My mother’s battle with drug addiction in Pakistan


Al Jazeera: July 4, 2016

She was Pakistan’s first female maxillofacial surgeon. After decades of substance abuse, is she on the road to recovery?

Karachi, Pakistan –  Before I saw my mother in May, I had been dreading the meeting. I had no idea what to expect.

She was angry and resentful the last time I saw her. She had been cloistered inside a rehabilitation facility in Karachi since late 2015 and was fiercely resisting treatment. Soon after she arrived, her team of carers – a psychiatrist, the founders of the rehabilitation centre and her “psychological rehabilitation person” – had wanted to change tack and cut off all contact with the family.

She has to feel that there is no way out of here except through us, they said.

She was furious at the bind she found herself in – admitted to the facility by her family, and unable to voluntarily opt out of the programme. She wanted to leave and couldn’t understand why we wouldn’t allow it. It isn’t her first stint in rehab, but it is the first place where she cannot bully, argue or sweet-talk her way out. There are guards at the gate here.

I am told to wait in a conference room on the ground floor. A woman walks down the stairs. There’s a shaft of afternoon sunlight at her back and I can’t make out her face. But she has the shuffling, slow gait that I know well – her feet drag with each step, her head droops.

I brace myself. But then the woman moves out of the light and I see that it’s not her.

When my mother does appear, the first thing I notice are her high, full cheekbones. Last time, they were anchored by puffiness. I’m surprised by the significant amount of weight she has lost.

“How are you?” she asks, as she reaches out for a hug. It’s a simple question, but not one that she has asked in a very long time. Her hair is combed. She wears berry-coloured lipstick. Her clothes are clean and ironed.

She sits beside me at the table and leans forward.

“You’re looking very nice,” she says. “Your hair has grown so much!”

Has it? I am embarrassed by the attention. You look nice too, I tell her bashfully.

“How is your work at the magazine?” she prompts.

“I stopped working at the magazine in 2011,” I remind her. She pauses. The hair, the job – she remembers me as I was five years ago.

Full story here

Author: Sanam Maher

Karachi-based journalist and author My work has appeared in Al Jazeera, The Caravan Magazine, Buzzfeed, Scroll, Women in the World, British Film Institute’s Sight & Sound, Boat magazine, The Express Tribune, Herald, Daily Times, The Friday Times and Newsweek Pakistan. My first book, The Sensational Life & Death of Qandeel Baloch is out in South Asia now, and the UK in 2019. You can find me on Twitter @SanamMKhi Or follow me on Instagram @topbastard

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