Tag Archives: abuse

Sober.

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.

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A Pakistani walks into a bar…

After a tedious sermon at a mosque somewhere in London, cursing the drinking and homosexuality the western nations have obviously embraced, the Pakistani hasn’t got enough time to go home and get dressed. She has a late lunch date with a friend and has some issues to clear up with her, so she goes straight into the city wearing traditional South Asian clothing. On the bus, so far so good, nobody has passed a comment on the Pakistani’s appearance; it’s hard to find a girl wearing odd clothes and speaking perfect English on the phone. One middle aged woman complimented the vibrant colours imprinted on the fabric, which was gratefully received. It was a hot day so the Pakistani took off her coat and scarf that she had religiously worn inside the mosque but there was no one here to judge her, she though, so it would be alright. Off the bus and onto the underground she had never felt more relieved that she wasn’t wearing her headscarf, half the people in the carriage might’ve died of heart failure upon seeing a Muslim on the tube.

The Pakistani had been to so many of these sermons that it was replaced with white noise in her mind, much like a mother can blank out the irritating cries of children in a café after having four herself. She thought nothing of it, nothing of the statement “homosexuality will be the downfall of our nation, now we have welcomed it wholeheartedly into our government.” Aside from the economy, violence, rape, and murder of British citizens, being gay is most certainly the reason for the third world war… Off the train she stood outside the station, enjoying a cigarette, checking the time. She was early. She wandered off into the bar, sending a text;

Babe, I’m actually early, sorry for the miscalculation. I’ll see you in ten, meet me at the bar, top floor. X

Ordering a drink, sitting at a table with the view of the city, the Pakistani thinks about her father. At the mosque she is a Pakistani; to her friends, she’s seen as more of an Indian, she’ll settle with being a Pakistani right now. Normally impatient, the sermon was still ringing in her mind, stinging her face like a tight slap passed across it. All of her efforts for her family were thrown back in her face and now she’s sitting in a bar, drinking, waiting for a girl she’d previously been involved with. A major cluster fuck western intellectuals would drool over the prospect of debating. The Pakistani just wanted a drink and a chat.

She scoped out her friend amidst the slowly growing crowd, thirsty for release after a hard day of work earning money in the city on a Friday evening. Suddenly the Pakistani grew conscious about her attire. Her friends loved her in it, her friend in question preferred her in it, but she herself felt odd, misplaced, out of order; defected, almost, as if her attire was a silky “FUCK UP” label branded across her body. She finished off her drink and stood up with a glossy smile over her face to receive her friend. Both pairs of arms outstretched, both faces with smiles, the brown one subtly swerving in the other direction of the white ones lips because god forbid two girls were to kiss in public. The Pakistani’s friend looked bewildered at the rejection for a moment, but shook her face into politeness again, how-are-you’s and this-one-time-I-was-so-drunk’s were exchanged and laughed about. Drinks were flowing; money was no object, the crowd getting larger around the intimate table for two. The sun was setting over London and the bar was getting warmer, the Pakistani placed a hand over her friends and the got closer with the alcohol. The conversation was broken with an unwelcome remark of “interracial lesbian porn, nice one. Get that paki in a hijab.” She was was a bit confused, because I thought lesbian pornography was pornography containing two lesbians, not two girls who were holding hands over a table sharing gentle conversation. Either way the Pakistani’s friend bowed her head, her cheeks flushed. The Pakistani didn’t know how to handle the cat calls and wolf whistles entirely well so she stupidly went off outside to have a cigarette, leaving her friend there, alone.

Smoking outside, her head spinning slightly, the Pakistani was approached by a fellow smoker, as the smoke hovering above their heads had joined them together, and introductions were prompted which took the form of “your dress is really nice, you don’t see much of that in the city.”

“Why thank you, my mother made it for me…”

The elderly gentleman was wearing an expensive suit and looked well-travelled, like he’d seen and heard it all before, easing the Pakistani into comfort, allowing her to talk about her family and life in other countries. But before they knew it, the cigarettes had ended and she was walking back up to her friend, instilled with confidence to have a good night. She’d missed the last step and jumped onto the second floor, and bounced towards her table which was surrounded with yuppies in their mid-twenties, talking to her friend. As she drew closer she heard what they were saying, “come on, get it down you, we were nice enough to buy you a drink… it’s not like you don’t like getting a bit naughty, it’s obvious, we can get your Indian friend involved, happy days!”

“Actually, I’m Pakistani, and I’d appreciate it if you leave us alone, we’re in the middle of something.” There was a tremble in the Pakistani’s voice as her dress became moist with a nervous sweat. Whoever told you brown people can’t blush is a damned liar.

“Whatever you’re in the middle of, my man would sure like to squeeze in between,” the classy and original joke had caused howls of laughter and knee slapping from the group. The Pakistani’s friend got up and tugged on her friends arm, muttering, “Let’s just go,” and they both walked out of the bar, defeated, followed by a chorus of more wolf whistles and cat calls.

Outside, the night air cooled both of their faces down and they wrapped coats around themselves. The Pakistani felt shit for leaving her friend alone, girls aren’t meant to be left alone in bars, that’s how they get sexually harassed; Pakistanis aren’t meant to go to bars, that’s how ignorance is conceived. Anything queer has to be left in the bedroom, that’s how fetishizing and homophobia comes about, because we’re so damned selfish we can’t keep those things to ourselves and we have to flaunt them in everyone’s faces. The Pakistani thought she’d make it up to her friend,

“We could go to another pub? There’s one down the road which seems quite nice.” Met with refusal, the Pakistani couldn’t blame her friend, the same thing would only happen again. If only she’d spent half an hour going home and pulling some jeans on, this wouldn’t have happened, feck’s sake. “Just come back to mine?” Met with another rejection, again, not that the Pakistani would blame her friend for never wanting to see her again; so they had an awkward hug goodbye and went their separate ways, the occasional like on Facebook not really cutting it for communication for some reason. She doesn’t smoke that much anymore, anyway.

A Pakistani walks into a bar, and would like a Desperados, please and thank you. 

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