My name is Jaz Rai and I am a recovering alcoholic…

My name is Jaz Rai and I am a recovering alcoholic. My background is I am from a Panjabi Sikh family and have 2 sisters and a brother. Our parents bought us up with good morals, values and kept us connected to our Sikh faith.  Although my father also struggled with alcoholism none of my siblings had any issues with alcohol despite being exposed to the same environment with my dad.

I started drinking at the age of 17 and by the age of 26, I was a full-blown alcoholic and struggled to function daily without alcohol daily.

My drinking like many others caused those who loved me the most a lot of pain and misery and they could not understand why I was drinking, even when I was asked “why are you drinking?” I could never answer. Despite having several seizures, hospital detoxes, and 3 drink driving convictions I still could not stop drinking or understand why I was so addicted to alcohol.

The physical dependency I had with alcohol bought me to my rock bottom in July 2008 when I got caught drink driving for the third time. The alcohol had mentally and physically bought me to my knees. The guilt, shame and self-pity I carried around with me, constantly blocking the reality I had to face. At the time I was a committee member at the main Sikh Temple in Derby and involved with mainstream politics and standing for councillor. This made it even harder for me to stop drinking, fearing people will be judging me and being ostracised by my own community.

In January 2009 I remember waking up at my sister’s house and realised the chaos and turmoil my drinking had caused me and my loved ones. For the first time I was fed up of my life and wanted to change. My las drink was on January 30th 2009 and I have never drank since.

I was introduced to a culturally empathic group called Bac-In, from Nottingham in March 2009, here I was told about the fellowship of AA and the 12-step programme and how to live a life without alcohol and enjoy life.

I learned acceptance and I was powerless over the drink and I needed to change my way of thinking and had my will over to God and put my trust in all my affairs with him. For me learning to live with myself for who I am was most important and stop people pleasing and to live life on life’s terms. Today I have the tools to cope with life and forget the past and not to project into the future and live in the moment.

In my recovery I have been blessed to do some amazing things, thing I never imagined I’d ever do. In 2010 I co-created the Khanda Poppy, I was given the opportunity to present and host my own show on the Sikh Channel “Alcohol and Beyond”. 2015 saw me go to the United Nations in New York and represent The Sikh Human Rights Group on a 3-day drugs conference. In 2016 the first Recovery meeting in a Gurdwara (Sikh Temple) took place at the Guru Arjan Dev Gurdwara Derby and still runs today, offering addicts the opportunity to share their challenges around alcohol and drug addiction with likeminded people from the same cultural and religious backgrounds. 2016 also saw “Sikh Recovery Network” being launched, offering a cultural and faith cantered approach to recovery. This is now a registered charity. Similar recovery meetings have also been facilitated in other major cities up and down the country.

March 2020 saw the Sikh Recovery Network being recognised by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and 10 Downing Street for the work they had been doing helping people in the community with alcohol and drug issues.

I believe these opportunities have only been possible because of my recovery, I am eternally grateful to the fellowship of AA and my peers for helping me on a daily basis do something I can’t do on my own, Stay Sober.

Having the ability to take responsibility for my own actions today is something I never thought I could do. It has been challenging to make amends and repair relationships, but it has been worth it and an empowering experience for me and my family.

I realise my self-worth today and grateful to God I can be of service to others. I have enjoyed many gifts in Recovery but not nothing beats being able to be a son to my mother, husband to my wife and above all a father to my 2 children who have and always will be my inspiration.

Recovery is a journey and I will be on this journey till I breathe my last breath.