Special issue with the Sunday Magazine
From the publishers of THE HINDU
ADDICTIONS: February 25,2001
The road back
I am an alcoholic, of nine years sobriety. I lost everything of value except the love and affection of my parents during the years that I drank. This is the story of what happened when I stopped drinking.
Manoj K. Jain
At the time my drinking came to an end, I was without a job. Though I was a gold medallist upto my Masters, and had made a mark in my profession very early in my career, I could not stick to one job for long. My health was shattered: I could hardly eat anything. When I tried to stop drinking, my hands would shake and I would feel afraid and paranoid. I had become a recluse and would spend most of my time in bars. I was also heavily in debt.
My parents took me to a different city to help me to stop drinking. I went to a treatment centre and underwent detoxification. The effect was almost miraculous. After two weeks, my friends could not recognise me. I too, felt pleasantly surprised. The constant urge to drink was gone. Day by day, I felt and looked much better. I slept well and my appetite came back. I started attending AA meetings. I tried for a job and almost immediately landed one at a top organisation. This did wonders for my ego. This euphoria did not last long.
I started working and my problems began. Somehow the early enthusiasm was missing. I often felt a drink would help me to work better. Life was boring. The zest was gone. I couldn't explain it. I was six months away from drinking when, one day one of my old friends dropped by. I can't explain it, but I decided to have a drink. I had two drinks and felt okay. After a few days, I drank again. Soon, I was drinking regularly, but not as before.
Days passed and my drinking became more severe. Meanwhile in the office, my work was deteriorating. I not only did not have any interest, I did not care either. When I stopped attending AA meetings, some of the friends I had met in AA kept coming home. I used to fob them off with some excuse or the other.
I kept falling behind schedule in my work. I felt I was headed for trouble. Before I could be asked to leave, I resigned. My parents came to know that I was drinking. They forced me to go to hospital where I once again underwent detoxification.
I now decided not to miss AA meetings again. Things were not easy at this time. In fact, they were very difficult. The first time I stopped drinking, the change was miraculous. Now I felt irritable, nervous and uneasy.
Once we went out for dinner and I was offered a drink. Immediately, my mother said "No! No! He's not allowed to drink." I did not react or show any emotion, but inwardly, I burned with anger and resentment. I shared this experience in the AA meeting. Another AA member narrated a similar incident and many others also spoke at this meeting. I realised I was not alone. What worked for them would work for me. All I had to do was to follow the simple steps they had followed: stay away from drink one day at a time.
I found another job. Now, with my continuous attendance at AA meetings, I had become more honest. I did some soul searching. I admitted I was not cut out to work for some one else. So, I did something I had been putting off for a long time. I got myself a professional qualification. Armed with this, I went from office to office and tried to get some work on a contract basis.
While I worked on these jobs, I would feel fearful of the future. But, every evening I would attend the AA meeting and talk about my fears and my problems. Always, I felt better. Soon the months passed and I found I had spent more than a year away from alcohol.
Rapidly, my work picked up. I found that I could do much more when I worked for myself without fixed office hours. Soon I had a monthly income that could be reckoned in five figures! One of the first things I did was to pay off my debts. If someone had told me three years earlier that I would do so well, I would not have believed it. I always remind my self of this in times of difficulty. AA taught me something valuable, if you are honest and if you stay away from drink, you will do well.
Shortly thereafter, I got married. I bought a car and invested in a flat. The years that followed have been the best in my life. I have been able to fulfil a major ambition. I have been able to go abroad: on work and on a holiday.
I now realise that I am not responsible for having the disease of alcoholism. What I am responsible for is staying sober. When I first stopped drinking I did nothing to stop or stay stopped. No wonder I drank again. Sobriety demands effort and discipline. But, the rewards cannot be counted.
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