I have been happy, sober, and productive for 1,534 or four years and 73 days, now. My name is Shiven (23) and my recovery journey started when I was just turning 19. Up until that point my choice of addictions included marijuana, alcohol, pornography, as well as suicidal and self-harm tendencies. It has not been an easy journey but one that I can now look back on and proudly say — I survived.
This is how Shiven introduced himself as we began our conversation. He added that every experience he has had has left him with an important life lesson. The former addict, who now takes life one day at a time, goes on to narrate his journey to sobriety — from living in the clutches of inebriation to surviving suicide. Today, he says he is in a position to work through his issues and insecurities.
I was 16 when I had my first tryst with a marijuana joint, and what I felt after that was exhilarating. It altered my mood and left me in a state that I thoroughly enjoyed. It gave me a chance to escape my present and that for me was a big deal.
It started with curiosity – knowing that so many people I knew and interacted with did drugs, for me, meant that there was something “good” about it. It is only now, given that I have been sober for four years, that I can say that there is nothing good about doing drugs.
‘Connection is the opposite of addiction’
The reason why I chose addiction as my escape route was because I felt that my reality was unbearable. I lived in a perpetual state of uncertainty; meaning everything outside of me felt unclear. Fear, guilt, not feeling connected, and feeling judged were all my constant companions. These were the feelings that led me to my addiction. I didn’t see myself as a productive human being at all during those days.
I never felt ‘good enough’ and I was constantly comparing myself with others around me and pulling myself down. The easiest way to erase these feelings were by staying away from my present.
Even if I was physically present, many a times, I chose to be mentally elsewhere, and to do that, my addiction helped. I often compared it to how the British shifted their summer capital to Shimla, only because the heat was unbearable for them and similarly because a lot of my reality was exhausting I decided to shift my mental state to being elsewhere.
There was a time when I did not find any connection with my family or friends and I turned to various unhealthy addictions. Through my journey of recovery, what I realised was that if the connections one has with their family is strong enough then it becomes that much more viable to stay away from any sort of unhealthy addiction.
The recovery process involved a lot of sharing, and in doing that, many unresolved issues from almost a decade and a half ago resurfaced. It forced me to think and freed me from my past.
From lying to my parents, to running away from them, being verbally abusive towards them, and being rebellious – I have done it all. And now that I have been sober, I have learnt to be accountable for my own actions and the blame game that I always fell back on has now ceased to exist. I am now proud to say that I have been happy, sober, and productive for over four years.
From one counsellor to another
I started visiting counsellors from when I was in Class 3, and since then, have been to several therapists and counsellors for help. Initially, it was a mis-diagnosis of me having ADHD/ADD/Dyslexia and then it was about my self-esteem issues. Gradually, it became about my addiction. It was in my Class 12 that I was diagnosed as depressed and having severe anxiety issues, and none of the labels that were given to me helped.
There was also a time that I tried to take my life, once by harming myself physically and the other time by consuming pills. I survived both times. But looking back now, I realise the amount of pain and trauma my actions caused my family were not justified.
There came a point in my life when I just got tired of being unhappy, and that for me was perhaps the turning point. This is a very personal journey and each person’s recovery is very individualistic and there cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach. I chose happiness and after a point, was determined to make my life better. Sobriety is a choice and one has to make that conscious choice.
Life is beautiful. And for those looking for solutions, do remember that there is always one available. It’s all a matter of having the courage to find it.
-Shiven, As Told To Vidya Raja