Like every alcoholic, my tryst with alcohol also began with me self-assured that I could never turn into one. The first sip of drink I had was back in 2013, in my 11th grade when a friend sneaked in some McDowell’s into the hostel by bribing one of the mess workers.
My life in EFLU, despite how depressing it was, never quite pushed me to resorting to alcohol. The occasional beer and rum on weekends were always there, but I never found myself reliant on them.
It all changed in early 2021, bang in the middle of COVID second wave, when I was dealing with the stress of academics, the pandemic anxiety, an internship, and an unexpected break-up that I found myself visiting the alcohol store more often than I’d like to admit.
As cliched as it is, despite having much bigger issues on my plate, heartbreak took the precedence. My academic performance was in shambles, my internship tasks kept piling up, the COVID numbers kept soaring, and all I could think of was my heartbreak. I’d drudge through my classes, and internship in the day, and as soon as I’d get free I’d step out to get a bottle of brandy or vodka, come back to my apartment, and watch some sad French film as I’d finish my bottle and pass out.
By February 2022, I had put on weight, all I’d do was eat fried food, drink soda, alcohol, and mope in my bedroom. I was over the breakup, but the pain remained, and so did the drinking habit.
Things changed a little when it had become mandatory for me to attend classes on campus, I was pursuing a Mass. Communication course in HCU, and the assignments were mostly group activities and were practical. It was impossible to finish these things online.
Moreover, the course was rigorous, I barely remember having slept more than 4 hours during the whole semester. Despite HCU being one of the best experiences of my life, it was also one of the worst yet. Apart from academic stress, there were painful things in my personal life, which make for a long story, best never spoken about. I wasn’t sure why I was able to handle things much better than how I would in EFLU, maybe it was the amazing friends I made at HCU that made the difference. I began feeling at home with them.
In EFLU, there was this deep sadness within me at all times, which is probably the lack of connection I felt with everyone around me. Everyone was so smart, and could write and think such amazing things, and I could barely make sense of any poetry that I ever read. I’ve got an undergrad degree in English Literature, and it’s still the same.
The rigorous academic work in HCU, coupled with one disaster after another in my personal life led to a not so great feeling, and by this time I was proficient in dealing with these ‘not-so-great feelings’ by running to the nearest alcohol store and getting myself a drink. These visits to the alcohol store had become frequent to an alarming level. I’d also picked up smoking, finishing one or one-and-half packets in a day. But I didn’t care – I was able to numb the pain, I was consistently doing my academic work and that too greatly, what else do I need? Why should I go back to being the sad Victor when this drunk Victor seems to be doing so great?
And like every alcoholic, everyone around me could notice my problematic habit, apart from me. People would start to get concerned and asked me to go easy on the drinking, even my HOD pulled me to a corner and suggested me to tone it down, one of my friends even wrote a Science and Health writing assignment on ‘damages of alcohol’ by interviewing me.
I responded to all of this by doubling down on the drinking, I’d show up to the class drunk, I’d be doing all my assignments by getting drunk- acting, shooting, editing etc. I realized I was even performing better when drunk. So I kept drinking more, I kept telling myself I could lose the habit once I would graduate.
That obviously never happened.
After graduating, I had to go back to my apartment which was situated near EFLU, and EFLU meant old memories, and old memories involved my ex, and all the depression I went through in that god forsaken university.
As soon as I got back to my flat, I freshened up and went to the nearest alcohol store and got busy.
I drank, and drank, and drank. I began missing HCU a lot already, I began missing the friends I made there.
The old routine had began again – except this time there was no academic stress, or internship work to do. Only alcohol, Dunhill cigarettes, and French cinema to keep me occupied.
I’d drink and dance to all the bangers dropped by Anirudh during 2022.
Cry to Ghulam Ali.
In September, I moved out of that flat and moved to a flat near HCU.
When I moved out I didn’t even look back, I didn’t want anything to do with EFLU or Seethaphalmandi, or anything with the people from that place.
I moved into my new flat, I started working from home. This felt like a new beginning. I continued dating around, but everything fizzled out. I didn’t care so much about anything. I wanted to drink, because that’s the only thing that kept me going.
At first I’d drink on weekends, but soon it would start from Friday afternoons, and next thing I knew I was drinking everyday, even during work. I’d attend meetings, and do my tasks half-drunk.
