Tag Archives: alcohol

affect

When I drank from the treacherous grail my insides would bubble and spit. Polanski’s witches would appear in a hallucinogenic state and circle me, cutting off my hands and burying them next to my head. I’d wake up screaming. I’ve been drinking again.

This state of vulnerability is polar. On one hand, as a feminine subject, I am prone to bouts of shock and hysteria. On the other hand, as a structurally brown and foreign subject, I am deemed to be staunch and unmoving. This calls the question, why is addiction and mental health issues within feminine bodies of colour spoken about like a game of Chinese Whispers, in which the first instance of trauma is so far removed from the actual experience it’s shut in the closet of cultural secrets. It is then ignored, and starved. Then it becomes a depraved skeleton of a ghostly suffering.

Brown women are not meant to be victims of addiction because that contradicts their figure as mother, as country, and as a conduit for tradition. So within the closet of the home space I shut away my self-medication within the closet of my body. I cannot be addicted or have a “weak” psychological frame as it doesn’t fit the social narrative. Addiction only affects hard done by middle class white people. AA meetings are saturated by the trophy housewife whose husband is experiencing sexual impotency. It’s not where I belong.

To bring into question my “belonging” is to throw another bone upon the pile of trauma I was and am subject to.

Why won’t we talk about mental health and women of colour?

Whilst my stomach acid screams from within me to be pissed or vomited out in a state of limbo where I can’t distinguish between who I’d be fucking or who would be beating me, a psychological thriller plays in the background of this violence (self-inflicted or otherwise). Is it wrong to frame my experience in a fictitious setting? Is this self-appropriation of an unfortunately commonplace “problem” detracting from the actual work that needs to be done? Or is it so that I may tell my own story with however I see fit.

I’d claw out my eyes when I look into the mirror because the reflection wasn’t a self-realised version of myself. It was alien. The subject upon the surface did not look like me, or how I beheld myself. It could not be deemed as uncanny. I’d see “my” face twisting, eyes bulging and throat swelling. I’d envision snapping my jaw in half and plunging my balled up fist down my throat to bring back up the intestines that had betrayed me in a bout of a binge. Adrenaline would pulsate through my veins in a frenzied state and I’d smash the mirror and brush away the pieces in a moment of tranquillity. Until the next night. The days, I had learnt, signified the calm before the storm. Before I’d utilise my mirrors I danced grotesquely at my scarred and impressionable vessel.

She would follow me wherever I go, and I heard her dripping through the taps. She would whip by me and whisper things into my ear, masquerading as a cold gust of wind.

“Why are you shivering?”

Because I can feel her close by. She’s approaching me when the sun goes down. She is Jinn. Hiding underneath darkened trees she would await me as I made my journey home; she would greet me inside and strip me of my clothes and my armour. My body became possessed on a nightly basis in which I made incomprehensible love to my own demise. If I slept facing up she would put mirrors on the ceiling so I would face her in a state of paralysis crawling around. Thudding by the light bulb she would go

Thud thud thud.

Why did I not beseech an exorcist? Why did I not purge myself of her toxic presence, of her mischievous lop sided grin. Of her pathetic attempt to parrot my movements. Sporadically, I would catch her out in her own game. She didn’t like that. I’d get punished severely that night. But why did I not tell anyone about it? I kept that all to myself. Why?

I guess I enjoyed the company. Waking up after a night of binging on your own was never a pleasant thing. She was better in the morning. She’d make me drink up water and give me my medication and take me to class. I need my energy for when we play again tonight.

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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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When in Mumbai…

I didn’t want to leave the country at all, but if I had to I was adamant that I visited my father’s home town, Mumbai. I was warned that I wouldn’t be able to stay in the slums with remaining family members due to lack of space, terrible hygiene standards etcetera; I agreed to stay in a hostel close by with “trusted” owners. Being fifteen years old I didn’t seek verification – after leaving that place I will ALWAYS seek verification.

