Awakening

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| This is the 486th story of Our Life Logs |


I grew up in the 1980s in Pakistan. My parents married really young and had a total of 12 kids. Sadly, eight died in infancy, leaving them only four to raise—me and my three younger sisters. We lived in a very small house that could barely fit our family of six, but we managed. Our unity made it whole. I suppose you could say that I had an okay childhood. I mean, my siblings and I were quite happy and loved. My parents worked as servants in houses all their lives and managed to make enough money to feed us.

In our culture, boys are usually favored over girls. As the eldest child and only boy, you can imagine I was often spoiled and overly pampered. My family surrendered to my wishes most of the time. I think this led me to become very mischievous and rebellious.

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My parents wanted me to get the best possible education and become successful, but I had other plans. I hated school. I much preferred spending my days playing cricket outside. Beginning in third grade, I played cricket with the other neighborhood boys every single day. From there, the passion grew; I determined that I’d become a pro one day. I really thought I would.

My parents never approved of my dreams, but they feared if they went against my wishes, I would distance myself from the family. They couldn’t afford to risk losing their only son; once my sisters were married off, I’d be all they had. That thought would get me into trouble, more and more. Just I didn’t know yet.

After fifth grade, I stopped going to school—well, I was expelled for failing all my classes. This left my parents in deep sorrow. I think that was when it truly struck them that I was never going to be their rising star. Yet, my kind-hearted parents didn’t utter a single harsh word at me. Instead, they swallowed their anger and disappointment and told me that it was okay. Did I have any remorse from causing them so much anguish? I wish I did, but I didn’t. I was a selfish kid who’d gotten what he wanted—out of school.

My father tried to put me on a good track that didn’t involve school. He offered me a job working with him, which I declined. He then tried to arrange another job and training for me, but I rejected that too. I rejected everything because all I had passion for was cricket.

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I don’t remember spending much time at home from there on. I was always out with the neighborhood boys. Sometimes, we’d play and sometimes we’d do nothing. My closest friend was Ashiq, a plumber’s son. We would hang out every day. He used to smoke and beat up the other kids. He was feared and held a say in our neighborhood, and I thought that being with him would give me a say too. I wanted popularity; I wanted power.

The years rolled by, and each day passed the same. I’d sleep in, head out to meet my friends, then get home near dark. I enjoyed that lifestyle too much and over time, became a goon like Ashiq. My parents tried to get through to me, but by then I’d cultivated a nasty temper. I would scream and yell until they eventually got scared and shut up.

I fell so deep into the goon life that my passion for cricket was somewhere lost. I became a chain smoker. On the days that I didn’t have money for cigarettes, I would beat people and snatch their money. I would steal my parents’ money too. On other days when I was completely broke, Ashiq would give me his cigarettes. Calm and generous.

Then one day, when I was 16, Ashiq introduced me to something that I had never experienced before—Chars, a drug that takes you to another world and away from all your worries. He told me it was harmless. I honestly thought it was cool to take drugs, so I did not hesitate and took my first sniff. It went directly to my brain and hit me quick. After a few minutes, I felt like flying and dancing, as if I was the only person alive in the entire universe. The feeling was exactly like Ashiq described. It was overwhelming, but also exciting.

I let that excitement overtake me and became addicted. Eventually, I also started drinking alcohol. Each day, I’d be drunk and high for hours on end. It was the only thing we did all day. The darkness engulfed me and left me empty with nothing but hollowness. My parents could see a difference in me, but they were too afraid to say anything. I know, I should have been ashamed, but instead, I went every length to exploit the love and leniency my parents had for me. Because of my bad reputation, they had to act quick and wed my sisters off before they even turned 16.

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I continued to abuse my body with drugs and alcohol. I was a junkie. That became my identification. Yet still, I enjoyed this life and saw no point in ever stopping and no sign of it ever being taken from me. What I didn’t know was that nothing in life is truly guaranteed.

When I was 18, my mother unexpectedly passed away. No one could determine the reason of her death; she just didn’t wake up one day. I knew deep inside where I wasn’t feeling numb from the drugs, I was saddened by my mother’s loss. But I was too high to fully grasp and mourn her death, so I continued my life without any strength to change.

At least, I thought, I still had my dad to keep me fed and housed.

