where she was and who she was with and usually wandered away, so she had to be kept a watch on when people knew she was using it.

So the bottom line is, the addiction is in people, not in whatever substance is being used.

AA parallels our traditional lifestyle and so helps our people address the challenge to rebuild social, cultural, spiritual and legal intolerance of abuse and reconstruct the true Aboriginal care and respect that characterised our ancestors.

The late Dr. Sylvester Minogue who introduced AA into Australia often said to me. "Harold this program is for your people, meaning my Aboriginal ancestors, because it is
spiritual and simple." I recognised that as I got to know more about AA.

When I was in the Northern Territory in 1987/88 I was employed by Kalano, the Aboriginal Medical Service. Wanting to introduce AA into the local Aboriginal community, all of whom English was their second language.

I sat down with two initiated men and explained it to them. I felt very comfortable by the interest they were showing in what I was saying. At the end of my talk I was rewarded with smiles from them both and then their response. " That not new from `merica orrleman, that the way we bin livin all the time before grog come along. That our old proper way." Those two men did the work of carrying the message from then on.

That was then reinforced by the attendance at meetings. We had three meetings a week and averaged 16 Aboriginal people at all meetings until I left there six months later.

Alcoholics Anonymous works for people because it is not man made, not a religion, it is spiritual, something I believe is within us all. It works if you work it.

Harold H.

Bigga – Australia

May 2005