It was a dodgy place, sure, like most places. I sensed the usual unease creeping up my spine as I walked down the side alleys, kicking dirt off my feet with each step, tripping into a dingy reception I was greeted by a bored looking old man,

“How long,”

My “uncle” (I don’t even know if he was related to me by blood) sorted out my stay, which was to be for two solid weeks. Money was exchanged and a key was given to me. A fortnight there was the silver lining, the remainder of my time in India would be spent travelling and shopping with closer and more esteemed relatives, I only had to endure fourteen days. Creeping up the half broken stairs I tried to ignore the stench of B.O, the marks on the walls, and weird stains on the floor; I finally made it to my room. It was a nice room, clean enough, a lizard creeping up the wall – I called him Larry and we became friends. When I heard the noises at night I just stared at Larry and had my eyes follow him around the walls, trying to keep up with his darting, so I could ignore what was blatantly going on out there.

It was 6pm, so I would go to sleep in three hours and wake up bright and early to take a walk around town. I opened my magazines I collected from various shops and read about the “delights of India,” where young virginal women would spin around green fields in their red dresses and white skin; then I looked outside and was greeted with the sight of pollution. I didn’t need to look anymore, I could smell everything. Sometimes a waft of jalebi drifted up my nose, but most of the time it was the stench of animals and unwashed people in terrible cars that encased me during the days. The nights smelt totally different.  

I wanted to get a coke before I went to bed; I couldn’t be bothered to drink hot water so I wanted a coke. On my way back up from the vending machine with the glass bottle in my hand I was confronted by a tiny little girl, she looked about eight or nine. She stood outside her door and watched me go past, so I watched her right back. Her face was filthy, she had a bindi settled above her thick eyebrows and dark brown eyes, wearing cheap glass bangles and a sparkly dress that revealed her midriff. She kept watching me until I went to my room and closed the door behind me. My heart was beating kinda fast because I could sense something was off, but I just sat on my bed with my coke and watched Larry sleep (he was probably sleeping, I don’t know, he just didn’t move at night) until I started hearing strange noises around me.

I enjoy looking back at this experience now I’m older, I can make sense of more things, back then when I was fifteen everything was distorted and fragmented. At first I heard the chinking of bells, then I heard the steady creaking of a cheap bed, then I heard falsetto groans omitting from rooms around me.

Ohmygod everyone’s having sex and I’m in a shitty room in Mumbai watching a fucking lizard pretend sleep.

It’s my first night, I just dealt with it. It was probably everyone’s lucky day and people just coincidentally got laid at the same time as others, whatever.

Turns out I was living in a really tacky brothel, not one of those “cool” ones you imagine to be part of the red light district, with people smoking and drinking and women of every species beckoning you in. You want a Nepalese woman? Go there. You want a Western looking woman? Right here, my friend! How about a traditional, plump, Desi woman? Those are one of the cheapest ones, didn’t you know?

No, it was nothing like that. It was a “hostel” with poor women looking to make a cheap rupee. I can’t tell you how many women there were, and I can’t even give you the name of the place.

I’m lying, there was some variety. Sometimes when I was sick of staring at Larry I stepped outside onto the roof to throw stones at people and duck my head. I’d sit there in the sweltering heat with a coke, chewing on some paan, and I’d think about what I could do to avoid that place at night. It was too dangerous for me to wander about after dark in this place, and I didn’t know how much more I could take listening to the fake gratification these girls gave married men. I decided to just suck it up and buy some alcohol to help me sleep. My English accent helped me in this respect, it made it easier to buy booze as a little girl – maybe that’s where the substance abuse started for me.

I’d walk to my room with liquor in my pocket and I’d notice things every evening I had done so. There were little girls chained to their rooms wearing provocative clothing in order to beckon potential customers. Their faces were so filthy. The one I remember the most, apart from the girl I saw on my first night, was a tiny girl with light brown hair and milky white eyes; I think she was blind.

I’d see these girls every evening, and then I’d see Larry who’d be waiting for me on the wall opposite my bed after a busy day of… um, I don’t know, being a lizard or something. I’d sit on my bed drinking as I heard slaps, moans, cursing – I ensured I was passed out before I heard the crying that took place afterwards.

After two weeks I got into a rickshaw with an aunt and went to a close family friend’s house where I spent most of the remainder of my time in India. To this day I’m dumbstruck that anybody would put a young person in a brothel out of cheapness, but that didn’t overshadow my pain I felt for the workers there.

I wonder how Larry’s doing from time to time. 

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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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