Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The brutality of alcohol as seen through the lens of personal experiences

Right from my early childhood, I had seen people heavily drinking and often fighting amongst themselves, but I had never been exposed to the brutality of alcoholism until I was 9 years old. I was in Wangdue Phodrang hospital undergoing treatment for ocular infections when I got familiar with a man on the adjacent bed who was admitted for liver cirrhosis. I heard that doctors and nurses had strongly advised him never to take alcohol again. He was a very outgoing and cheerful man. Whenever his family-members brought him homemade food, he used to share it with me and my father. I can still remember the delicious fish curry and rice he had once shared with me after some of his relatives visited him.

I could notice that he was responding well to medication and he was gradually getting better. But all his hopes for a new life suddenly snapped off when he relapsed one night. He had allegedly managed to sneak in a bottle of alcohol which some fellow-patients had seen him hiding under his pillow. Early in the morning on the following day, I woke up to an atmosphere of commotion and confusion in the room. I could hear someone vomiting profusely and the smell of fresh blood had filled the air. I could also hear nurses and hospital staff talking and rushing around. I asked my father what was going on and he told me that the man on the adjacent bed was vomiting blood. Within minutes, he was declared dead. The hospital confirmed that the man had died of liver cirrhosis caused by alcoholism. As the room began to get crowded with people who had come to get his body, I could hear some women crying and weeping. Although I was too young to feel the pain his loved ones were going through, I felt sad that I lost someone who had become my best companion within a short period of time.

The memory of that painful day re-surfaced a couple of weeks ago when I had to witness one of my cousin brothers fighting for his life in JDW National Referral Hospital in Thimphu. I had not known that he had become a chronic alcoholic at such a young age and that he was already hospitalized a couple of times in the past for alcohol-related complications. I was told that when he was last discharged from the hospital, he was warned that if he drank again, it would be his death warrant. But despite several such warnings and advices from his loved ones, he could not quit drinking. It was only a matter of few months before he had to be brought back to hospital for more serious complications. This time, his belly had dangerously swollen up and he was coughing blood. When I and my wife went to see him in the hospital, he was almost lifeless. The doctors had informed his attendants that his liver was completely damaged and that there was nothing the hospital could do to bring him back. Even his urine and tears had turned yellow due to jaundice that had been caused by liver cirrhosis. It was really painful to see someone in such a pathetic situation. After a couple of days, one of my cousin sisters called me and informed me that the patient was being relieved from the hospital and asked me to come to bid him a final goodbye. When I and my wife reached the hospital, the atmosphere in the room was already filled with pain and sadness. As I sat beside the patient and talked to him, I could not imagine the pain of having to lose such a young soul to what is considered a preventable death. As a counsellor and a relative, I felt so sad that I could not reach him on time. The thought that he could have been saved if he had got professional support on time still haunts me. All the family members felt that if he had valued their advice, the story would have been different today. He was taken to his parental home in Samtse the next day where he breathed his last after three days. He was only 30.

What I have learned now is that alcohol is the deadliest killer. It slowly takes over your life and brutally murders you at the end. And when you die, people don’t seem to give you as much love and respect as they give to somebody who has died under other circumstances. The society sees alcoholism as a choice you have made at your own free will and that you had enough opportunities to come out of it. This is the most painful reality we have to go through if we become alcoholics. Even if we can’t completely get rid of it, we should at least learn how to drink responsibly. This life is too precious to be drunk to death.


  1. Hi sir, yes it is true and I hope that people will get your message and stop drinking heavily.
    It's really a good reminder to all.

    1. Thank you so much. Please do share so that it can reach out to a larger audience la...