chapter 2- relapse & recovery
I wrote a poem an year back, I would like to quote few lines before I begin
“blurring smoke blackened lips,
life to ashes of finger tips.
reflected the glimpse of my midnight lamp.
the lamp black that paints my mortal,
the sinful smoke that torns my mettle.
reflected the glimpse of my midnight lamp.
in seventh circle of smoke,i choke.i settle.”
– My midnight lamp
Around 8 o’ clock in the morning.
As he would pace around the narrow gallery in unsettled mood and restlessness, I was second to wake up in the room and moved outdoor for a breath of fresh air, only to find him standing mid- way and leaping out of the balcony with a purpose to get a sight of the nearby confectionery store. He would pace around from one end to another and do this periodically after every five minutes. While I would wander around with an indefinite purpose, stretching myself, moving in and out of the room,drinking water from the nearby cooler that lay just adjacent to the building staircase and just three big steps from our room. he would still pace faster and faster and now murmuring something to himself and meanwhile leaping off the balcony to catch a sight of that shop.
“okay. It got open.. (he said), I will be back in a minute.”
As I stood there for another minute, he returned with a pack of smokes and one of them got lit at that moment, the very reason he was pacing for half an hour. This was one odd day when he had fallen short of his morning quota and therefore had trouble in getting his day to a start.
After few drags in, he seemed much more calm and composed, much more familiar as I knew him,and even before I could jump to my obvious question, he was far more perspicacious to sense my curiosity and address the issue with an exhaustive approach. he begins to explain–
“ The urge to smoke goes beyond the point of tolerance after a time in your sin-span as a smoker, especially in the early morning and before going to sleep. its nothing unusual to a regular smoker and nothing not known of, but the most interesting thing is that most people miss the catch, it’s the point where the control is shifted from yourself to your body’s’ essential need, goes mostly un-noticed by most, even myself. “
” There is a thing called relapse, every addictive drug or abuseable substance has a specific time limit to relapse, depending on the average strata of abusers and its degree of abuse potential. so if your under recovery and quitting it, the process at most times become so dysfunctional that the drug seems a part of self- medication and you come back to it. Its much stronger and much less for chemical – based substance abuse for e.g. if you do it with heroine or coke, you are bound to be addicted by the third time, I personally don’t support chemicals. further,the relapse time goes on increasing with the simpler and natural substances, and of course there are other factors such as ease of availability, the cost, the social proof, that accounts for the background potential, simplest example could be tea or coffee which addicts most people in the world but however, a smoker is most likely to die of cancer owing to its composition and wood-ash adulteration and several other chemical compounds that are into it owing to its manufacturing process, a tea or a coffee drinker may not.its much better to get tobacco and rolling paper and make your own sticks but its time consuming.however, it can be considered as a good option as manipal has lot of fake cigarettes, its difficult to find genuine stuff …”
While I stood there giving my utmost attention to his monologue and his inflow explanation of things,finely blended with his own experiences unlike the sub-standard smokes he carried with himself & found the quality suffering more chronically than his morning rush.I stood there and wondered whether knowledge is preventive or simply a pseudo platform that is apparent enough to allow even the most aware minds (such as himself), to comfortably stand and do acrobats on the most precarious ends of choices towards mysteriously paced inevitability. However the pace of periliousness is set by you (as he was trying to tell ),and that’s another irony and freedom of control on addiction.while i could barely end up registering these overwhelming thoughts on self- control in the meanwhile, Anurag would further go on explaining..
“ time is an important factor in determining recovery, I am also trying to quit and once I go back home, It will be much easier, I have it all planned. I need to quit smoking before twenty five,then within three years my lungs will be clean and by five It would be like as if I never smoked, you should also remember that and try to quit by twenty five.This is one thing that needs to be done after college.. however, if your quitting after that, say at age of 27 or 30, It would take about ten years for same process and (he stressed) fifteen years to that if leaving it at thirty five, that’s a very crucial stats ( he is delighted to narrate).“
“however, recovery has time oriented function and so is relapse, it’s not easy for a serious druggy (drug addict) to get back to the same state in a spike, it’s a gradual slope up, just like down. Once I smoked two packs of twenty in a few hours at the airport, to get back to the buzz and high,even when I am not a drug addict. Others I know, have done 80 sticks and it depends on what’s your chart, it varies from person to person. College is a place where you take things in your own hands and do actions that decide what you’re going to be, it’s the mentorship from boyhood to manhood, that’s why college is so important. hence, lectures such as these will be helpful (he smiles with a wit ), its more important to understand and take knowledge of things than stay protected and turn your eyes away from them, anyone can do that.So smoke all you want but try to quit by twenty five.. its part of a plan “ (he offers me a smoke , i took it with pleasure and goes out waving to his friend who was waiting across the road on his motorbike).”
