Sunday, September 30, 2012

If Only

"I wish someone had told me it would be so bad...If only I had known I wouldn't live to see my children grow."

This is a common statement echoing through the corridors of the hospital wards that admit patients for alcoholism, chain smoking and their various harmful effects. Not that they have never been told so by people - it's just that addicts never fully realize the gravity of the situation they're slowly dragging themselves into, every time they light up another cigarette or drink another bottle of beer. It's always 'just one drink/smoke' until it isn't anymore. It just goes on and on, day after day, year after year, and finally, on their death beds does it dawn upon many how they wasted an entire life drowning the slightest of stress and worry in alcohol and smoke, trading many blissful years of their life for the temporary high that such substances induce.

I came across an article in today's edition of The Hindu (Do read here) that left me feeling sort of helpless and empty inside. The article describes the true story of a well-to-do young man who was inducted into a drinking habit by his friends and thereafter could not quit. He lost his job and all his money, and spent 3 years visiting the hospital every few weeks or months with severe abdominal illnesses. He lost weight, his body wasted and his abdomen got filled up with fluid till he could hardly breathe. He was at such a stage where all that could be done was to admit him for a day or two, remove some fluid from his abdomen and discharge him ever so often. And it was then, near his impending end, that he repented for what he had done all his life, and wished to set an example for future patients like him to learn from at early stages, unlike him. So he asked for a picture of his distorted ugly form from his last days, to be hung above the bed where alcoholics were admitted into that ward, so others like him could picture their future and get inspiration to quit.

Another article in the same paper (Read here) recounted a wife's distress at her husband's extreme smoking habit that led to a heart attack, an angioplasty, followed by a lifetime of medication, frequent disorientation and many other side-effects that she had a lot of trouble adapting to but did anyway. Moving stories, aren't they? Alas, if only they could move the ones who need them the most.

Why am I so deeply affected by such stories? Well, no one in my own extended family smokes, as far as I know, but I am surrounded by many people, friends and acquaintances who do. Ever wondered why a person standing across from you in a public place is coughing incessantly and appears to be cool about it? He's probably a chain smoker. He knows his immune system is compromised and he coughs and falls ill much more often than normal people. But he won't get rid of the root cause of all this evil, because he likes it. And also because he's weak-willed. Whenever I picture the sad end these people are so care-freely sauntering towards, it just makes my insides churn. What can I do to change their minds? To make them quit, or at least try to? How can I make them understand they are killing themselves, and probably taking many more lives that are closely associated with them too? Is sharing links and writing about the issue the only thing I can do? Questions galore, and they leave me thoroughly disturbed and wanting to scream.

You see, it is always a misconception amongst the youth that 'I am not an addict, I just drink and smoke occasionally, and within limits'. As I said, that's but a misconception at best. Drinking even one or two pegs of mild to strong alcohol five days a week - what people today consider limited drinking - harms the liver and decreases the body's immunity to illnesses gradually but extensively, paving the way for cancer, liver disease and Pancreatitis further on in life. Slightly higher consumption and the process just escalates, making one vulnerable to a host of grave diseases. Smoking has ill effects even more severe and fatal than alcohol. It is in fact a leading cause of preventable deaths the world over. Cancer, Heart disease, Bronchitis, other lung diseases - smoking only kills, no matter what. In addition, passive smoking leads to adverse effects on others' health as well, including a serious harm to pregnant women who are exposed to smoking, actively or passively. The last thing you would want in life is for your baby to be born deformed or with congenital heart disease, won't you?

Innumerable damages, and all of this for what gain, eh? A temporary high that helps you cope with the stress that could be managed in other, harmless ways too? I don't claim to even understand why. I agree, for a lot of people smoking and social drinking occasionally may be an inevitable part of corporate life today; but for the young, it is just a source of a kick in life - it is cool and fun to indulge in, and so they decide to do it for fun at younger ages, promising to themselves that they shall quit it later on in life for a stable and healthier lifestyle. Trust me when I say, THAT DAY WILL NEVER COME. The adverse effects that smoking and drinking have on your body in just a few years take a lifetime of care and staying clean to fade. So if you understand the unhealthy implications, you should also know it is never too early to try to quit. Start today! Reduce the amount and frequency of your alcohol intake. Refuse that one extra peg a friend offers you out of camaraderie. Reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke a day, cutting back on a few at a time. Keep going strong, put your foot down every time you're coaxed by friends to have "just one" and feel your confidence soaring with every passing day. And the day you finally kick the butt would probably be the happiest day of your life - the day you feel free from any sort of dependence or addiction, the day when you finally feel good about yourself. That day will make you feel proud of yourself - the one feeling that most addicts lack in life. Just make sure not to fall back into the abyss again - stay in control once you're clean.

If only people today had that willpower to really admit the risk they're putting themselves and others at and its implications, and were determined enough to overcome such petty addictions for their greater good. If only they thought not just of themselves and their so-called needs, but of their family, friends and dependents as well. If only they could see through the smoke and understand how non-profitable a deal it is between addiction and a real, happy, addiction-free life, the world as I see it would be a much better place. Give it a thought. Take initiative. Life's precious - live it, don't let it go to waste.

This post was a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda, and it got featured among one of the best entries.

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Amul said...

I've come across a lot of my friends who went like this, have even tried sometimes to stop them from smoking :P, but once it gets to addiction, trying to stop doesn't help. Sad reality, we live with!


This is the most mature account so far that I have come across that was not written by a 40 year old with completely decayed lungs. And frankly it is refreshing to find somebody with a similar opinion, because "smoking/drinking while not addicted" is a rampant and overwhelming argument that has bullied common sense into submission more than often! Gud job!

Mahima said...

@Amul - True indeed. Helpless state ours, isn't it?

@Apurv - Thank you! You're right, it is almost like these people can program their consciences into believing that they're not addicted, when they most certainly are. It's easy to do that, what is difficult is to face the reality and try to come clean.

Anonymous said...

nice one mahima - must read for smokers - but the sad fact is that, this addiction is not easy to leave i have seen many ppl ruining their life because of this -but must say mahima a good initiative :) :)