Valentine’s Lessons… From Jail

How do you usually celebrate your Valentines’ Day? While I really don’t give two shits about mine, One that takes the cake, or rose, if you so wish to remain on theme, was from 8 years ago which I spent in Travis County Jail (Very close to where I live now in downtown Austin).

Yup, you read that right – for about 24 hours I was in the State system getting booked and then later released for Drunk Driving.

You would think enjoying the hospitality of the judicial system for 24 hours and spending consequent days, months and years with varying degrees of shame and guilt (amplified by the image of ‘model’ immigrant) would have had an impact on me? WRONG! (Sooo bloody wrong). I was resilient in my pursuit to find rock bottom.

Fast forward to a few years later, in November of 2018, my mother was with me in Austin on an extended visit. I went to an anniversary party of a local brewery, and didn’t remember coming home. I woke up in the morning groggy, not hungover and upon enquiring with a few friends I had been with the previous evening, I discovered that I was roofied and it was a miracle I made it home.

But the effect on my mother, who was obviously unfamiliar with her son’s arrest and alcohol abuse history, was to stay long after the roofie had worn off. She wept profusely at having to see me crawl from the door to my bed (which I was unaware of). What I will never forget is the disappointment and pain in her eyes that morning when she confronted me.

So yes, what the Austin Police Dept didn’t succeed in doing, a mother’s rightful indignation did. I finally decided to get some help.

In a period of extended counseling sans drinking (Tip: Don’t ever try non-alcoholic wine, it is bloody gross), I discovered that I didn’t have alcohol addiction but rather suffered from something called AUD – Alcohol Use Disorder. To illustrate it, I did my fair share of Dry January, extended sober periods etc back then (Research shows they don’t work) but here was the problem – I looked forward to the day it was ending and would get blackout drunk right after. That’s AUD – using alcohol as a crutch for whatever you are facing and in my case, it was depression. While not clinical, I was living the life of a victim at times.

I certainly did blame my ex-wife as a month after the divorce finalization I ended up in jail. Of course, she was responsible for my drinking that night! And why spare my mother? The months she was here with me, brought out all the emotions of being raised as a neglected child and that’s why I went and partied hard when she was here. I wouldn’t have been roofied if she weren’t here and made me look at the past.

Oh, the fantastically nonsensical stories I told myself to avoid accountability! While the ONLY person responsible for this was – ME! This realization has not been easy and in a way a continuous process. But it certainly, consciously or subconsciously led me onto the path of self-discovery.

So, if you ask me now – ‘If I would want to change ANYTHING about my past?’ The answer is NO! Without all these significant events I wouldn’t have become who I’m today. I wouldn’t have gotten on this path but for my past.

I bring gratitude to every day I live now and know very well that I’m incredibly blessed. It has been humbling for me to realize that even before I started my journey and surrendered to the divine, the blessing of the divine has always been with me. How else can I explain that no one got hurt the night I was arrested for drunk driving and I didn’t end up in the Colorado river next to my apartment as other roofied people have been.

So, after 8 years of blissfully keeping my mother in ignorance, I decided to tell her last week of my great deeds. After all, I didn’t want any Aunty stumbling upon this article between her cooking recipes and telling my mother,”Geetha, your son got arrested in America!”. Extended emphasis on America, cause you can be degenerate in India and get away, but getting arrested in America? Chi chi chi chi, No no no no. Rama! (Basically means, OMG, OMFG. Can’t happen. Shameful! Disgusting. Good lord!)

So sharing it with this lady who’s been on her own self-actualization journey since her Austin visit, my mother inspires me to ‘Keep Walking’ (Dang it, I wanted to avoid the Johnnie Walker reference, but well…). I was not prepared for her nonchalant reaction. She simply asked –

“Oh, it was 8 years ago? Why didn’t you tell me earlier?” To which I responded, “Yeah mom, I got the Nobel Prize for World Peace, sorry I missed informing you about it!” And she laughed.

Being the smooth talker and straight shooter that she is, she reminded me, ”What do you think they will do when you drink and drive, son? Give you a Nobel Prize?” and “You were responsible for getting roofied. You were so inebriated that you didn’t notice your drink wasn’t there anymore and someone added something to it”. Keep schooling me mom, I’m getting there…

She was wondering about the mugshot they took of me that night – I told her, “No, it is not like an Indian movie where I’m wearing vertical stripes patta-patti jail clothes with a cap. It’s just a T-shirt.” You can see her reaction here.

And the best part of this whole conversation was when we were wrapping up. She says – “When you asked me to come on a Video call, I thought you were going to tell me some happy news like you were dating someone! Ayyo, you are telling me about some arrest 8 years ago!”

You are the best mom, stay you!

PS: While I don’t care about other people’s opinion or what they think of me , I want to make sure that I never fall in my mother’s eyes EVER!

Also, while I still drink, my awareness journey has been instrumental in my life as it helps me avoid falling back in AUD. Any thought of reaching for One more drink shuts down when I remind myself that I have to wake up for 5 AM yoga. And, of course, my mom will be sure to check if I have gone to yoga.

14th February, 2022