Then, eight years later, my father joined my mother in death. It was at that moment that I truly felt their absence. And in that absence, I felt my own emptiness. Losing him made me realize just how much I had lost, and how badly I had messed up. Without my parents, I was alone. The only ones who loved me unconditionally were gone.

When reality sunk in, I felt so much guilt. I looked back on my youth and cursed myself for acting so selfishly toward my parents. I had exploited their love, and it was too late now to fix the damages. If I could have showed just a little bit of interest in my studies, maybe things could have been different. I was now 26 and still hadn’t done anything with my life. I was a failure to my family and myself.

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After my father’s death, the rest of my family abandoned me. My sisters stopped visiting the house. They hated me for how I had acted all these years. All sympathy was gone. Even my best friend, Ashiq, had abandoned me. I never received responses when I sent him messages, and when I tried to see him, his house was locked. I now had no money and no food to eat. I knew nothing about work and earning. For days and days, I stayed hungry, sick, and penniless at home with nobody to check up on me. It was as if all had vanished without a trace.

My life was riddled with regret. I had wasted so much of my time with a person who didn’t really care for me, while my parents who truly cared were cast aside like rotten food. What had I done? I cursed myself each and every day for taking them for granted. I wanted to die and put an end to my misery and pain that I was in. I had no options.

I started begging on streets to survive. I started experiencing extreme sickness and pains not long after that. I vomited blood, and my weight dropped down to 42 kilograms. I began counting down the days until I joined my parents in death.

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Life went on like that for a few years. I’m still not sure how I managed to survive. But then, a ray of hope came when I was 29. It was my mother’s brother. He was stunned by my condition and took me to the hospital. He paid for my recovery treatment. My body wanted drugs, but I could not have any. And so, the withdrawals were agonizing. I would scream with pain and agony from my hospital bed. I would hit things and bang my head against walls, but the withdrawals wouldn’t cease. My uncle stayed by my side while I was hospitalized.

God knows what made my uncle show such mercy toward me, but I’ll be forever grateful. Maybe God wanted me to live. The doctors told my uncle that it was important to shift me to a rehab where I’d continue treatment.

So, a few weeks later, I was sent to a rehab. I learned that all my drug and alcohol use had severely affected my liver. It had stopped working. My body was severely malnourished, and I still wanted drugs. But the doctors there treated me and eventually the need for drugs diminished, and over time I grew stronger and healthier.

For the next five years, I lived in the treatment center. It gave me a lot of time to think and comprehend my circumstances. I realized how irrevocable the damage in my life was. But I also realized that it didn’t mean I couldn’t stop further damage for my future. In my time there, I decided that I wanted to be better. I owed it to my parents to finally live a life they could be proud of.  I wanted to have a family and give them what my parents gave me. I wanted to be loved again. I knew there was no hope of getting my parents back, but I knew I could make them proud by becoming clean and a better man.

When I finally came out, I decided to look for any kind of job I could get. But since I didn’t have any skills, it was hard to find a job.  My uncle suggested that I go to driving school to have more options for jobs. I liked the idea. I spent another year there and came out with a license. My uncle then helped me find a job as a driver. Since then, I have been building myself back up and becoming a person with sense. If only my parents were here to see how far I’ve come.

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I chose the wrong path for myself early on, but I’m glad to have gone off that path to a better life. It was hard but not impossible. I have learned that drugs are not a good escape route, and when you let frivolity rule your life, you’ll find that your life has been wasted. I carry so much guilt for how I treated my parents and my younger self, but since I can’t change my past, I want to make my future different. I have been clean for nine years now and I plan to keep growing that number.

 

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This is the story of Saleem Maseeh

Saleem currently resides in Pakistan where he is a sober working man now. Growing up spoiled, Saleem took advantage of his parents’ kindness which led him down a dark path to the life of a goon and a drug and alcohol addict. He hit rock bottom when his parents passed before he saw the error of his ways and almost everyone abandoned him. Thankfully, his uncle helped him get clean and build a life his parents could be proud of. Saleem had a difficult journey, but he learned from his mistakes. He came out clean and proved that real fighters do exist. He likes his job, and in his free time, he likes to go on long walks and spend time with his pets. All he wants to do now is to get married and a have a family.

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Saleem, 2019.

 

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This story first touched our hearts on August 19, 2019.

| Writer: Noor Pasha | Editor: Kristen Petronio |

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To protect the privacy of the storyteller and those involved in this retelling, some of the names may have been changed. (1)

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