BENGALURU: Is drug abuse a choice or decided partly by your brain chemistry, like a disease? The debate is still on. A Bengalurean addiction survivor, who now runs a support group, paints a bleak picture. “Only two or three in 100 drug addicts survive, the rest go crazy,” he says. Addiction changes the structure and function of the brain.
It might seem like an impossible battle, but there are the few brave and victorious. The city edition of Narcotics Anonymous (NA), a group which celebrated its 25th anniversary this weekend, offers a 12-step recovery process.
The group organises meetings every day across the city, where survivors and addicts share experiences. Rehaan says that these meetings are only for those who want to stop abusing drugs. “We don’t force anyone,” he says. “Sessions are free of cost and open to all. We organise it in churches or schools, but it is not aligned to any religion.”
‘I am a born addict’
Rehaan recovered from his addiction 20 years ago. He says he is a “born addict”, or that he has an addictive personality, and drugs was just one of the fixations. “I suffer from OCD,” he says. “A year or so after being clean (not using drugs), I took a credit card. I believed that I was fine and that I could use the card to spend wisely.” But he crossed his credit limit the same day in two hours.
Similarly, he says, when he starts cleaning the house, he keeps at it till it is spotless. “If I am cleaning, I do it without a break till it is spotless or I ignore the mess... I don’t clean at all,” he adds. It is all or nothing.
The NA has helped him recover. “When you are high, nothing matters. I would manipulate people, threaten my parents with suicide, all to get money for drugs,” he says “I was working in the sales department for an international company. I lost that career,” he says. Before he recognised his addiction, 15 years had passed and his wedding engagement was called off. His relatives shunned him. “I felt ashamed and guilty,” he says. “But today, I am fine and I take responsibilty for myself.”
Building family after recovery
These meetings with people with different age groups helped Neha develop a sense of empathy. She has been attending the meetings for eight years. She says, “I travelled to another city for a change, went to ashrams but nothing worked.” She was admitted to detox centres 20 to 25 times, that’s where she met the members of NA but she wasn’t sure if the programme would help her. After a couple of years, she started attending the meetings and met people who live regular lives.
“When I was using drugs, I was just 40 kg. I would rob and steal for money. I had stopped studying. My mother enrolled for an airhostess-training course along with me, to keep me motivated. I dropped out of it too,” she says. She recovered at the age of 34 years, and is now a homemaker with an 8-year-old son. “I met my husband in college. He was also a drug addict. We went to rehab together,” she says.
Facing up to failures
27-year-old Vignesh was angry, fearful and hated his life. The programme at NA helped him face and deal with his emotions. “I was asked to choose a sponsor in the session. I was asked to write about my feelings. It helped me a lot,” he says. Vignesh completed his post-graduation studies recently.
Another survivor says that writing is an important part of the 12-step programme at NA.
She says, “The first few steps involve accepting the life what it is today, the fourth is writing and fifth is making amends.” A recovering addict is encouraged to face up to the pain he or she may have caused, and make amends for that. “I had stolen jewellery worth `20 lakh,” says this survivor, adding, “I am repaying that amount slowly now.” The last step of the process is a prayer, sharing experiences and spreading awareness among people about the NA programme.
The survivor says that her addiction started after her first year of college. She told her parents about it but they responded badly. “They forced me to go to detox centres, locked me up in the house for a year and would let me out only to accompany them on chores,” she says. Today, she’s an entreprenuer.
NA holds conventions regularly at different cities for its members.
Vignesh says that he has been part of these conventions in Kolkata, Mysuru and Yelagiri. “Earlier, I rarely ventured out of my neighbourhood in the city,” he says. “I had no social life. Travelling to different places gave me joy and was freeing.” Another member adds that the last convention was held in Goa in 2014.
That was a three-day programme that celebrated the recovery of several addicts. “At the conventions, new and old recovered addicts share their stories. There are also entertainment programmes organised, to show attendees that we can have fun in life without any dependency on alcohol or any substance.”
Goa was where they once headed to score. But this time, they returned unscathed and happy.
(*Names have been changed to protect identity.)
What should parents do?
Parents should be friendly and speak to their children, suggests Dr Naveen Jayaram, consultant, department of psychiatry, Sakra World Hospital. “During adolescence, children experiment, sometimes due to peer pressure. Parents should not panic and force them into a rehab. They should speak to them and let children realise how damaging their addiction could be.”
Parents should be supportive, rather than blaming their child. Forcing them into a rehab or detox centres only flames hatred for parents. “I know a 24-year-old survivor who hates his parents even now because he was forced into a rehab,” he says. Parents should look for signs such as restlessness, impatience, attention deficiency and high-risk behaviour such as speeding while driving.
Silver Jubilee of NA
The worldwide organisation Narcotics Anonymous was established in the city 25 years ago. They had celebrations on September 2 at Natyapriya School of Dance. For more details about the group, visit nabangalore.org. If you need to seek help, you can contact on 98805 90059.