Think before you drink!
The story of Vijay Simha and his long drawn battle with addiction and substance abuse is not only true but hard to believe. He says that nothing from his earlier days as an addict affects him now not even alcohol or drugs. He has learnt to make peace with his past and this is the only way to forward.
Quite contrary to what I thought while walking up the stairs to his apartment. It wasn't possible for anyone to transform completely but the fact that he did was quite surprising. I was eager to meet him wondering how could anyone loose control of his life to such an extent and then put it all back together bit by bit.
This was the first time I was going to meet Vijay Simha. As the door opened he welcomed me into his brightly coloured apartment in the heart of the city. Unlike other instances this time I knew the story but not my subject. Although I had seen him on TV before but getting to know him in person was a different ball game. I was scared and nervous didn't know what could tick him off. After all I was talking to a former journalist who had excelled in his field. The way he spoke about addiction, government and policies made me wonder if he was indeed the same person who had spent 10 years of his life battling substance abuse. How could a man with so much knowledge and wisdom go wrong with such a simple thing like alcohol? Did he never think what he was doing to himself?
These thoughts made rounds in my mind while I continued to chat with Vijay jotting down every minute detail of his past life that would come in handy for my story. The ease with which he narrated his story troubled me. I expected some emotions may be anger disgust or remorse but nothing was visible. Not wanting to offend him I kept quite. Soon it was time for me to make a move and get going with my story.
Meeting him had been a weird experience I was taken aback by his calmness. A very unusual feature associated with addiction. I could see my prejudices giving way. Soon I realized that not all alcoholics/addicts were bad, illiterate people who had no sense of direction in life. It was just a matter of time and circumstances and that's just what happened with Vijay. Despite being the star of the family and a role model to his younger siblings Vijay never thought that he would falter. Vijay's words kept ringing in my ears as I kept wondering how could a person like him loose control so easily? His experiences with the substance to his life on the streets all sounded like scenes from a movie. As Vijay recalls that he knew what he was doing was not appropriate behaviour but by then his dependence on the substance has reached a stage where he couldn't care a damn. For him nothing else mattered neither family nor friends. There was a point when he had no contact with any other human being in this world.
For the next five days as I spent more time with Vijay shooting for the story. I was to uncover a man with grit, spark, intelligence and humour. But every story of his dependence and addiction smashed my image instantly. I constantly kept wavering between Vijay Simha the CJ and Vijay Simha the addict. For 9 months the streets of the city had been his home. He slept in the railway compartments infested with human excreta, sought shelter at religious places and scurried from one building to the other like a human rat in his fight for survival.
Luckily for Vijay it's been 10 years since he has been out of the rehab but it wasn't easy. He now works as a sobriety campaigner helping others to cope with their addiction related problems.
He is no longer a reflection of his past but a man who fought the odds and is now striving to make a difference and spread awareness.
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