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.”