I’m writing to you to offer my support, guidance, strength and hope to other alcoholics.
I am a 37 year old recovering alcoholic. I am a Punjabi woman and have been in recovery for 27 months. During my journey I have yet to cross paths with Indian females wanting to beat addiction and I can empathise with anyone who is feeling shame, embarrassment or guilt around this issue, it’s not easy!
I am aware that within the Punjabi culture, alcohol and drugs is a huge matter especially being British as there is no getting away from it. Drinking, smoking, taking drugs is instantly frowned upon in our society, particularly towards females who have these issues and in most circumstances I can only imagine they are disowned by their loved ones. Thankfully I have a very supportive family; however I cannot envisage the heartache I put them through; causing constant worry and robbing their peace of mind. Addiction is life threatening; there is no shame in admitting it is a struggle. As addicts we have to surrender and reach out for help if we want save our lives and escape the vicious cycle of madness.
Unfortunately people who love and want to support us can lack knowledge regarding this subject which again I’m not surprised as these types of issues tend to be brushed under the carpet until it’s too late. Friends and family can find it extremely difficult to deal with or empathise with anyone who is affected by addiction. Their solution is simple, “just stop” but this is a dangerous method; it can potentially kill you due to high levels of dependency.
Punjabi males can be very proud grandiose men and end up suffering in silence, they are brought up to believe they have to be strong and show no emotions, never admit defeat. I have lost four male relatives in the past 2 years as a result of alcohol misuse.
As a Punjabi female the stigmas, judgements and discriminations I have faced are enough to destroy anyone. Being labelled a divorcee was hard enough, how was I ever supposed to move on with my life? “oh it must have been her fault, or she must have been infertile, she must not have fed or pleased him etc”, but what is more disheartening is knowing that your family are affected and do care what others think. We don’t purposely hurt our families; we only ever want to protect them.
Addiction, without a doubt brings along shame, embarrassment and humiliation. Damage caused is unforgettable but can be forgiven in time and bridges can be built if you work hard enough. Its takes time to gain trust, respect and honesty. Lying becomes second nature when you’re in denial. Alcohol was the centre of my world; it was my only priority day and night; I did whatever it took to protect it!
I got married at 21 to a Punjabi man, love marriage and everything was rosy. His family were religious, very loving and respectful towards me. However after 4 years of marriage I discovered my husband was cheating on me and we got divorced.
During the marriage I had to grow up fast and became a typical house wife, catering for everyone but myself, being naive and in denial of my own happiness, I had just accepted this was my way of life now. I lost my identity (my youth, character, personality, friends and family became distant). I was finally set free when the divorce was finalised, I was full of resentments, so made up for lost time. I was 29 at the time, I engaged with old and new friends, started partying hard, staying out late, and going on holidays. But what I didn’t realise was that alcohol was accompanying me the whole time. My tolerance increased over a number of years and I was consuming way more than anyone I was associating with. I was unconscious that I was suppressing my feelings (hurt, rejection, anger, depression, self worth and esteem) regarding the breakdown of my marriage. Drinking was my coping mechanism as it masked everything believing that in time id get over it.
It got to a point where I started thinking about making a fresh start, a new job, a new city etc, so I did. It went horribly wrong because I chose to keep alcohol with me. My best friend!
The effect that alcohol had on me was destructive, and to everything I had – my family, work, focus, health, car, confidence, self worth, no shame and much more. By now I was just a failure and had no reason to live, what was the point anyway? l became a dependant chronic alcoholic! I was in a vicious dark cycle with no escape. I needed to drink to function and get out of bed, I needed it so I could sleep, I needed it to gain confidence, I needed it to fool myself until all I was doing was bothering the police, getting into trouble, constantly admitting myself to hospital due to lack of nutrients because I couldn’t eat, or accidents where I’d injured myself – so weak that I couldn’t carry myself, being attacked with a knife and beaten up severely by another intoxicated addict I was associated with was just another drama I invited into my chaotic life. This traumatic event left me with physical and mental scarring.
Cutting a long story short, after visiting the GP with my father’s support I was referred to the drugs and alcohol services, which if I’m honest didn’t help me to stop or reduce my intake (which many do), if anything I was manipulating and quite dishonest. I was embarrassed of my real truth. I was powerless! I tried my best to engage with self help groups but I needed more.
It wasn’t until I got honest and asked God for guidance and forgiveness with all my heart that things started to change. Shortly after I was given the chance to go away for 6 months and address my addiction at a treatment centre miles away from home. I took the opportunity although I was terrified. However it wasn’t as terrifying as the withdrawals I was experiencing- vomiting blood, visual, auditory, and tactile hallucinations and seizures. I went to spare my life!
Here I got the chance to recover and re-discover who I was, learn to laugh again, be disciplined, address my issues, talk openly, honestly, and most importantly how to love and forgive myself.
I started to see the world differently, life through new eyes. I’m amazed at what I notice now, doors opening in front of me offering new opportunities; opportunities that I could only ever imagine. I have gratitude, family, love, a fiancé, courage, confidence, no fear, education, a new job and no desire for alcohol. I changed my whole life around within a matter of months. I’ve achieved more now than I have in 20 years and it’s all by the grace of God. I feel I’ve been touched upon with God’s blessing. I never lost faith but did lose hope. I was on my knees begging for help, and reaching out is all I had to do. I feel God is present within my heart always since I got sober.
It is sad and so unfortunate, that in my experience, most addicts and vulnerable people experiencing mental health problems do face insanity or death if they don’t address their issues.
After completion of my treatment, I resettled to a new city, volunteered and trained as a recovery coach for 8 months for the drugs and alcohol services where I learned to facilitate recovery groups, carry out 121 interventions, assess and help people prepare for detox’s and rehabilitation, gained confidence and many more skills. This led me to a role as a project worker for a recovery based supported housing accommodation. My role is to support people from all walks of life, such as homelessness, ex-offenders, substance misuse, trauma or mental health and help people to remain abstinent and engage back into the community. I have qualifications in relation to mental health and social care.
I am a very grateful recovering alcoholic, I am who I am today because of my own experience, I can only learn from it. Hitting rock bottom was my foundation to build a better life. If I can get through then anyone can. There is so much to gain, so please reach out and call the Sikh Helpline for help. Bal
DOES THIS SOUND FAMILIAR TO YOU? ARE YOU OR SOMEONE WHO YOU KNOW GOING THROUGH THIS OR SOMETHING SIMILAR? PLEASE DO NOT SUFFER IN SILENCE, THERE IS ALWAYS SOMEONE HERE TO HELP AT THE SIKH HELPLINE, 24 HOURS A DAY, 7 DAYS A WEEK. PLEASE CONTACT US USING ONE OF THE METHODS ON OUR CONTACT US PAGE.
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