I started writing this post in a state of forced nostalgia, referring to around two weeks ago. You know, the whole “university is over, bring on unemployment!” type of thing. About a few lines in I just deleted the whole thing because it seemed so false with regards to what I really wanted to say.
But Shiri, why don’t you just delete this whole thing as well? Hey, fuck you.
The moment in which I am writing this I have been sober for 6 days. I wouldn’t say I’ve completely relieved myself of my personal vices, rather I’m in a state of rehab which is: home. Or what is my new home, anyway. Turns out being in a cramped environment in the suburbs of London with three tiny wailing humans is the perfect way to really sweat out every addiction you’ve ever had. You see, coming from a Muslim family is difficult enough when you want to get your hands on any substances. It’s even more difficult when everyone thinks you’re a woman ready to be married. The real kick in the cunt, however, is that I managed to shift from my flat in Surrey to this conservative home just as Ramadan began. So there was no wiggle room, there was no weaning period in which I could probably sneak out for some indulgence. It was a day of hectic moving and then bam: flashback to when I was thirteen. Only a lot more congested.
I’m not anti-Ramadan, I’m not even anti-religion. It’s ridiculous I have to clarify this before someone readily twists my words into a tragic narrative of a subordinated Muslim woman, trapped by the barbaric Islamic constraints and forced to live her life in line with radical Muslims. Come on now, honestly.
I’ve said it before, so I’ll say it again: writing is an act of complete self-indulgence for me. Say whatever you want about it after you’ve read it, it’s not mine anymore. It’s all transient anyway. I’m going to talk about my own experience with my most recent addiction: alcohol. I’ve been on cocaine before but I’d happily go back there rather than be hooked on this mind-numbing and unforgiving liquid. University life is all about drinking, apparently. Whatever, that wasn’t the case for me. The issue was I was drinking whenever I could. I was drinking when I was alone, when I was in company, before lectures, before bed; I even washed down my medication with wine from the night before in the morning. At first it was a charming aspect of my lifestyle, “Shiri’s had a bit to drink” or “Shiri’s such a good drunk.” It was just something everyone around me had accepted. Perhaps they didn’t, perhaps they just didn’t want to say anything. It was when I began lying about my drinking habit that I knew I had a problem. People I would never dream of disrespecting would be on the receiving end of my lies as to where I was going (it was normally a shop to get another bottle) and who I was seeing (probably just sitting at my desk at a god forsaken hour on my own).
Coming clean isn’t just about abstaining from a substance. For me, coming clean is also about being upfront. Something I was once so ashamed of needn’t hold me back. I’ve still achieved a lot in these short three years, more than just understanding what the hell Derrida’s going on about. People might not have known, but that doesn’t matter. I was scared I’d lose “me” if I stopped drinking. After a while I realised that this “me” I had cultivated as a result of alcohol wasn’t who I was before I became dependant and it doesn’t need to be me for the rest of my life. The “me” I had created, whilst all aspects of my interactions are a performance, was a reach even for myself. In fact, the thing I’m most petrified of becoming is boring. You can root around my head for years to figure out why I did this to myself but there’s this truth lurking somewhere deep down, and that is I was too damn bored to throw myself into anything sincerely productive. I can mask my habit with essays and lists and books and friends and meetings and events all I want but all I could think about during the day was when I could be all by myself so I could have something to drink for hours until I passed out.
I’d sit in front of a counsellor every week with the same guilty look explaining to her why I did what I did when I drank however much I had. I’d nervously grin at my lecturers when proposing an essay topic thinking “oh god, they know how much of a screw up I am.” I’d wake up with bruises all over my body after sleeping with someone because I needed to know I could be broken, and that I am real. Alcohol just became a way of numbing my senses before I harmed myself. See, cocaine was different. When I was on cocaine I was hyper-aware of my surroundings. That’s one of the reasons I quit. I just didn’t want to know anymore. I could sense my counsellor growing tired with me; “you need to learn to look after yourself” she’d say in an exasperated tone. The problem was I didn’t know how and no one was giving me any instructions. Drinking began to take over my life after the shock of the assault set in which took quite a while. For anyone wondering, no, it does not react well with anti-depressants; it certainly gave it a kick, though. I know this sounds very bleak. Normally, I’d try and put a humorous twist on my tribulations in the hopes people wouldn’t mind coming closer. However, I’m learning that not everything has to be funny or charming. Sometimes it is the way it is, and right now it’s just plain ugly. No amount of cheek could possibly cover up this ugly period of my life like the way I tried to cover up others.
I’d march through sympathetic phone calls and stern meetings where I’d sit in front of an older woman warning me about the dangers of drinking. I remember thinking she wasn’t doing a very good job because she’d make it seem like such a vacation. When my mother was in hospital I remember a corpse lying in the bed in opposite her. When my brother came in to do his rounds I asked him “why hasn’t anyone moved her?” At that moment I heard shallow breathing. Two bony hands rose up and, what I assumed, clapped. Her skin was so yellow, I genuinely thought she was dead, her face was sunken and her frame was skeletal. She had a bit of blonde hair. Whenever I thought about the effect drinking would have on me later I would think about that woman. Anyway, after all these sympathetic phone calls and meetings so insincere I very nearly gave up after investing so much into these so-called guardians. That is, until I realised the only person I could trust was me. The only problem was I had to learn how to trust myself. I knew that when I nailed that I had everything in the bag. I had to be the change I wanted to see. Change comes from within. Another cliché.
Six days might not seem like much and going cold turkey might not be the best idea for most. For those who have never experienced addiction I must say it’s a bit of an achievement. No, cold turkey isn’t the best way out for most people. I know the second I get out of the house for an hour I’ll be at a bar sensibly enjoying a drink (maybe with someone, who knows). I want to get to the point where I can enjoy alcohol around the people I feel safe with. This may sound perverse, but I’m lucky I come from the family I do. My mind seems to automatically switch off when it comes to alcohol and other drugs until I step outside again. This is the bit where I trail of and ask myself “what was the point in writing all of this?” I tried coming across as an agony aunt near the end, trying to remind people that it gets better but fuck it. This is my story and I’m six days into a better life.