Courtesy: Dawn News/AFP
The cricket commentator said his dependence ended after the death of his first wife in 2009.
Writing an autobiography is a daunting task, especially if you choose to reveal parts of yourself that are difficult to confront even by yourself. In his upcoming book Sultan: A Memoir, Wasim Akram has decided to pen it all down for the sake of his children. He wants his side of things out there even if the topic is as personal as dealing with a cocaine addiction.
The former cricketer retired in 2003 after 18 years of playing internationally. He stayed within the orbit of the cricketing world though — his career transitioned to cricket commentator and coach. He continued to travel the world on assignments. According to ESPN, the cocaine habit followed his retirement when he started to crave “a substitute for the adrenaline rush of competition”, and ended after the death of his first wife Huma in 2009.
Akram opened up about the matter in his book and an interview to The Times. “I liked to indulge myself; I liked to party,” he wrote. “The culture of fame in south Asia is all consuming, seductive and corrupting. You can go to 10 parties a night, and some do. And it took its toll on me. My devices turned into vices.
“Worst of all, I developed a dependence on cocaine. It started innocuously enough when I was offered a line at a party in England; my use grew steadily more serious, to the point that I felt I needed it to function.”
Akram said cocaine use made him “volatile” and “deceptive”. He felt that his wife at the time, Huma, often felt lonely. “She would talk of her desire to move to Karachi, to be nearer her parents and siblings. I was reluctant. Why? Partly because I liked going to Karachi on my own, pretending it was work when it was actually about partying, often for days at a time.”
Eventually, she found out about his substance abuse, discovering a packet of cocaine in his wallet. “‘You need help.’ I agreed. It was getting out of hand. I couldn’t control it. One line would become two, two would become four; four would become a gram, a gram would become two. I could not sleep. I could not eat. I grew inattentive to my diabetes, which caused me headaches and mood swings. Like a lot of addicts, part of me welcomed discovery: the secrecy had been exhausting,” he said.
Akram sought help and went into rehab but the experience ended up being an unpleasant one. “The doctor was a complete conman, who worked primarily on manipulating families rather than treating patients, on separating relatives from money rather than users from drugs,” he wrote. The commentator ended up relapsing.
“Try as I might, part of me was still smouldering inside about the indignity of what I’d been put through. My pride was hurt, and the lure of my lifestyle remained. I briefly contemplated divorce. I settled for heading to the 2009 ICC Champions Trophy where, out from under Huma’s daily scrutiny, I started using again,” he said. Things took a turn after Huma’s death in October 2009 from a rare fungal infection called mucormycosis. Akram stopped using cocaine.
“Huma’s last selfless, unconscious act was curing me of my drug problem. That way of life was over, and I have never looked back.”
The former cricketer married Shaniera Akram in 2013 and has three children — two sons from his first marriage and a daughter from his second. He told The Times that he wrote his book for his children.
“I’m a bit anxious about the book,” he said, “but I think once it is out, I’ll be kind of over it. I’m anxious because at my age, I’m 56 and I’ve been diabetic for 25 years, it is just stress, you know… it was tough to revisit all the things. I’ve done it for my two boys, who are 25 and 21, and my seven-year-old daughter, just to put my side of the story.”
LONDON: Pakistan cricket legend Wasim Akram says it took the death of his first wife Huma to spark him into finally kicking his addiction to cocaine which had replaced the thrill of playing when he retired.
Wasim, a key member of the Pakistan side that won the 1992 World Cup told the Sunday Times it was Huma who “found me out” and advised him to seek help.
However, that did not work, Wasim said in an interview to promote his new autobiography “Sultan: A Memoir”, because “the doctor was a complete con man” and he returned to taking cocaine.
It took Huma’s death aged just 42 in October 2009 to finally persuade him to give it up.
Wasim said “the culture of fame in south Asia is all-consuming, seductive and corrupting” and he fell into that trap after he retired in 2003.
“It was a substitute for the adrenaline rush of competition, which I sorely missed, or to take advantage of the opportunity, which I had never had. My devices turned into vices.”
The 56-year-old former pacer said he first took cocaine when he was offered some at a party in England.
“My use grew steadily more serious, to the point that I felt I needed it to function,” he said.
Huma lived between England and Lahore with their two sons, Tahmoor and Akbar, but felt isolated as Wasim’s media commitments took him all over the world.
“It (cocaine) made me volatile,” he said.
“It made me deceptive. Huma, I know, was often lonely in this time . . . she would talk of her desire to move to Karachi, to be nearer her parents and siblings.
“I was reluctant. Why? Partly because I liked going to Karachi on my own, pretending it was work when it was actually about partying, often for days at a time.”
Wasim agreed with Huma he needed help after her “discovering a packet of cocaine in my wallet.”
“I couldn’t control it,” he said. “Four (lines) would become a gram, a gram would become two.
“I could not sleep. I could not eat. I grew inattentive to my diabetes, which caused me headaches and mood swings.”