A CONVERSATION ABOUT ALCOHOLISM & RECOVERY, WITH JIT CHAUHAN
FOR THE FULL CONVERSATION, ACCESS THE AUDIO VERSION BY CLICKING HERE> AND DOWNLOAD FROM WHEREVER YOU GET YOUR PODCASTS. OR, SEARCH FOR "LONDON WRITING GUY" ON YOUR PREFERRED PODCAST PLATFORM.
Trigger warning: This blog post and accompanying podcast episode discusses issues related to alcoholism.
I have now reached the age where I am hearing about more instances of people like me succumbing to issues related to alcoholism. I am 37. Let that sink. I don’t just mean people my age. I also mean people from my community. The South Asian community.
In April of 2021, I wrote a post surrounding the topic of alcoholism within the Punjabi community. It was well received. Maybe that goes to show how the piece resonated with some. Focussing on the Punjabi community was intentional, given my heritage and what I see around me. However, the issue is a little more widespread among South Asians. According to the British Medical Journal, for every 100 white men dying from alcohol-related causes, there are 160 Asian men dying.[i]
Jitesh Chauhan is from Leicester and is from the Gujrati community. Jitesh, otherwise known as Jit, is the subject of his own documentary called I’m Jit and I’m an Alcoholic. It tells Jit’s story through active addiction, the pains, the trauma and the story of his recovery.
Also included are conversations with people who featured in Jit’s life through the turbulent, but now bright and inspiring, journey. It’s been screened in various locations, with more to follow up and down the county. Some have been followed by Q&As, which Jit says have been successful in getting the community to talk about their addiction. It’s a problem that the community knows exists, but doesn’t necessarily discuss, perhaps through fear of judgement or shame. “ We hide it so much,” he says. “it’s bringing them into a space where they can say what they want to say, without being judged. Because we know what it’s like being judged. I know what it’s like to be judged. We’re there to say it’s OK, rather than stigmatise and shaming people, which our community is very good at.” The judgement manifests in multiple ways, too. “I find that if you don’t drink you’re not seen as a man. And if you have an issue you’re not seen as a man. You can’t really win…our community definitely need to change their mindset and outlook around alcohol.”
Given the taboo nature of the subject within the South Asian community, Jitesh’s story has been received positively. He is even being called upon as a support resource for those suffering from alcohol addiction. During our conversation, he mentions he’s actually travelling down to London to see someone for that very reason. Just to talk to them. The fact that Jit has to take this on himself, which he is more than happy to do, says something about the services on offer to the community. Of course, there are alcoholism support groups out there. Jitesh used them himself and they helped him get to where he is today. But are there are enough support services tailored specifically to the South Asian community? “No, there aren’t,” Jit says with firm conviction. Being able to understand the culture, speak the language, connect on a deeper level is all so important when treating something like this. “I’m from Leicester. It’s the most multi-cultural city and there’s nothing here. They have to be culturally sensitive. If you don’t understand those [cultural traumas] then how are you going to be able to help someone? Trying to find people who can support people in different cities…it’s tough. They aren’t organisations. They’re just a group of people. Funding needs to be available. Racial equity…That’s all we ask for.”
All the lows considered, Jit’s recovery is a brilliantly inspiring story. It’s a story of hope, for anyone that might be looking for it. It’s a story of resilience because recovery is not easy. Most importantly for me, it’s a story of awareness and realisation. The realisation that, as Jitesh says, “You can turn your life around. At your worst times it feels like there’s no one around you, no one to support you and that you can’t do it. But you can.” It’s also a story of the priceless things you can get back. “I’m living the life I was meant to live. Spending time with my family. Enjoying that time. I love myself. I didn’t care about myself. I actually like myself now. That’s a nice thing,” he says as he giggles. The documentary has made Jit a recognisable person in some circles. He admits he’s somewhat of an introvert and so the recognition and attention is something he could happily do without. But he accepts it. The benefit of the recognition is that Jitesh now has a voice. A voice for the community in an area that needs a lot of work. The message he wants to send with that voice is loud and clear. “If you are struggling, really do reach out because life is worth it.”
If you have been impacted by any of what you have read above, please see below for some helpful resources:
www.twitter.com/freeinrecovery - Free In Recovery is a Grassroots peer led recovery support service for those in active addiction, their families and friends. Supporting those from the minority communities.
https://www.bac-in.org/ - BAC-IN is a Nottingham based specialist drug and alcohol recovery service aimed at individuals, families and carers from Black, South Asian and Minority Ethnic communities. A community inspired, grass roots organisation founded in 2003 by individuals in recovery.
www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk - AA is concerned solely with the personal recovery and continued sobriety of individual alcoholics who turn to the Fellowship for help.
https://www.samaritans.org/ - Samaritans offer listening and support to people and communities in times of need. They give people ways to cope and the skills to be there for others, as well as encourage, promote and celebrate those moments of connection between people that can save lives.
https://www.mind.org.uk/ - Mind is a mental health charity who provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. They campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding.
https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/ - Drinkaware provides independent alcohol advice, information and tools to help people make better choices about their drinking.
https://www.taraki.co.uk/ - Taraki work with Punjabi communities to improve access to mental health awareness, education, social supports, and research through culturally safe activities to better care for themselves and one-another.
https://sikhyourmind.com/ - Sikh Your Mind aims to increase awareness of mental health difficulties in the Sikh community.
https://asranow.ca/ - Asra Now is a Punjabi Alcohol Resource and acts as a starting point for Punjabi families who struggle with alcohol use and are seeking help for themselves or a loved one.
FOLLOW JITESH ONLINE
TWITTER – www.twitter.com/@Jit_Chauhan
KEEP UP TO DATE WITH THIS BLOG ON INSTAGRAM
FOR THE FULL CONVERSATION, ACCESS THE AUDIO VERSION BY CLICKING HERE> AND DOWNLOAD FROM WHEREVER YOU GET YOUR PODCASTS.
OR, SEARCH FOR "LONDON WRITING GUY" ON YOUR PREFERRED PODCAST PLATFORM.