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Alcoholism is viewed differently by different people, says Pooja Bhatt. Some say that it’s a medical problem, some think that it’s psychological while others attribute it to moral weakness. But the truth is that it’s very real, and not enough people talk about it.
“I want to bust the stigma attached to alcoholism in our country. Women particularly are discouraged from seeking help because it’s a matter of shame for the family. We don’t share our pain or frailties, we cover our weaknesses and it becomes a cancer,” she said in an interview with Mumbai Mirror.
She recalls that a text from her father had her reevaluating her entire life and made her take the first step towards quitting alcohol. Without alluding to her problem, Mahesh Bhatt had responded to her “I love you” with “If you love me then love yourself because I live in you.”
This was right before Christmas and Pooja chalks the fact that she went to bed early and sober on Christmas night as her first victory.
“Alcohol is comforting, it colours your evening. It’s a socially accepted narcotic even at business lunches and in the boardroom. Also, living in a fast-paced city, being in a high-stress profession, it becomes a reason to celebrate and cope with failure. Your film is a hit, you bathe in champagne, it flops, a single malt lessens the pain,” she said.
After her 10-year old marriage ended, she didn’t spend any time to mourn it and moved on, admittedly with the help of alcohol. The world cheered her perseverance and spirit but she called it a ‘whirlwind of hedonism’. “I was born to a man who has never done anything in half measures and I inherited that. So when I drank, I drank copiously. Your appetite increases even as the alcohol does terrible things to your body, clutters your mind and colours your judgement of the people you’re hanging out with,” she said.
“Being the daughter of an alcoholic makes you four times more susceptible to becoming one,” she said, describing how the effect alcoholism had on her parents’ marriage served as a wake-up call and helped her acknowledge the fact that she, too, was an alcoholic.
She didn’t rely on Acoholics Anonymous for recovery as she claims she had a strong support system in her family and friends, but she admits that such institutions are very necessary,“There are many who want you to fail. Strangers are more supportive than some of your own because your battle makes them realise that they have failed.”
It’s been 68 days since she’s had a drink and the fact that she didn’t reach for a bottle of champagne when her sister Alia Bhatt won the Filmfare Best Actress Award is a sure sign that she’s on the right path, she declared.