Miguel Arias Sanchez
HAVANA TIMES — It’s hard for rum to be missing in Cuba. Even in times of severe crisis, the only things you can easily find at state-run establishments are rum and cigarettes. Private businesses also find a way to always have alcoholic drinks on their menus. It’s common to find a hardened alcoholic in many families. Alfredo Perez Rios, Apululu to those who know him (because of Panfilo’s program), began drinking when he was very young.
HT: How did you start?
APR: In reality, it was the result of general revelry. I spent nearly all my time with a group of friends who would go out and drink from time to time, and I began to enter this world. It’s normal; if your friends smoke, you smoke, if they drink, you start drinking, even if it’s just out of curiosity. I liked it and got hooked.
HT: How old were you when that happened? What did your parents say?
APR: I was 24 or 25 years old. In the beginning, they used to argue with me every day. They didn’t let me breathe. Until I left home one day.
HT: Where did you go?
APR: I would move around to the homes of some of my friends. I stayed with one of them one day, with another one another day. That’s how I lived. And of course, as nobody was giving me a hard time anymore, I was happy, calm, and could drink whatever I wanted.
HT: How do you get by? Do you have a stable job?
APR: No, I didn’t even finish adult education, that is to say, I didn’t even pass 9th grade. I do odd jobs. If somebody wants to clean their garden, have their garbage thrown out, someone to do the errands, anything people need, that’s what I do and they give me something in return. I also collect raw materials and sell it to the State: aluminum cans, bottles, etc. I find a way to get by, I’m not a burden to anyone. Everyone says that I am helpful and respectful. If I’m given 20 pesos to buy something, I always hand back the exact change because that isn’t my money. I receive the payment for my service afterwards. That’s how I live.
HT: What do you drink?
APR: Whatever pops up. Sometimes, people give me nice presents, but if they don’t… whatever there is.
HT: And doesn’t that harm you?
APR: Of course it does, but not having anything to drink harms me even more. That’s when I go mad.
HT: You have a son, do you live with him?
APR: Yes, a boy who loves me a great deal. He lives with his mother, I go to see him at his home.
HT: How does he receive you?
APR: As you can imagine, if I turn up without having drunk anything then he receives me really well, but if I turn up drunk, he rejects me, he criticizes me and tells me to go sleep it off. I understand him.
HT: What have the consequences of drinking been for you? Are you aware that it’s bad for you?
APR: Yes, of course, I’ve seen it with my own two eyes. Look, I lost my house, my marriage, nearly all my friends, my reputation in the neighborhood, everything. I lose something or someone every day. Of course I realize this, but what can I do?
HT: Why don’t you stop?
APR: It isn’t that simple. I’ve tried many a time, but I can’t. I went to alcoholics anonymous and I left, I never went back again.
HT: You can’t stop drinking even when you think about your parents, about your son?
APR: I once went an entire month without drinking anything, and I had a really rough time, but I stuck it out; then, I went back to drinking again. I don’t have the willpower or resistance. It isn’t only about wanting to or thinking you want to. People think that you prefer to live this way; the truth is, I really like drinking, that’s why it’s so hard because I don’t reject it. And plus, the fact is that I’m already used to it. If you ask me right now what I would do if I stopped drinking, I wouldn’t know what to tell you. I only know that I would have better relations with people, but I don’t know what I would do with my life.
HT: Do you have any advice for young people who are starting to drink?
APR: Yes, look here, every time I see a kid with a bottle, if I’m sober, I tell them not to start. That’s the worst thing, because then you don’t know how to stop. As well as harming your health, drinking turns you into a shred of a human, you lose everything, your respect, consideration and you are even rejected by your own family. You don’t understand this in the beginning, but then you do. It’s logical that no one wants to be around a drunk person.
HT: Are you happy the way you are now?
APR: No, I’m not happy, but I feel good. There’s no hope for me now, but I want to tell the people who might read this not to follow my example, for their own wellbeing and for their family’s wellbeing.
HT: So, when will you be drinking until, Apululu?
APR: Til the bottle do us part…