Alcoholism is a disease that may afflict just one person, but its disastrous consequences affect his whole family
Fire gives us warmth, but it also burns us. We use it to our advantage, but never get too close to it. Our sense of survival and self-preservation kicks in the moment it gets too close to us. How come that doesn’t happen with alcohol? In fact, alcohol doesn’t have the various benefits of fire but in terms of the ability to destroy it is as devastating, if not more. Certainly more treacherous!
Across the country, in every State, alcoholism has destroyed families. It’s a disease which afflicts maybe one member of the family but its symptoms, and the destruction it causes, affects the whole family. It contributes to domestic violence, affects the education of children, affects the ability of a family to spend on healthcare, and causes unemployment.
When I used the word ‘disease’ to describe alcoholism, it was not lightly. Studies have shown that it is, in fact, a disease and not a “bad habit” as most of us see it. Some of us are potential alcoholics, and when such people start to drink they find themselves getting drawn into it more and more, and try as they might they are unable to come out of it. It’s like a whirlpool which sucks you in. Unfortunately there is no medical test that can warn you of this.
There are four indications that you may be headed towards alcoholism. They can be easily remembered by way of the acronym, CAGE — Cut, Anger, Guilt and Eye-opener.
Ask yourself the following four questions. One “yes” response suggests an alcohol use problem. More than one is a strong indication that a problem exists.
Cut: Are people who are very close to you repeatedly telling you that you need to cut down on your drinking?
Anger: Are you getting angry and upset as a result of people close to you telling you that you should cut down on your drinking?
Guilt: Do you promise yourself not to go beyond a certain number of drinks, and once you start drinking are you unable to control yourself, leaving you feeling guilty and upset about not being able to stick to your resolution?
Eye-opener: Have you reached a stage in your life when you sometimes need alcohol to start your day? You wake up in the morning and you realise that you are unable to start your day, unable to function, without having a drink.
Unfortunately, there is no medicine that can cure us of this disease of alcoholism. But there is an organisation which can help us if we decide to seek it — Alcoholics Anonymous. Alcoholics Anonymous is a worldwide organisation and it has so far helped 300 million people. In India, too, they have many centres spread across the country. Following are their contact details: To reach AA by phone, call +919022771011. To reach AA by text message, type AAAA <space> your name, address and contact number, and send the SMS to 56363.
Not everybody who consume alcohol becomes an alcoholic. In fact in India, as per experts, one in 20 — five per cent — become alcoholics. But one in two, that is 50 per cent, indulge in what is called ‘hazardous drinking’ — you may not drink every day but when you do, you drink so much that you are no longer in your senses and you cause harm to yourself and to others. Or, you may consume just a little and still behave in a hazardous manner — for example, by driving a car.
How many times have I heard these lines from drunken person: “I’m not drunk, I can drive, I’m in my senses” or “Chill yaar, don’t stress, I’ve had just two drinks, I am totally in control”.
Every drunken person thinks he is the cat’s whiskers and a superhuman in every way! Absurd! A car is like a killing machine in the hands of a person who has consumed even a little alcohol! And if you have decided to sit in the driver’s seat after consuming any quantity of alcohol then you should be treated as a potential murderer.
40 to 60 per cent of all cases coming into emergency rooms of hospitals in India are alcohol related! Thirty-five per cent of those are people who have consumed alcohol and 65 per cent are people who have not consumed alcohol themselves, but have been injured by someone who has.
So guys, if we can live without alcohol nothing better than that. But if some of us want to drink, let’s at least be responsible about it!
While going through all the research material and interviews on this topic, I was completely shattered watching the testimony of Mr. Sumir Anand. The tragic story of how he and his wife, Gitika, lost their 14-year-old son, Curran, is really heartbreaking. It’s like a nightmare that every parent has a thousand times!
The first thing I did after watching the testimony was to call up my children Ira and Junaid, who are 13 and 18 respectively. I showed them Mr. Anand’s interview. And what I made them promise to me then is the promise that I think all of us ought to make to ourselves: NEVER drink and drive! And, NEVER sit in a car when the person driving has consumed even one drop of alcohol!
Make this a rule for life!
Jai Hind! Satyamev Jayate!
(Aamir Khan is an actor. His column will be published in The Hindu every Monday.)