14 Years and Counting-A true story of struggling and surviving alcohol addiction
I have been clean for 14 years now, and this is my unfinished story.
I remember drinking alcohol when I was eight as I followed my uncles around mamaghar. It all started in innocent fun, mimicking the adults, pretending to be a grown-up. Not too long into the misadventure, intermittent drinking became a recurrent routine and soon enough I was a chronic drinker. And so, I earned multiple titles from my society – drunkard, alcoholic, addict.
At an age when my mother should have been basking in the glory of her children’s success, she was frequenting local bhattis to take me home. She was paying a huge price for my alcoholism. I had brought humiliation and shame to my family and it distressed me. What distressed me more was that, despite knowing all too well, the pain and suffering I was inflicting on my family, I still could not refrain from drinking.
I had become enslaved to drinking. I had become an onlooker witnessing my family sinking and shrinking in despair as I watched in shameful silence. It made me diseased. I wanted to quit alcohol. Many times I did manage to quit drinking but these non-alcoholic phases were short-lived and I could never last without alcohol for more than three months.
Usually after the three months of sobriety, my faith in myself would always get the better of me. Just then I would bump into a friend in need of a shoulder. While lending a shoulder, my hands would automatically reach for a bottle nearby. If not, there would always be a wedding which would be incomplete without beer glasses clinking. And I would end up right where I began – back to the bhattis, slipping from sobriety and sipping into inebriety. I was a mere cog in a wheel of a vicious cycle and so I was beginning to lose hope.
Until one day… and this day changed my life for good.
A young kid from my neighborhood, whom I had shared many drunken evenings with, reappeared after a long stint of absence – looking fit and healthy. He told me that he had been to a rehab and then I expressed my sincere desire to quit drinking. I told him, despite managing to stay sober for 3-4 months, I relapsed. Also, I confessed to him about my struggle to stay clean. I admitted to him that I wanted very desperately to quit alcohol for good.
He listened to me and offered to help. At first, he asked me if I could also admit myself into the rehabilitation center, the one he had been to. I told him that it was not possible. He assured me yet again and said he could help me. Then he said if I wanted to really and sincerely quit, I should attend a meeting.
“What meeting?” I asked.
He said, “It’s an anonymous meeting.”
Still befuddled and bewildered, I agreed to accompany him to this “meeting”. At the door, he pushed me. By the time I turned around, he was long gone. That was my first AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meeting. This was the “90 days, 90 meeting” program and I decided to give it a go. I attended every meeting week after week. However, even after several meetings, I couldn’t understand what was going on or whether I belonged there. It sort of became a routine for me, I would go there, listen to other people’s stories. I could relate to some of their narratives and yet for almost three months of attending the meeting, I had no courage to speak, I had no courage to share my story.
I was a silent observer, a quiet listener. I liked listening to the senior attendees who had 32 – 45 clean dates. Their stories proved to me that this could be done, that staying sober was achievable. And one day just before the meeting started, a senior member asked me to speak as he had seen me attend the meetings in silence. That is when I dared to raise my hand and introduced myself for the first time. This place has changed my life, changed the lives of the ones I love, and I owe my newfound life to this community. I want to thank my bhai who introduced me to this group.
Till this day, my mother, who has been rendered immobile with paralysis, remembers to thank my bhai. Although my mother cannot move around freely, she gives me strength and encourages me to attend the meetings. She has been my biggest support system, she has been my backbone, my heart and soul in my process of recovery. She is the reason I have been clean for 14 years and counting.
At meetings, when I meet senior people I usually take a picture with them. In times of slight weakness, I look at them and look up to them because I want to be where they are now. I have met this person who has been clean for 45 years and he still attends meetings, and so this is the picture I treasure most. If he can do it, I can too. All the recovering alcoholics here inspire me and I wish to be a similar inspiration for some.
So now, when I see newcomers I usually do not believe in telling them or speaking with them about the road to recovery. Rather, I would encourage them to continue coming to the meeting. I do not judge them but ask them to “keep coming back”. I believe in showing and not telling. When they come to meetings, like I frequented more than 14 years ago, sooner or later they will raise their hands – sooner or later they will share their stories – sooner or later they will be ready to find their clean slate destiny.