A good working definition of Relapse -The relapse process is a lot like knocking over a line of dominoes. The first domino hits the second, which hits the third, and soon a progressive chain reaction, has started. The sequence of problems that lead from stable sobriety to relapse are similar to those dominoes. There are two differences. First, each domino in the line (i.e. each problem that brings us closer to substance use) gets a little bit bigger and heavier until the last domino in the sequence is ten feet tall, four feet wide, and a foot thick. As this 10,000 pound domino begins to fall on us, it is too heavy for us to handle alone. The second difference is that the dominoes circle around behind us. So when the last domino falls, it hits us from behind when we’re not looking 🙂 ( i am sure anurag would smile to that definition )
just like the above excerpt from the actual conversation, my dear friend was always insightful on almost all the topics that were discussed and observed in his company.I on the same lines observed ( on my own) that none of the smokers or sufferers to addiction ever encouraged me to take up smoking and always despised the credulous idea of its coolness quotient that some teenager might associate with its taking up, out of his naiveté.
“Smoking tobacco is the ultimate gateway drug that is legally available, and involves mastering a unique method of intake – much more so than alcohol (which has such a significant effect that users need look no further for stimulation). Smokers looking to get ‘high’ will very rarely do so from cigarettes after the initial stages of taking up the habit.”
it was a cold night in all due respect, with continuous outpour of rain accompanied by light breeze & a periodic thunderstorm that could go chilling right to the bones of someone new to the m-town.it shivers these window panes and greasy iron grills attached to them. The rain in this side of the country is non-stop, it may go for hours without stopping or tease you with the hope of stopping with some temporary halts every now & then. Well, It does stops meanwhile but maybe after an hour or two or maybe in the intervals of thirty minutes to three hours, but uncertain at best.
it is simply unpredictable, it is bad timed for most bikers in the place and those people who have an emergency to attend & it is certainly not- welcomed in this apartment through this open window, where the mushy smell of wet towels is already making it worse , alongside lies an old rugged cot covered with a dry bed sheet with a callous attempt gone overshot to keep it completely dry, are somehow indicating an intent of theirs’ quisling with the winds and conspiring against me.
Alongside lies my college bag, my footwear, the unwashed pillow on which I lie, is covered with my personal dry towel which was brought out there for a different purpose and there under its wet cushion are my effects – my wallet, my bike keys, a pack of crushed strepsils, a pack of crushed smokes; empty now and beside that lies my project partners’ laptop, his soldering wire loop, our college project board, useless pile of wires, spots of soldering alloy covering the dirty floor of the room and unclassified junk that was classified of his rooms’ interior decoration; classic patel, goes well with the popular brand of smokes.
As I could no more go in explaining the bizarre conditioning of this apartment, with this room leading into a haunted hall with no lighting and a distant jug of water, canned ,which is barely visible in the light coming from the apartments’ door-foot , not of a light source withing this place but from an exceeding tubelights’ luminance probably lit in the frontal corridor , but the can was seemingly more visible sometimes in the bright thunder lightning , the water level of which I cud bet was towards the roots and probably empty by this un-godly hour of a prospective need.
while those open windows that invites pattering rain shower along with an unfriendly breeze every now and then, he lay in cadaverous state unflinching towards the cold, or the rain, or the continuous track of same musical kept on a permanent repeat;classic patel, just like the smoke brand.
alongside his bed, lies the cigarette ashtray neck-full and tarring black with the buds that were rubbed countless times on the mans’ skull that extrapolates from its artistic design , bought from a craftsman selling in his final business hours in a Goa market rush for a very reasonable & well spent 400 bucks and with a sense of tragic-comic, it finally ended up in the apartment of my project partner that I so vividly describe and draw parallel to my condition of chronic cough that has been lasting for a year straight and rising this moment from the core of my breathe.
It had stopped for an hour and I lay in a state of bliss and placidity, as every night it would go-on for atleast two or three times without stopping for a span of fifteen minutes, the cough is dry and arose from mid-chest with no triggering symptoms. I would dare not slip my hands beneath my pillow to check if a last strepsil dose bought of late closing youth corner (a famous shop in manipal) would miraculously be there and deceive my gut feeling of another misfortunate night.
As I try to concentrate on my will to sleep and subconsciously prepare for tomorrow mornings’ viva for the mid-term presentation, the coughing starts again, but this time with an intent. it was strong, it was ever-coming and it won’t stop. The more stoical I tried to get towards its exponentially rising affect, the more it grips me from within my chest, ready to take this war out by bursting through my aching lungs, as with all I can, plead for lords’ mercy on my chest with one left arm on it while simultaneously going into a defensive curl of my spinal column in response to an excruciating pain and the other hand desperately searching under the pillow for the crushed plastic cover of my last resort which to my foolish but expected callousness was empty and well eaten long before itsactual need and I had completely lost the track of it that day with an ignorance towards its possible dire need and importance at one such night or the way it looked right now, it seems like the last one.
