I’m Vikram, a person in long-term recovery. I have been surrendered to a new way of life without alcohol or other drugs continuously since April 12, 2002.
Born in Hyderabad, India in 1977, I grew up in America starting just before my second birthday, when I immigrated to America with my parents. Until the end of my freshman year of high school, we lived in Woodbridge, New Jersey, and then moved to Alexandria, Virginia. I was a high-achiever, and had skipped two grades of school. Preparing to go to college, I went to visit my cousin, a sophomore at MIT. There, I took my first drink, and it immediately evolved into a 72-hour binge-drinking episode of which I recall little. The next ten years occurred in Durham, where I went to college at Duke University until I failed out at age 19. Then, living with my parents in McLean, Virginia and then in Manhattan in the first dotcom boom era of the late 1990s where I enjoyed some really exciting opportunities and the fact that bars didn’t close until 4am every night.
I got into recovery through the Collegiate Recovery Program (CRP) at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ and as a result I have been substance-free since April 12, 2002, when I was 25. Now at 38 years old, I am so grateful to have celebrated 13 years of continuous recovery a few weeks ago, proud of whom I am and what I stand for as a person publicly in long-term recovery.
On my journey, I have had both tragedies and triumphs as well as trials and transformations occur in every area of my life. The gift is that I have been able to be present for it all to the best of my ability. I am clear today that bringing the lessons, joys, possibilities and benefits of recovery to as many people as possible, to everyone who needs or wants it, is my primary mission in life.
I am extraordinarily blessed and supported to be able to work each day doing this in a number of ways. The journey hasn’t been easy, and at times, it can still feel very difficult. This keeps me humble. The journey is only ever a day at a time, and requires constant care and commitment, gentleness and generosity, effort and easefulness.
For me, stopping the substance use was just the beginning of my journey. Letting go of the substances was, for me, the most obvious aspect of a much deeper set of learning and healing that needed to occur. Putting the alcohol and other drugs down was necessary to begin to address these challenges in myself, and to support others in doing likewise in every single possible way they need.
I do this work because of the example of four women in my life. The first is my late grandmother, my father’s mother, who along with my grandfather was my primary caregiver my first two years of life in India. Next is my mother who raised my brother and me with unfailing devotion and love. They brought me back from the brink when my addiction was at its worst, when I was 19, and again at 24. Next is my first recovery counselor at Rutgers who gently guided me and loved me out of the darkest hours of my life into a life of recovery, healing and transformation over the three years I was part of the Rutgers Recovery program. Lastly, my spiritual teacher, Amma, whom I first met in 2008. Her message of unconditional love and service to all is manifested in every day of her life, traveling the world, hugging and blessing millions of people with the love of the Divine Mother, and carrying out humanitarian works in this spirit.
Sraddha is an Indian word also often translated as diligence or faith. It is the quality these four women most embody. Sraddha is also the name of the cookbook my grandmother wrote for her grandkids when I asked her to share her wisdom with us in a journal on her 75th birthday.
When asked what is the key to life, Amma says, “Love is the answer, love is the way.” Asked what is the most important practice, she says “Sraddha, which is the alertness that arises naturally from love, like how a mother knows in an instant of a baby’s cry what he needs.” Today, I try very imperfectly to honor the women who have provided the guidance and care that has given me life, and, whenever I am troubled, to remember – love is the answer and sraddha is the way.