You’ll find AA throughout Mexico, even in small towns. NA has a sizable presence in the larger towns. Alanon is almost everywhere. OA, SALA and other programs are less likely to be encountered outside major cities. AA is very visible.
Look for the AA symbol inside a triangle and a circle, usually on a blue background jutting out from buildings.
Meetings are usually at 8:00 or 8:30 PM in Spanish. Even if you don’t speak Spanish, you will be welcome and often asked to speak. This is true all over the world. Remember, you will always be welcome at a Spanish-speaking meeting, even if you don’t speak the language. As an AA, you speak a universal language. Come to think of it, these are the only places where I can count on being welcome. Go ahead. It will do you good. Meetings last an hour and a half and there are often refreshments and birthdays are celebrated like here, except you might get tamales instead of cake or both. Have a ball.
Just like in the U.S, the locations change, so if a meeting is no longer where it is, you have two courses of action (aside from giving up and giving in). Believe me, looking for a meeting is often a better choice than going back to your hotel where the “Chug tequila till you barf” contest is going on. The first option is to check the local English-language newspaper if there is one. The second option is to find a Spanish meeting and ask. So, if a meeting has moved, don’t use that as an excuse to get drunk. Get off the pity pot and find a meeting.
There are two different types of AA in Mexico. One is “Grupo de 24 Horas” (24 hour group). These are more like institutional settings and the message here is hard core, “put the plug in the jug” type.
The other is more like what you are used to. Be prepared for 1½ hour long meetings, with long orations and lots of slang. They are very emotional. You will be asked to say something. Do your best and take care of yourself. If the above fails and you can’t find a meeting, try putting up signs in your hotel and others about a meeting in your room. Then stay there.
While we are on the subject of drinking, forget the myth that some folks will tell you that it is a shooting offense to refuse a drink offered by a Mexican. You can refuse to do anything you want if you do it politely. Many times Mexicans are only offering to share something with you because they are being polite. They would never expect you to do something that would cause you harm. If you simply say, ” No gracias, no bebo cerveza (tequila, ron etc. or simply alcohól), pero quisiera un refresco ,” you’ll probably get a soft drink instead and no one will be offended.
If the guy insists that you have a drink with him, be as polite as possible, and just as insistent. Plead illness, medication or whatever you are comfortable with. Saying “soy alérgico a alcohol” sometimes does the trick, but saying you are an alcoholic usually elicits a blank stare. If all fails, get up and walk away. Offending a drunk does not rank as a punishable offense in any country and you have to remember what’s really important.
Be especially careful ordering tonic water or agua quina in bars or restaurants. You’ll often end up with gin and tonic, because the waiter thought you didn’t speak Spanish well enough. Stick with agua mineral or Coke or 7-Up, or a local soft drink. There are some great local ones. Toni-Col on the west coast, especially near Mazatlán is one of the best. It does have caffeine, so if you are trying to avoid that, you’d best avoid Toni-Col, but darn, it is good. It’s rather like a vanilla Coke. Of course, I’ve heard of drinkers who ordered J&B and soda and got Jim Beam and Coke.
When asking if a dish has alcohol in it, be sure to ask if it has wine, too. For some reason, wine is not considered alcohol by waiters. Often they will say, “Oh, no, there is no alcohol, only a little wine.” I subscribe to the school that it does not cook out. Even if you don’t believe that to be true at home, believe it in Mexico. Trust me.
Coffees with fancy names like “Sexy, Spanish, German or Lithuanian (just kidding about the last one)” are suspect. If the price is more than plain coffee ( Americano or negro or cafe con leche), then it is a booze drink. It’s rare, but I have had Amaretto poured over flan, the great dessert. Always use the sniff test before eating anything with a sauce on it. If you accidentally imbibe something with booze spit it out and don’t worry about it. It happens to the best. Just don’t take a second swig or taste and forget about it.
That’s all the sobriety wisdom I have and I hope it helps at least one person. The main thing to remember is that you are not alone even in Mexico and that you can still have a great trip and not lose your program.
Bien Viaje y Bienviendios