Khalid Iqbal is a man in his early 60s; an immigrant from northern India who has practiced Islam for as long as he can remember. He has also always known that the Qur'an prohibits drinking alcohol–even as he tried his first beer, about four decades ago.
"Maybe I was 22 or 23 when I was in college," says Iqbal, recalling how it all started. "After one or two years, I started drinking a couple of beers in the evening, or a couple of shots—not every day, but on and off."
Iqbal and his family moved to Los Angeles in the '80s and he soon realized that alcohol was easy to get. By 1997, he could no longer function without alcohol.
On a recent weeknight, Iqbal and his wife sit down to dinner. They eat on the floor over a plastic mat, following their custom, and drink water and coconut juice. His wife offers him a gentle smile as Iqbal talks candidly about how the pressures to succeed in America led him to depression and alcoholism. The only time he could stop drinking, was during the holy month of Ramadan.
"I would quit for a month or 40 days or 50 days, but as soon as it'd be over again, I'd start," he says. "One time I quit for almost a year without any help. I had two DUIs ... but last DUI, when they held me in a cell, I decided 'no, this is over.' I'd hit my bottom."