When I lost my dad to alcohol use disorder, I remember thinking nobody would get it, nobody would understand. I remember feeling isolated, alone, and responsible for his death. The guilt was all too consuming.
When I decided to speak out about how he died, I did so by sharing our story on the TEDX platform where I shared my big idea on how the stigma attached to alcohol addiction was partly responsible for his death. That was the moment I announced it to the world - it weren't a heart attack that killed him, it was alcohol use disorder.
That was the catalyst for my journey of discovering thousands - literally thousands - of people who have experienced the same as me. There is a community of people who understand like I do.
I had people who I knew come up to me telling me about their experience with alcohol addiction, whether it was them affected or a loved one. Speaking up validated everyone else's feelings and gave them permission to speak back. It's like we all speak a language that only we understand.
It's true that everybody knows somebody affected, that's why it is such a huge issue, and yet we mostly stay silent, afraid of disclosing a big family secret, afraid of being disloyal, afraid of judgement.
When I first lost my dad, the grief was suffocating. I had no idea how to navigate life without him. For a long time, I isolated myself, unwilling to face the pain and unwilling to talk about it. But eventually I realised I couldn't carry the burden alone. I had hit rock bottom - I was either going to drown in the depths of grief or I was going to reach out my hand and ask for help.
So I started talking. First to close friends, then to wider family, then on social media. Slowly my community began to grow. I found people who had walked this road too. It was like a powerful ripple effect, and I often started to hear "I know how you feel" or "My loved one was an alcoholic too".
I wasn't alone. My dad's death from alcoholism was tragic but it was not unique. There were people all around me who had experienced the same loss, the same pain, the same guilt. We cried together. We raged together. We understood each other in a way nobody else could. The more we talked, the lighter the load became.
I wish we didn't have this shared bond. I wish with all my heart that addiction didn't run rampant in our society, leaving damaged lives and grieving loved ones in its wake. But since it does, my mission now is to speak up and speak out. If my story can help just one person feel less alone on their journey, then every word is worth it.
Addiction thrives in secrecy and silence. It wants us to feel ashamed. When you peel back the layers, underneath is grief begging to be released.