Painful Days and Nights
I lie awake with my head throbbing like there was a marching band performing in my room, my body suffers from chills as cold as the Artic, my mouth is as dry as a desert, and the thoughts running through my mind are going as fast as Usain Bolt.
I roll to my side in search of my liquor, a sense of despair looms; my bottle looks empty. I grab the hefty 60 ounce bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin and pray that there may be just enough left for one shot. Thank God there is. I drain every last drop of the alcohol in my mouth savouring the burn on my tongue and the brief feelings of relief that arise. This was my daily scenario as I approached the end of my drinking career.
Daily, I drank until I reached a state of oblivion. I needed to escape the insanity of my own mind, the torments of my past, and the anxieties of my future. Alcohol was my Lord and Saviour. It relieved me of my sober state that consisted of suicidal thoughts and self-condemnation. Alcohol plummeted me into a world of numbness where the pains of my reality were nothing but an afterthought. Sadly this never endured and ultimately the tormenting pain would return.
My addiction eventually granted me multiple trips to the psychiatric ward. How could someone harbouring such immense pain free himself from the shackles of addiction and move toward a life of peace? I never thought I would be able to live a life without the use of drugs and alcohol. Even more mindboggling was to be able to live my life with the wisdom and serenity I have now. However, I achieved this miracle with the love and support of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and many pivotal close relationships. By way of observing my own flawed belief systems, dealing with my emotional pain, and surrendering to a power greater than myself; I overcame the seemingly impossible.
I was always known as an angry and boorish person. My marquee trait was the ability to hurt others with my words. Growing up in an alcoholic household created a lot of confusing emotions within me. Watching a loved one choose drugs over quality time with me created a burning flame of resentment inside me. I always had a void in me that I just could not fill.
My first addiction relied on feeling superior to others. I basked in the states I attained when making fun of people, followed by an entrenched obsession with video games. I used my initial addictions to escape my own insanity and enter state of mind where I could be temporarily free from psychological pain. I had found a way to briefly fill the void in me. Then and there, a 20-year battle with addiction was born.
Throughout adolescence and adulthood I had increasing bouts of depression and anxiety. I would stay up all night caught in my mind going in circles of negative thoughts like a hamster on a wheel. The results of these anxious nights were suicidal thoughts. My only avenues of escape were alcohol and marijuana. Day after day I entered a state of oblivion and then woke up full of despair. I would trudge through life trying all sorts of materialistic outlets to feel better.
I tried to cover up my emotional pain by using sex, success, and food but it never lasted; the heartache kept coming back. Oblivion escalated into violent anger and outbursts that I would not remember. I knew I was about to hit rock bottom, there was a constant concern that I would hurt someone else, or myself, if I did not get help.
The night came where I was forced to make a pivotal decision: get help or face long-term incarceration. I stood in the police station, feeling my body and mind aching after spending the night in lock-up once again. My entire life I had been dependent on my parents, and the time had come where friends and family wanted nothing to do with me. I narrowed down my choices to a single important question: did I want to live or did I want to die?
I chose to live and I called our maid and family friend Donna. Donna had always been a source of support for my family; she knew the extent of my situation because she saw the routinely dreadful state my room was in from my hellish drinking nights. I dialled her number and it was almost as if she knew what had happened. She came and picked me up without hesitation.
My recovery began the moment Donna picked me up. She showed no judgement of what I had done which was a critical moment for me. She did not call me stupid, irresponsible or selfish. She told me I was loved, that there was a good person deep within me, and that we would work together in my recovery.
I knew that in order to stay sober I would have to look at the pain I had been trying to escape with my addiction. But how was I to recover? I had a parent who had attended AA in an effort to recover from their own addiction but they did not succeed. However, it was one of the only sources available to me immediately with no waiting period so I decided to give it a try.
Freedom From Pain
My first AA meeting provided a grand awakening due to the honesty and non-judgemental support I received from the older members. Hearing the gruelling stories of despair turned into tales of hope to be revelled in evoked a deep sense of faith in me. I knew that there was something in these rooms that could help me recover. I went to meetings everyday, but more importantly I started to work the twelve steps that were at the heart of the program. These steps all had a focus on observing the root causes behind my past actions and addiction while teaching me to take responsibility for what I had done in my life. Furthermore, the program taught me to be compassionate towards myself because I had no idea how to cope with my life-long inner void.
Each step in the program built upon the previous one. With each meeting and each chapter read, I slowly started to heal. I dove into my emotional pain, questioned all my old beliefs, and began believing in something greater than myself. Eventually, I began to chair the meetings, and assisting others with their own addiction recovery. I pushed myself each day to be honest and left no stones unturned. I found spiritual avenues out of my past pains that made the obsession to escape them with drugs unnecessary and nonsensical. I was happy, at peace and finally at a point in my life where I could truly say that I enjoyed my own company. I was free from the handcuffs of addiction.
The healing process took time but I would not have had it any other way. All the bumps in the road combined with the use of the AA program pushed me into areas of spiritual growth I could not have imagined. One can heal from their tribulations if they have the support, honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness to look deeply within themselves and transmute their pain into peace.
- Ishaq Malik
Watch my video response to "From Pain to Peace: My Recovery from Addiction" below