From the jaws of death
By Simran Sahoo
“Nothing registers in your mind w h e n y o u a r e u n d e r the influence of dendrite. You behave like a child who is unable to comprehend the world around him. As you start coming out of it, it feels you’re coming out from a state of trance. You know, like how they show in daily soaps when the actor, due to some traumatic experience, suffers from memory loss? The same happens with you and you start asking questions about your own whereabouts,” says Ajay (name changed), a 17-year-old ex-substance abuser, who is well on his way to recovery today. We, in our comfortable lives, are usually unaware of what happens in the shady corners of our city and I am no different. In my quest to find out more about this problem, that has its strong and cancerous roots spread all over the place, I met a lot of people and my conversations with them opened my eyes to what goes around in our own backyards, that we happily ignore in the humdrum of our dayto- day lives.
A 17-year-old ex-substance user sounds really alarming, doesn’t it? But there are also kids who are hardly twelve or thirteen years of age and are well into the abuse of drugs. During my conversation with Ajay, he gave me a detailed narrative of his experience while he was into dendrite abuse, his realization about the need to come out of his addiction and lastly, his time at the rehabilitation center, which helped him become the person he is today. What started as a mere experimentation with friends, quickly culminated into a need which made Ajay steal huge sums of money from his home. His fair-weather friends, on whom he regrets having spent thousands of rupees, are no longer there with him today. As a child, he was not that much into studies and after a particularly nasty incident with his teacher, he stopped going to school altogether. He ruefully considers that decision of his life that led to his ‘downfall’ because after that, life took him on a ride where he met people who only fueled his curiosity regarding drug abuse. Parents sent him to a school in Koraput so that at least he should pass his tenth grade and there, along with his peers, he started the habit of gutkha, cigarettes and alcohol. Under the influence of alcohol he met with an accident and fractured his collar bone and came back to Cuttack where he was admitted into an open school. It was here that he started using Dendrite..
Once his parents got to know about it, they shut him off in the store room which made him so aggressive that he broke the door and ran away from his home but maybe it was there in his fate to be cured because he had a change of mind and he returned back immediately. The worried parents took him to a counsellor but the medicines did no good to him and he reverted back to inhaling dendrite. It is seldom that a young lad of seventeen realizes that he needs to get out of this addiction and he asked his father to take him to a rehabilitation center because he wanted to be cured.
in him. He did tell incidents where many addicts were tied down if they created major disturbance which at first sounded extremely inhuman to me, but later I understood the reason behind it which I will elucidate later in the article. But the positive change in him is an example of the success of the process. Now he has cleared his tenth exams and preparing for admission for his PU. Cases like this instill in us that there is hope for substance abusers to come out of it into the mainstream and be able to lead a normal life. But there is always a stigma attached to such people, which is evident from the unwillingness of many substance abusers and their families to reveal their true identity.
My journey to find more about the de-addiction centers took me to Lakshya De-Addiction Center in CDA, Cuttack. Some of the founders of this center themselves were addicts at some point in their lives and it is a quest by them to help people like them, to come out to the mainstream to lead normal lives. Started in the year 2013, the foundation boasts of having helped 30% of their patients to have recovered from their addiction. The foundation believes in taking the path of spirituality in order to recover from the addiction because spirituality creates a positivity in self that keeps the negativity of addiction at bay. Hence, they provide the patients there with facilities like Yoga, Prajapita Brahma Kumari classes and Art of Living classes to help them insinuate self into a state of calmness. During my interaction with the patients there as well at one of the founders, I got to know that they believe in forging a relationship of trust and friendship amongst themselves so that the patients are more open to the treatment and the patients are extremely satisfied with the behavior and services provided to them in the rehabilitation center. Funded by just the patients’ families, the foundation does an extremely wonderful job in staying in contact with them even after they are out of the center..
My journey came to a full circle at Disha Foundation at Prasanti Vihar, Bhubaneshwar, founded by Mr. Pratap Kumar Mohanty who was extremely helpful and answered all questions that had been nagging me. “To bring the addicts back into the mainstream is our main motto,” says Mr. Mohanty who was a substance abuser himself. “There is nothing that I haven’t tried in my youth starting from injection to pills to cannabis to everything. Little did I know that what started with a glass of bhang, for fun, would grow into such a monster that would turn my life upside down. The amount of pain that I have suffered is beyond words… in and out of rehabilitation centers over sixty times, it took me 12 years, before I could finally set my mind on it that I would never need to come back again.” Such was the dedication of Mr. Mohanty that helped him win the war against his addiction. He is extremely grateful to the twelve-step Narcotics Anonymous program, which he applied to his own life to come out clean and today he is happily married and a proud father.
From his experience of dealing with both, drugs and drug addicts, he believes that only when a person has transgressed the pleasure stage of drugs intake to the pain stage, will he realize it’s vices. This realization will lead him away from its intake, “but until then, there is no hope for that person because it is a human tendency to seek pleasure and that is what they are seeking from their addiction.” During my presence there, a new patient came to get admitted but he was in a state of denial. One look at him and Mr. Mohanty could tell that he was already too deep into it, a few lines with him and he got to learn about the extent of damage done. Due to excessive use to marijuana, the patient had started hallucinating and had become very paranoid. Mr. Mohanty made me understand later, after the aggressive patient had been calmed down, that it had already affected his brain by tampering with his nerves which restricted the free flow of signals and that he was in immediate need of psychiatric help. His experience in this area makes him an able person to help those in need,by helping them get back to their normal lives. “I have no regrets till date. When I am able to help families and bring back happiness to their lives because of which many people are grateful to me, what else can I ask from ‘Maa Mangala’. But I have done my mistakes and I must pay my dues for it in the form of health issues like diabetes and high blood pressure, but I am okay with it because I have called it upon myself and I happily accept my fate,” he says with a smile.
Our society needs more people like Mr. Pratap Mohanty and the founders of Lakshya De-Addiction Center. But why should it only be exsubstance users who come forward to help these misled youngsters? Why can’t it be people like you and me? Are we not conscious members of the society who want to improve it? Are we so cocooned in our own lives that we have no consideration for the greater good? Every step taken makes a huge difference and we must all do our bit and contribute to spread awareness regarding drug abuse and its impact. I would like to end by quoting John Donne here, “No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”