I could tell my story in two words - the two words “I drank.” But I was not always a drinker. This is the story of my downfall - and of my rise - for through the influence of a good woman, I have, thank Heaven, risen from the depths.
I cannot accurately remember when my addiction to the stuff really began. It stole upon me gradually, as it does upon so many young men. As a boy I remember trying it, but I can recall that I wasn’t really fascinated by it. My downfall really began when I began college.
It was then that I was first acquainted with the awful power of ridicule. They were a bunch of reckless youths, the always-have-fun-no-matter-who-thinks-what kind. They frequented the movie theatres. They thought nothing of having chocolate fudge late in the night or early in the morning. They laughed at me when I refused to join them. I was only 18 then. My character was undeveloped. I could not endure their scorn. The next time I was offered a drink I accepted. They were pleased, I remember. They called me “a good sport”, “a lovely chap” and other complimentary names. They began to talk to me. I was not ignored by them anymore. I was intoxicated with the sudden popularity.
Oh, how vividly I can recall that day! That shining, freshly-wiped counter, the colourful placards advertising various strange mixtures with ice-cream as their basis, their exotic-sounding names, the busy men behind the counter, the lovely eyes of the girl at the cash register where you bought the dessert checks. She had seen so many happy, healthy boys through that little hole in the wire netting, so many thoughtless boys all eager for their first soda, clamouring to set their foot on the primrose path that leads to destruction.
It was a Mint & Chocolate Chip sundae, I recollect. I dug my spoon into it with an assumption of excitement and happiness which I was far from feeling. The first mouthful almost nauseated me. It was like cold hair-oil. But I stuck to it. I could not chicken out now. I could not bear to forfeit the newly-won esteem of my comrades. They were gulping their sundaes down with the speed and enjoyment of old hands. I set my teeth, and persevered, and by degrees a strange exhilaration began to steal over me. I felt that I had burnt my boats and bridges; that I had crossed the River Styx. I was reckless. I ordered another round. I was the life and soul of that party.
The next morning brought with it pain and remorse. I did not feel well. My head hurt. I felt like two guys were going at the inside of my head with a sledgehammer. I was in intense pain- both physical, and mental. But I could not back down now. I was too weak to renounce my popularity. I was only a boy, and on the previous evening, the captain of the college football team, to whom I looked up with an almost worshipping reverence, had slapped me on my back and told me that I was an amazing chap. I felt that nothing could ever match the honour. That night, too, I gave a party at which ice-cream sodas flowed freely. And that party was the turning point.
I had got the habit. I had become addicted!
The next few years I will recount briefly. There is not much to say about it, except that I sank deeper and deeper into the abyss. So much so, that I knew all the ice-cream parlour tenders by their first names, and they knew me by mine. I didn’t have to specify the name of the abominations I wanted. I merely had to go to a ice-cream parlour, say, “The usual, Rahul,” and he understood.
At first, it did not really trouble me much. I was young and I was strong. My constitution disregarded the effects of my habit. But, gradually, it began to take it’s toll. I began to lose my grip. I could not go on without having at least 5 ice-cream sodas in a day. I had difficulty in concentrating. My work and studies suffered. I had frequent black-outs. I felt nervous and dizzy. I became distant from the world. Eventually, I went to a doctor.
He took a long look at me, did a check-up and said to me, “If I am to cure you of this ailment, you must tell me all.”
I hesitated at first. But then, I broke down, and with my head in my hands, I told him. “I am a confirmed soda-fiend, doctor,” I told him, “I am addicted to ice-cream.”
The doctor looked pityingly at me. He gave me long lectures about the harmful effects of the addiction. He gave me an even longer list of instructions. I was to abstain from sundaes of all variety and descriptions. I was to never look at a soda bottle again. If anyone even offered me one, I was to knock him down with one blow and hand him over to the nearest policeman.
But it was hard. You have no idea how tough it is for a young man living in a big and wicked city to keep away from it’s charms once he’s got the habit. I could not hang out with my group. They called me a “spoilsport”, “killjoy” and other godawful names. But I could not join them. They left me alone while they went on their revelries. I felt more alone than I ever had.
In the end, I undid all the good work of my one month’s abstinence. I had become desperate. I felt that there was nothing good left in the world. That nothing could save me now. So I went to the nearest joint and had 3 chocolate fudge, a pineapple fizz and 2 Blue Monsoons before I paused to take a breath. I hadn’t felt so good for a long time. It was like I was the king of the whole world.
And then, the next day, I met Sue, the girl who brought about my reformation. I met her at a party and we hit it off instantly. We spoke to each other regularly on the phone. And then, one day, I asked her out to dinner.
That was the happiest moment of my life. I met her at the door of her apartment. She was wearing a blue cocktail dress that matched the colour of her eyes. We went out to a nice restaurant and had a blast there. I could really feel a connection between us. A spark. I was beginning to feel the first wisp of love between us.
After the dinner, I took her out to my favourite ice-cream joint. We were inside and I was about to place my order, before she realized where she was and I shall never forget the look of extreme disgust and horror that came on her face at that moment.
“And I thought you were a great one!” she exclaimed to me. I could hear the pain in her voice.
It seemed that she was looking for a little wine or champagne. The idea was completely new to me. But she convinced me that it was only refreshment that she would consider, and recoiled in revulsion at my suggestion of a hot brownie topped with chocolate ice-cream. She grabbed me by my hand and took me out to the nearest bar. That night I tasted my first wine. And my resurrection began.
It was hard at first, really hard. Something inside me was pulling me back to the sundaes for which I craved, but I resisted the impulse. With her sympathetic encouragement, I acquired a taste for alcohol. And then, one day, I realised suddenly that I no longer had an urge to go inside a soda parlour. I never wanted to see an ice-cream parlour again. Beers, at first repellent to me, have become my first choice of refreshment for me. I drink wines for breakfast. I am cured. I am saved!