The lights around me slowly came into focus, and my head hurt. I shut my eyes and opened them again, desperately trying to fathom where I was. There was a bar, friends and lots of vodkas straight from the bottle; that’s all I could remember. Gosh, I am lying on the street. Where is everyone else? Is that the front door of my house in the distance? I need to get home. Why is the front door not opening? Let me break in and deal with the consequences later.
After some time…
Oops, this is not my house. I hope no one heard me trying to break in.
Wait. Ah, my house is in that direction. How did I even think the previous house was mine? I need to sleep. I can’t wait to get home; no cab in sight. I’ll have to walk it. Gosh, my head hurts.
This was a classic vignette from Vincent’s life, and such incidents of being wasted and blacking out after drinking alcohol littered his life for more than 20 years. Many a time, more than he would like to remember, he would pass out in various places after binge drinking. Not being able to handle the quantity of alcohol, he often found himself stranded on desolate roads overnight after completely blacking out, with no recollection of how he got there or what he did in between.
Table of Contents
- 1. Beginning of the problem of alcohol abuse in his teenage years
- 2. Reasons why Vincent’s alcohol use disorder increased
- 3. Examples of situations that unfolded in Vincent’s life due to his alcohol use disorder
- 4. Emotional support from his wife
- 5. How Spirituality helped Vincent treat his alcohol use disorder
- 6. Completely overcoming alcohol addiction
1. Beginning of the problem of alcohol abuse in his teenage years
It all started when he was 15. Vincent was born in Brussels, and in his teenage years, he played for a hockey team. Drinking alcohol was common for the players, and they would consume alcohol 2 to 3 times a week. One to two times a week, they would drink heavily. Initially, peer pressure led Vincent to try alcohol, but very soon, he found himself enjoying drinking. He shared that once he began drinking alcohol, he could never restrain himself to 1 to 2 drinks. The desire for alcohol was overpowering, and as he liked it, he did not feel the need to fight it much. At student pubs, alcohol could be got at a subsidised rate; for instance, for half a Euro, one could get a beer, so this encouraged students to indulge in addictive behaviour, sometimes drinking as much as 14-15 beers in one night !
This set Vincent on a path of developing an alcohol use disorder, where he would invariably find himself in many a drunken stupor. He recalls, “In 2001 while studying in Vienna, we took the train to the mountains with a large group of students. Having drank the whole train journey, I can barely recall arriving at the destination and continued drinking at the hotel bar until others had to carry me to my room.”
2. Reasons why Vincent’s alcohol use disorder increased
Vincent with his mother
Vincent’s dependence on alcohol only increases after graduating from his university. After completing his education in Belgium, where he did his Master’s in Finance, at the age of 22 years, Vincent moved to Singapore as his mother lived there. His father was in Belgium as his parents were divorced. Vincent started working in the Finance sector as a management consultant, which required him to travel extensively.
The alcohol abuse continued, and he regularly visited pubs in Singapore. Vincent recalls, “When I arrived in Singapore, I found the nightlife fascinating as we would always meet people from all over the world. I also enjoyed making new friends and exploring various cities at night. When going out, I would know where I was planning to start the night. But I had no idea where I would be at the end, and I loved this feeling of freedom and adventure as the night progressed.”
Vincent was naturally shy, and he would drink several glasses of alcohol at a time to break the serious work mood and overcome his shyness in socialising. This would help him to loosen up and be entertaining to others. However, there was a downside. In Vincent’s words, “So I would drink and would keep drinking thinking that it will make me appear more fun to others. But I would almost always overdo it and could never stop in time. As a result, it was common for me to pass out in nightclubs; I would fall asleep, and nothing could wake me up. I sometimes had several hours of blackouts where I had no idea what I had done the night before. People often told me the following day about the embarrassing things I did. Strangers would come up and greet me, and I could never recall meeting them as I had actually met them when I was in an intoxicated state.”
Vincent’s addiction to alcohol continued to grow. Looking back, he said, “In my first years in Singapore, there was not a single week where I did not hit the bars and clubs. My weekly social routine was Friday and Saturday nights in the clubs; Sunday was partying on the beach, which would end late, leaving me quite drunk on Sunday night. I would feel horrible every Monday morning. I would only start to recover by Tuesday, get some work productivity on Wednesday and with the regained energy, I would again go out at night on Wednesday as it was ladies’ night in the whole city on that day (ladies would get free drinks at most bars and clubs). This went on for years, to the point that I was completing all my work for the week in only 3-4 days due to being unable to think properly the day after a night out. Later too, when I had my own business, I would sometimes come to work at 1 pm due to being hung over.”
3. Examples of situations that unfolded in Vincent’s life due to his alcohol use disorder
The following are some incidents over the years which show the effect of alcohol abuse on Vincent’s life.
- I went on a 10-day binge in Shanghai, a 7-day binge in Vietnam, where I lost a phone and woke up in strange places. Other cities where this happened were Boracay in the Philippines, Shenzhen in China, Hong Kong, and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia (to name a few). My friends and I would regularly organise party trips every 3-4 weeks to our favourite locations, which were Jakarta, Bangkok and Bali. We would sleep much of the day and become alive only at night. I thought this was life. While I was thrifty on my workdays, counting how much I spent in the hope of saving money, I became a different person at night, spending without restraint. As my income increased, so did my spending on alcohol, so I was saving little in my early working years. Initially, I would drink beer and wine, but later, with increased financial capacity, I was drinking fine whisky as well.
