Special issue with the Sunday Magazine
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ADDICTIONS: February 25,2001
A drink too many
I come from a family of five sisters and one brother. Our father passed away when I was only three months old. In my family no one has even tasted liquor. My father was a teetotaller and my sisters are married to men who do not drink. I had my first drink in 1974 when I was 23 years old. It was a glass of beer. There was a small party where I saw alcohol for the first time. Everyone raised their glasses and said "Cheers!" In ignorance, I said "Tears!" and everyone laughed at me. I did not know that I would end in tears because of my drinking. I drank one glass and promptly brought it all up.
My drinking progressed soon to one or two bottles of beer. Then, it became a bottle of beer with a shot of rum in it. Thereafter, I used to drink on salary day. This turned to drinking once in fifteen days till it became drinking on Saturdays only. Finally, I was drinking every day. Within five years I was financially bankrupt. Quite often, I could not remember what had happened the previous day and went around in fear of everything and everyone. But, even so, if anyone talked to me about my drinking, I would react in anger and abuse them.
Somewhere around this time I got married. After the ceremonies were over, we were going home. I was walking for some time in front of others. I was quivering and shaking, longing for a drink. As we were moving along the road, we came near the arrack shop where I was a frequent visitor. I told the others that I needed some water, went inside and asked the man to give me a glass of arrack. I drank it like water and came back feeling better. In the evening also, I felt like drinking, I got hold of a bottle and proceeded to get drunk and ended up sleeping outside the house. Such was my wedding night.
My wife has suffered in many ways because of my drinking. Very soon, the family's condition became worse. One by one, my wife's ornaments were either pawned or sold. I was borrowing heavily, desperate to get hold of money to drink. Once I drank so much I was missing for two whole days. This was the day following salary day. One morning, I came home at about 3 a.m. and found everyone sleeping. I stealthily removed the thali from the wife's neck, pawned it and brought myself a drink.
By this time, my life was in a shambles. I suffered, physically, mentally and was almost always broke and in debt. At one point of time, I was on leave for 174 days continuously on loss of pay.
My life went on, moving from one scrape to the other, spoiling my reputation and health and causing endless concern and worry to my family members. One day, I found myself in a bar ordering a quarter bottle of rum. I found that my hands were shaking so much I could not pour myself a drink. Then, a man who was watching came up to me, poured the rum for me, added the soda and offered it to me. I thought to myself: till now, whenever I asked God for help with money to drink, He helped me; now, when I am physically unable to drink, he is sending a man to help.
The man asked me how old I was. I told him my age. Then he said: "I will tell you something. You can listen or ask me to go away. I am 59 years old and have been drinking for 40 years. Even now, come what may, I drink only six pegs a day and I do not have any problem. If you continue to drink, you will die in three months."
In the auto travelling back, I found myself thinking. Materially, I had lost everything. I had shattered my health. My family was about to desert me. Now it looked as if even physically, I needed help to drink. It was at this time that I went to the house of someone I knew. He is a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. He took me to a hospital. There, I attended my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. It was a tremendous experience for me. I was given some literature about Alcoholics Anonymous. I also got permission to stay at the hospital for ten days.
When I read the literature I felt something was wrong. The pamphlet contained the experiences of alcoholics. I felt someone had found out about me and had written about my story, translated it into the local language and printed it in order to fool me. I was shocked to know that it was taken from a book called Alcoholics Anonoymous which was printed in America and described alcoholics there. It was such an accurate description of how I behaved and how I felt.
With the help of Alcoholics Anonymous I have not had a drink for more than fourteen years. Everyday, I thank God and thank AA.
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