Caught and Bowled in Addiction: My On again/ Off again Relationship with Drugs and Alcohol
That green field where my friends and I met was my home away from home, spending every free moment practicing with our bats and balls. That training ground where I trained hard and sprained even harder was my pit stop, inching closer towards becoming a professional bowler. Ironically though, that very cricket ground is where I got caught and bowled out of the world of sports landing into the world of drugs and alcohol.
I am 24 and without any exaggeration I can say that I have spent half of my life (literally) addicted to one substance or the other, and this is my story…
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My childhood dream to become a cricketer was coming true. I was the talk of the town at 12 when I got accepted into the cricket academy. I enjoyed every living moment there, whether I was playing or simply watching from the bench. The after-practice routine was even more fun because then I got to be around the seniors. They discussed game plan and strategy, and other “senior stuff”, and I clung to every word they said, every piece of advice they offered.
Soon, listening to them was not enough. I wanted to be cool like them and so my curiosity got the better of me. One day after training I smoked a joint. Nothing happened! Actually nothing happened the first 3-4 times. My friends who were a little ahead of me in this marijuana journey told me that it would take time to be “aware” of the trip. And just as they’d predicted, around the fifth time, I experienced the high for the first time.
Everything that the seniors said was real. Small silly things that bothered me earlier made me laugh instead and I felt relaxed, stress-free both physically and mentally. It also helped me play better because time slowed down and I could focus on the delayed motion of the ball, bat and the fielders. This went on for almost a year or two – we would share a joint at least once a week before a match. So far I wasn’t addicted but this was just the beginning.
At home, I began smoking with my like-minded cousin. Although in the beginning we shared a stick, soon we were smoking a stick each to feel the trip. One stick turned into two, three, in no time – it was a one-way trip. I couldn’t think straight without smoking a stick and so by now there was no doubt I had become addicted to cannabis. Fortunately or unfortunately, when I turned 15 my parents sent me to a boarding school, which ended my cannabis addiction.
The pursuit of high
I missed marijuana. I missed the trip. I missed getting high. So, with a new set of “like-minded” friends, I plotted ways to bring back the high. I did anything and everything to make up for the missing high – drinking alcohol, sniffing glue/dendrite, smoking weed. My high-school years became my high-seeking years. I got so busy seeking the high, I naturally took to chemicals. And for the next 5 years, I was addicted to chemicals. I became an expert to self-prescribe tablets based on the reaction I desired.
Meanwhile, I also experimented with powder. Powder, you know, sugar-white sugar, brown sugar. I wasn’t addicted to powder because I only did it occasionally, like once in 2-3 months for about a year. But then I started dealing. I was talking to suppliers, making deals, finding ways to smuggle in the sugar, and selling. Somehow, this did not sit right with me. I felt something was off. I wanted to leave everything behind and so I took a big step. Towards the end of 2015, I moved to India.
A new beginning
A new beginning awaited. A new country, a new culture, a new everything – settling down was what kept me occupied for 2 months. And, for the first time in my adult life I was not doing any drugs. Once I learned the ropes though, I settled into the white-collar life with a regular supply of weed. I was working 5 days a week and drinking on the weekends. Needless to say, weekend drinking extended to weekdays and my drinking went from 250 ml a day to a liter in less than 60 days. I was now an alcoholic, I wasn’t consuming alcohol anymore, it was consuming me.
After 6 months of working hard and drinking harder, I quit my job and fatefully enough I joined the cricket academy there. I had to sober up for the love of my life. So, I kept myself busy reading books, watching movies, writing stories, when I was not practicing. There was no time for drugs or alcohol for me anymore. But then I started noticing something. My fellow players were ignoring me and so were the coaching staff. They never commented on my bowling skills, even when I was doing exceptionally well. They were mistreating me perhaps because I was an outsider. So I left the academy after 2 months’ stint and returned to alcohol.
(In retrospect I was overthinking)
I returned home enraged, latched on alcohol. Homecoming was an occasion to rekindle old ties and reunite with bygone buddies. With the old circle came the old habits. In a span of 3 months, I was back to drugs – weed, tablets, alcohol, sugar… I returned home, home to my old habits, home to drugs and alcohol!
In 2018, a near-death motorbike accident put me in a hospital bed. I was the pillion rider and the leg guard of the bike had pierced through my stomach. At the operation theatre, I experienced my life flashing in front of me. When I woke up from the surgery, I knew I had to change my lifestyle. The doctors recommended 6 months rest and also prohibited me from playing cricket. After about a month, they cut me off from the painkillers even though the pain had not gone away. I was able to hold my clean slate for another month until the pain became unbearable. Then I used my past knowledge of chemicals to procure the right painkillers to soothe myself.
When the tablets became scarce and the pain remained, I resorted to the easily and readily available remedy – alcohol. Meanwhile, to get my mind off the pain and enjoy the sports I so loved, I also started working part-time with visually impaired players as a Conditioning Coach. As a coach, I had to motivate my players and so I got into the habit of reading self-help books, books on leadership skills and coaching. Unconsciously I must have started internalizing the learning, because of which (and along with my post-accident resolve to change my lifestyle) I decided to go into therapy for my alcohol addiction.
Although the therapy helped and I continued to coach, I could not continue to stay clean. I had moved into a new house and made new friends with whom I once again started doing drugs. This time around, however, my body reacted differently to drugs. This was a new experience for me. The brown sugar that used to relax me now made me tense, restless, and even exhausted. My body was telling me something and I had to listen to it before it would be too late.
You might also want to read this inspiring real-life story: 14 years and counting-A true story of struggling and surviving alcohol addiction
It’s been a year since I have been clean, and by far this is my longest clean stretch. I won’t lie and say that it has been easy. I don’t even claim to have a strong will-power. Little things like the smell of a Cadbury (its silver foil we used for brown sugar), badminton (the boys I did drugs with used to play this sport), test my will-power almost every passing day. However, instead of giving in to the temptation, I have started observing my ‘urge’ as an outsider. I weigh the pros and cons and calculate the consequences. For instance, I ask myself how long the high would last. I then compare it against how long the toxins would stay in my system. The answer is always the same and I manage to resist one more time.
The year of staying off drugs has helped me look at life from a cleaner lens, a fresher perspective. Although the drugs I took helped me in some ways – the delayed time effect helped me play cricket better, drugs helped me stay focused on a certain task, it helped my suppressed emotions to surface, it activated my imagination, it helped me wander off from the present reality… it is not worth it, not anymore. I now know that it was just an illusion – an illusion I wouldn’t want to trade my reality for.
To myself and to others out there battling with addiction:
Find out the reason you are using drugs – find your inner calling, find what really excites you, find what releases your dopamine. Once you understand what effects of drugs you are attracted to, you can seek alternatives.
To all who have been addiction-free and have rehabilitated themselves:
Your present sobriety does not have to be at the cost of denying your past. Talk about your past, write your story, share your story. You can play a part in someone else’s rehabilitation, their fight against addiction.
To the rest who have not delved into the world of drugs:
You don’t ever need to experiment with drugs. YOLO / FOMO or whatever cool acronyms the world may hurl at you – nothing will ever be worth wasting your time in drugs. Just because it’s possible, it may not be meant for YOU. Stay away from drugs and alcohol!