- In 2005, on a work training trip in Spain, I drank so much that I could not recall what had happened and fell several times on the floor (breaking my digital camera).
- In 2007 at the wedding of my father’s second marriage, I drank so much that I passed out during dinner time. When I awoke, I went straight to dinner with 50 people. A belly dancer was there; I confidently walked up to her and danced with her in front of my entire family. Ordinarily, I would be totally unable to do this as I am a poor dancer. I felt it was not me, and yet there was a part of me that enjoyed being able to do this.
- Around 2008, while on the way for a beach trip to Malaysia, I drank so much on the bus and boat that I passed out on the beach for hours as soon as we reached the island. On that same island, I have woken up on different occasions in different places.
- In 2010, while on holiday with a friend from Belgium in Phi Phi Island, Thailand, we were dancing on the beach when I had a sudden fit of anger, and I tore my shirt. This extent of anger was totally unlike me. After that, I felt totally drained and had to rest for an hour on a bench.
- In 2011, at a family gathering in Belgium, I drank so much that I could not speak French and started talking in English to family members.
- In June 2011, when I was in Tokyo, Japan, after drinking heavily with a friend living there, my friend left me alone in the Roppongi area, which had a busy nightlife. Not deterred by this, I continued exploring the area by myself. The next day I could not recall much of what happened. I had some flashbacks of being in a bar (talking to some lady working there), the bar owner wanting to charge me a lot of money for the company, and then the bouncer at the bar taking me by force to an ATM to withdraw money. I also lost my phone, but luckily, I could make it to my friend’s home early in the morning with a handwritten note in my wallet.
- Once, in a nightclub in Hong Kong in 2016, while dancing, I felt an entity speaking through me to the lady friend in front of me. I opened my eyes and uncontrollably told her she was fat. This got me in trouble.
- Once, at a party in a villa in Singapore, I went into a trance, and I perceived that I was a British man on a boat at sea in the 1900s or so. I was speaking with a perfect English accent. It was a very vivid and weird experience.
- Sometimes, in a drunken state, I would perceive subtle entities in the room. They would not harm me, but I could feel their presence watching me.
- Also, I observed that when I did not drink alcohol, I would experience bouts of anger. In contrast, when I drank alcohol, I would become softer and calmer.
- Besides drinking alcohol, I smoked about ten cigarettes a day or roughly half a pack. Despite smoking regularly, somehow, my mind was in a state of denial as I considered myself a non-smoker. I also used to think that I would stop smoking only when I am addicted to smoking, which is a contradiction.
4. Emotional support from his wife
Vincent with his wife, Isabella
Vincent got married to Isabella in 2013. Isabella was accepting of his alcohol abuse disorder and was very caring. Whilst the blackouts continued because of the drinking, Isabella tried to help him and be there for him. There were instances where he drank till the wee hours of the morning in front of her friends and lost his wallet. After some binge drinking incidents, Vincent would get the thought for one or two days that he should stop, but soon enough, the urge to continue drinking would overpower him, and the addictive behaviour would continue.
Ironically, the alcohol also helped their relationship. This is because on the days that Vincent did not drink, he was reserved and often was irritated about something or the other, and when he would drink, he would open up to Isabella and would communicate more. They had their first child Moon in 2014.
Vincent with his daughter Moon
In 2015, something told him intuitively, and he mentioned to Isabella that he would one day leave everything – alcohol, smoking and much more.
5. How Spirituality helped Vincent treat his alcohol use disorder
In 2016, Vincent started to get interested in past life regression, and in December 2016, he came across the SSRF.org website. Here, he read about the root causes of addictions (specifically the spiritual root causes) and how drinking alcohol can attract negative entities. He did not want to get affected and attacked by negative entities because of his drinking habit. Vincent internally felt that what was mentioned on the SSRF.org website was the truth.
Vincent started putting into practice what he had learnt on the SSRF.org website about overcoming addictions. He started chanting the Shri Gurudev Datta chant and doing Salt Water Treatment, and he started feeling that his urge to drink alcohol started reducing. For example, he noticed that he would generally drink two pints of beer on a regular family outing, but now he would just be satisfied with one beer. He also attended satsangs organised by SSRF online. He read the website avidly and read about problems due to departed ancestors. Vincent then applied to attend the MAV 5-Day spiritual workshop in Goa, India. MAV stands for Maharshi Adhyatma Vishwavidyalay (also known as Maharshi University of Spirituality) located in Goa, India.
Vincent attended the first 5 Days MAV workshop and met Paratpar Guru (Dr) Athavale
However, 2 to 3 weeks before the workshop, the urge to drink had almost stopped due to the spiritual practices he was undertaking. Just before the MAV 5-Day spiritual workshop, Vincent and Isabella visited a resort in Goa, India, for a few days. A courtesy bottle of wine was also provided as part of the holiday package. Vincent ordered the wine out of habit, but when he put it in his mouth, he spat it out. It seemed as if he had lost the taste for any alcohol. After attending the 5-Day spiritual workshop, he never touched alcohol again. He did not experience any alcohol withdrawal symptoms nor did he experience any relapses of alcohol abuse.
6. Completely overcoming alcohol addiction
Experiencing the benefits of spiritual practice in overcoming his addictions, both Vincent and Isabella continued to practise Spirituality under the guidance of SSRF. Vincent is very regular and is committed to self-improvement and spiritual growth. He has become an advocate for the importance of including Spirituality in one’s life. At a personal level, he is experiencing peace and stability of mind and he has found that his relationship with his loved ones has improved immensely.
Paratpar Guru Dr Athavale meeting Vincent’s family