I am up at once, I look at my cadaverous room-mate, he would only compliment my unflinching short round fight with the cough and continue complementing it with a deep –sleep and deaf state of senses.the repetitive musical running on the laptop or myself coughing repeatedly,i couldnt choose which was more psyched and ofcourse, the wind from this open-shameless window would blow me to permanent lung freeze as I was now sitting upright on the bed, now finally into an appreciable conscience of the moment, with nothing less but blood shot-watering eyes. I could feel the drizzle carried through the wind via the open window on my pale face , as it carried some droplets of chilled water; unwanted, unliked.with a more repulsive feeling than the pain itself, I got up at once and rushed to the water can in the dark distant corner, it was empty.
It was twenty minutes past three in the morning, the hospitals wont cater to a quick purchase on any medicine for cough (this is part of manipal hospital rules;no prescription,no buys) and no night-food service would be here sooner than an hour or probably won’t attend my call at this hour, i had no credits left for patience or for taking any chances.
Time was like a thorn slipping deeper in my neck and eroding the edges of my windpipe with every trickle of ungodly clock,which was shining in another distant pitch dark corner through the outsourced lighting or gleaming sometimes in the unwanted thunder lightning. My mind was at an earnest alert of a relevant mental search which somehow popped the picture of a packet of strepsils kept in my mid-shelf of hostel room, next to my class notes as I had bought them earlier in the day.
on second thoughts,the hour is dark and inappropriate to enter the hostel premises,security,campus patrol,roommate sleeping,hostel warden. however with no luxury to options or sober thinking I put on my slippers, my monsoon jacket, picked up my bike keys with a clutter of urgency and grabbed my wallet with the final scoop of left arm and started running towards the outdoor.
Through the mist, I drove like a wild child, probably the only child at that hour to these metallike roads and surely the only stupid child who cares not for emergency and before I could curse myself somemore, I was in my room and sighed for the packs of strepsils that lay mockingly still on the shelf,lay there waiting for me at this ungodly- unwanted hour of the night. i was again at ease, happy and sleepy and henceforth.
Now thereafter the project mid term viva,I was again standing outside the college premise explaining my amazing story to my project mate ,a few others joined in the buzz and I was constantly revising myself for future events but with a lighted smoke in my left hand and a feeling of happening in the moment and a feeling of numbness by the moment that I couldn’t resist but maybe tomorrow.
I could at max re-concile with myself that an ordinary cough needs a pack of strepsils, that the duration of suffering is not only ignored in my case but unattended medically but more importantly never attended sincerely at a personal level; it was grave, it was criminal to myself. hence, I could be certain of only one thing ,that a personal lack of self -grace could be compensated by an ideolgy that supports my inveterateness to my present balance of health and hazards and most of all,of my supportive intellect full of self-serving arguments as I was in the continuum of my narration to a live audience.
I could resist upto three smokes a day and flow with six to ten under tension. I am not a chain smoker, not even close to those numbers, however numbers matters least. I am a fitness freak, I go gyming 5 days a week, I eat healthy, I drink half litre milk ,I eat my eight egg whites, I do my pushups and I constantly linger on this one bad habit to change the pictorial of this jig-saw puzzle that is otherwise towards my paradigm of perfection.
.however, thinking about the dark hour, the night was long gone twelve hours ago and I was re-iterating my days work and the series of events that happen most usually, without my control over it, just like the previous night.
For physical levels of control developed and achieved, I know that I can run a mile hard and straight without stopping, I could bench 50kgs on flat for a 10 reps, I could squat 90 kgs for 10 and 100 kgs for 8 reps,i could jog sixteen rounds of my college ground at best and 8 on the worst day,i could play cricket all day without getting tired,but things have not been best for an year in the cardio department as I can’t give up lighting 2 smokes on the most constructive day atbest; that’s the irony of my control.
however, strepsils is the genius idea that is as random as a trial and error to an unknown phenomena and non- standard conditions, which certainly is not part of the problem here but strepsils helps subside the feeling of pathos for myself and my lack of self control. its not a medicine, its far from medical prescription, and what the prescription suggested long back, was a standard cough which was long gone along with the 2-week dosage.
This was something different, it was smokers’ cough, it just won’t let me sleep sometimes, that’s a major worry as I am a big fan of sleep but that’s not the only thing that was part of the problem, but yes definitely, it was one of most noted Of all those chronic elements that weakens my personal arguments to defend my fitness, ignorance and introspection.
this is just one of those nights’ story. There have been more, there will be more, I am stoical at best or atleast quick to temporary solutions.; self-denial is a key to recess,I take it everyday.