Fight a Battle Against Drugs More Than Once to Win It!

I understood myself only after I destroyed myself. And, only in the process of fixing myself, did I know who I really was.”

“Recovery is not for people who need it… it’s for people who want it.”

These and many motivational quotes are plastered across the walls in a small dimly-lit meeting room, where a group of people, all of whom struggle with addiction to drugs or alcohol, sit together every other day to continue or begin the long process of recovery.

“I remember the time when I was sent to a drug de-addiction centre by my parents in Punjab. That was a tough phase … but so is the present. Fear of rejection and being judged is still there,” shares Raman (name changed), a working professional in his late 20s.

“Friends, months back at the drug de-addiction centre, I felt helpless and trapped inside the same four walls where food was provided and nothing else. I was exhausted, disappointed and bored … so much so that I along with other inmate used to plan on escaping that centre. Months have passed and I feel, I am in a much better place now… There is still a lot of struggle to overcome addiction but I am hopeful to end this difficult cycle of addiction and not to disappoint my family members anymore,” he adds, as everyone else is listening with compassion and patience, perhaps recalling their own battle with addiction.

Such painful experiences of guilt, shame and self-doubt have brought together around 40 people from across genders, age-groups and ethnic backgrounds, who are seeking emotional support in their healing process at the narcotics anonymous (N.A.) meetings held in the city.

“Drug addiction had devastating effects on my body and behavior…. It’s almost been six months when I quit using drugs but my body and mind is struggling,” says another group member, who is a 26-year old youth from the city.

“I get angry over small things and it feels like my mind is manipulating me…I am just 12th pass and doing nothing significant with my life. Drugs have affected my senses but I am trying to cope with my problems,” he adds, while clasping and squeezing hands together, probably feeling vulnerable.

As he shares his dilemma, a young and tall girl enters the meeting room, touching the entrance door and then touched her forehead, as a sign of respect, just like entering a temple.

Continuing sharing his woes, the boy says, “Friends, there is negativity in my mind but I feel life is on the right path.”

“With God’s grace, this too shall pass, I have faith and hope…” he concludes, as everyone claps and cheers for him, encouraging him to keep coming back to the meetings and stay strong.

His choice of words, “This too shall pass”, a quote which is on display in the room, suggests that like any other group member, he is also holding onto a thread of hope, considered as a powerful force in addiction recovery.

Away from the judgmental eyes of mainstream society and any professional help, this anonymous programme is largely faith-based, where the group members are confiding in each other about their everyday struggle on personal and professional front. There are few, who are still drug addicts, some of them had quit drugs few months back while some did it years ago but still need the support of the meetings.

They acknowledge the fact that sobriety and recovery do not come easily and is a lifelong process. And, the only professional help in the room are addicts themselves, who are sharing their perspectives and experiences and motivating each other to stay strong and have faith in a higher power.

Their stories are depressing and inspiring, at the same time, and certainly better than the shocking tales of drug overdose deaths, gripping the neighboring state of Punjab.

Recounting his experience on how the battle has to be fought on multiple fronts by a drug addict, a group member, who is married and has two children, says he started using drugs at a young age because life was boring and dull.

“Years have passed… I have quit drugs now, but life seems boring and empty again. I am going to office every day, coming to the meetings, trying to spend time with family but something is missing… With the support of this group and God’s blessing, I am trying to find a way to help myself,” he concludes, while others are nodding and clapping enthusiastically to encourage him to stay positive.

The lone girl in the group says life is better now. I feel healthy and blessed, she says.

She shares how a friend, who is using drugs, met her recently and praised her for quitting it. I hope, I remain like this and don’t stray from the right path, she adds.

At the group meeting which lasted for about two hours, many more members got an opportunity to speak and share their woes. Just like any non-addict, they have stories of struggling relationships, struggle to hold down jobs or get new jobs, finding a good match to get married, getting good scores in exams and so on. Their stories provide an insight into their lives and imply that many of them are dealing with depression, anger, fear, hurt, rejection and sadness.

A young boy, in his early 20s, shares how he has been in a relationship with a nice girl but it has to end as her parents will not accept him due to his problem of drug addiction while a 58 years old member, says that he had been fighting with his wife over insignificant issues lately as he is still learning to manage anger as a part of addiction recovery.

The middle-aged man tells me that he has been a member of this group since past two decades. He tried drugs at a younger age and became an addict. Though he had quit drugs years back, but he still needs the support of the group meetings to continue the life long process of recovery.

Here, people are honest with themselves and with other members. The only criteria to attend the meeting is desire and willpower to recover from addiction. The members are between the age group of 17-60 years, he says, while pointing towards the group’s founding member, who is 60 years old.

From operator on the helpline to coordinator of the meetings and other volunteers, all of them was once dealing with the problem of drug addiction and are now on the path to recovery. Many members had in the past took professional help, stayed at drug-de addiction centres and also, have a sponsor, someone who has been the member of this programme for long.

The N.A. meetings have two formats including open and closed category and vary in length and focus areas, but all have the same primary purpose of sharing and learning to fight against addiction and present a message of recovery to the addict.

Also, the process of healing is not limited to the meeting room, as the group members, who are like a family, also meet at conventions, dinner parties, celebrations of recovery at outdoor trips. Booklets and brochures, as a message of recovery are also given to the addicts.

The 22 year-old boy, who is secretary or coordinator of the meeting, also opens up about his past and tells that he joined the group nearly a year back to deal with drug addiction.

“I am a volunteer and have been elected as a secretary to maintain decorum of the meeting and call on people who want to share their stories. These meetings help people to learn from the experiences of other addicts and motivate them to deal with their own day-to-day struggle,” he says adding that this fellowship provides us a sense of belonging.

When enquired about open and closed meetings, he tells, “Many times, parents and relatives do not trust us and doubt whether we are enrolled in a helpful programme. Hence, the family members are allowed to attend an open meeting and listen to the stories of recovery while the closed meetings are attended by people, suffering from addiction.”

At the end of the meeting, the group members stand together, hold hands and recite a closing prayer, urging the higher power to guide them during recovery and show a path to live a healthy and happy life. The members then leave the meeting room, to face the challenges of daily life and in a hope to meet again to learn and share something.

Footnote: This article was reprinted from an Indian news source, https://www.dailypioneer.com/state-editions/chandigarh/fight-a-battle-against-drug-more-than-once-to-win-it.html

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