When I first discovered there was an entire sober community on Instagram I was ecstatic. Mostly because the last time I stopped drinking the only sober people I met were the ones from a local support group I attended. And as nice as they were, there were no real connections made.
This time around I had to do things differently, because not only were we in a global pandemic but I was also out of the country. I didn’t actually intend to go looking for support or to make sober friends it kind of just happened. I remember stumbling across a post a friend of mine had shared about sobriety and with one click I was down the sober instagram rabbit hole.
And it was incredible. People were sharing their journey’s more openly compared to the groups I’d attended before. Perhaps it was the safety of being able to hide behind a keyboard, who knows? It didn’t matter because it was wonderful. People from all backgrounds; Parents, teachers, doctors, granny’s, 20 something’s, people from the LGBTQ community. From the sober curious to the sober veterans there were thousands…but what I didn’t see were any brown faces. As in I didn’t see any Asian females. Not one.
Now, when I say Asian I mean people originating from the Indian subcontinent. I myself am British but both my parents were born in India. At first I didn’t think much of it as I found plenty of people to connect with. I literally had a sober friend to cover every emotional base; happy, funny, sad, angry, scared, confused. You name it, there was someone who understood what you were feeling and why you were feeling it. But I couldn’t find anyone who could relate to the cultural side of things and that made me sad.
I didn’t grow up in a particularly strict Indian household, but I know people that did and I know very well what it means to be Indian and female even in today’s society. I had more freedom than most girls my age but drinking although not forbidden was frowned upon in certain situations. Especially any situation that involved socialising with your parents and their friends.
Good Indian girls don’t drink?
It got me to thinking about the secrets girls would keep from their parents when I was younger just so they could go out drinking with their friends. And then I realised that it didn’t get much better for most Asian women in their adult life. You see, drinking alcohol is something good Indian girls/wives/mothers don’t do…not openly anyway. They don’t behave in that way, they would never bring shame on their family like that. This is the very sad and real truth in a lot of Indian households in the UK.
Indian females, especially those in their 30s and 40s are kind of stuck in this weird place between their parents who were most likely 1st generation immigrants, and their own children who they are bringing up to have more freedom and autonomy over their own lives. We understand what it means to be mindful of our heritage and uphold traditions whilst also living in a diverse and modern society where patriarchal systems and gender based inequality are not allowed (even if they do still exist). What I’ve found is my generation are the ones who have experienced a lot of firsts and have often had to lead the way when it comes to breaking barriers.
So if this means I have to lead the way when it comes to opening up about alcohol addiction and sobriety, so be it. Because I cannot be the only Asian female out there who has had a problem with alcohol consumption. For me the sneaky drinking came at a later stage but for most Asian women sneaky is how it started. So if you are already hiding the fact you drink, how do you even begin to deal with the fact your cheeky glass of wine of an evening has turned into a whole bottle…or two?!
I think this is a really challenging topic and I can’t imagine it’s something that’s going to get talked about openly for some time. But I’m willing to start the conversation and I’m hoping others out there will join it.
Written by Shaena Jasmat
Shaena Jasmat is a mindset and empowerment coach helping women reconnect with their inner guidance system and live a more fulfilled life. Having struggled with her mental health and alcohol for over 15 years, she took her life from a series of rock bottoms to one of possibility and dreams after she gave up alcohol for good in February 2020. Her passion is helping women let go of their past so they can live fully in the present and build a kick ass future! Follow Shaena on Instagram at @shaena_kaseyjay.