In December, I started seeing a therapist. Not for the drinking problem, because of course it’s not a problem! I could quit whenever I want to, I just don’t want to now I’d keep telling myself.
I talked to my therapist about the events in my life from the break-up till the date that I took the decision to see a therapist. She took a pause, and said “this will need a lot of work, I am proud that you are taking this step to seek help… let’s have a couple of more sessions, and unpack all this. Also, try to cut down the drinking, it’s not good for your health”.
I didn’t listen to her. I continued drinking, sometimes even taking a couple of sips before therapy sessions. Like it’s fucking chai or something.
With each therapy session I realized how proficient I was at blocking out trauma, of making a joke out of all my pain, and never really finding the courage to feel and experience things for what they are.
I’d end up breaking down during and after therapy sessions, I’d cry over things I didn’t realize were still hurting me.
I’d then drink some more to get over it.
Soon, a whole year had ended. It was January 2023. I had assimilated time-off hours from work so that I could take a week’s leave and travel. I went on a trip, and it was the best time I had in months. Everything felt amazing, and I didn’t even feel like I had to drink. Although I did drink every night, and this wasn’t for numbing pain at all. I drank out of pure joy during these nights.
But like every disaster waiting to happen, my drinking habits started showing its terrible forms, during one of these nights.
My therapy sessions consisted of me unpacking trauma, understanding my inner child, channeling my emotions in a healthy way and all that therapist rigmarole. So, this was a lot of feelings and thoughts within me that I never knew mattered so much to me.
And naturally, when you are drinking, and you end up having a bad trip – these terrible thoughts and feelings start to encompass you and you react in ways that you don’t even realize.
I ended up acting weirdly, and freaking out the company I was with.
It ruined the rest of the trip.
What a monumental damage to a great week, and this was all because of my drinking habits.
I kept thinking of what my therapist had mentioned, I should have cut down on the alcohol. I thought about all the people who had told me to cut down on my drinking habits, I thought about when I started resorting to alcohol to block out my painful thoughts. I began blaming everyone in my life for causing me this pain.
I couldn’t stop crying. This was a new kind of pain. The pain of guilt.
Sure, people did wrong me before, but it was entirely my responsibility to deal with this pain in a healthy way, and not end up causing hurt to others around me.
I went back home. I cried during the cab ride to the airport, I cried in the airport, I slept in the flight.
Began crying again.
I reached home, and cried some more.
I didn’t bother to take off my clothes, I went to bed crying.
I didn’t know I could feel this amount of pain. After 2021, I thought I don’t have it in me to feel this intensely for things that the hurt that it would cause would pain me so much.
The next morning I woke up with a sharp pain in my chest. I looked at myself in the mirror, it felt like I was looking at a pile of embarrassment. I hated the weight I put on, I hated the way I had behaved in the past year, this wasn’t someone I was proud of.
It felt like I couldn’t recognize myself. I began drinking again.
But this time it was different.
The more I’d drink, the more I’d feel uneasy. Sure, the alcohol and loud music distracted me from the pain, but something felt terribly wrong this time.
I finished another bottle.
Got myself another bottle, and began drinking again.
I cried my heart out but the uneasiness wouldn’t go away.
‘How did I get here?’ I kept asking myself.
I stayed on my bed the whole day. The question kept ringing in my head – How did I get here? How did I get here?
I didn’t recognize myself anymore, but I slowly started to realize one thing – if my drinking habits have led me to cause such kind of trouble to the people I deeply care about. This habit needs to be go, I don’t care at what cost.
And from then on, I never picked up the bottle again, never smoked.
I got assigned to a high-intensity project at work, it was rife with poor management, and I ended up having to overwork almost everyday, and each time the work stress would get too much, or the past trauma would seep in, I’d want to drink, but it’d feel so fundamentally wrong that the desire would soon disappear.
Alcohol started out as something that comforted me during my worst times, but I never knew the amount of hurt it was secretly causing me and as an extension, to the people around me.
My default reaction to confronting any of my trauma and issues was to either make a joke out of it, or drink until I forget.
This was never confrontation. To confront issues, one needs courage and a certain amount of self-love, which I sorely lacked.
Therapy made me realize self-love is hard, just like loving someone else is.
Self-love comes with acknowledging one’s shortcomings, but the hard part is that it’s also important to acknowledge the good parts.
It’s been almost two months since I’ve had a drink, and I am proud of myself for sticking through this.
And I am also proud of myself for being able to acknowledge this as a good thing.