LIFE LESSONS AREN’T SERVED IN A SHOT GLASS. OMAR K. IRANI*, WHO OVERCAME DRUG AND ALCOHOL ADDICTION, TALKS TO NEERJA DEODHAR ABOUT HOW HE SUCCESSFULLY TURNED HIS LIFE AROUND AFTER A FEW BAD DECISIONS
I began drinking when I was 16. Six months later, I started taking drugs. My drug addiction began with marijuana and cocaine, but later I started using various other drugs like LSD, morphine, anything that my friends said would give me a high and anything that I could get my hands on. My addiction lasted for five years.
EXPERIMENTS WITH DRUGS
My first experience with alcohol was right after my class 10 board exams. I decided to go out and celebrate with a few friends. It was evident that my capacity to drink was far more than theirs; they would drink about half a glass of beer and I’d manage to have two glasses or more quite easily. The motive to drink was initially the need to feel ‘grown up’ and behave like an adult. One more reason to drink was to be socially accepted [since] I was not in my comfort zone at college. My peers introduced me to drugs. The feeling of smoking a drug filled a void, a sense of emptiness in me.
I BEGAN TO STEAL FROM MY OWN HOUSE
I decided to go to a college in Kerala. I ended up spending most of my time drinking and smoking. I barely attended college and my studies suffered. I would end up sending counterfeit report cards at home so that my parents wouldn’t know what I was really doing at college. I lost out on five precious years of my education. If I was not blacking out or passed out, I was definitely drunk and high. I began to steal from my own house and when I couldn’t find money, I would hit my mother and force her to give me some. My own family members stopped trusting me and I lost all my close friends.
JOURNEY TO REHAB
I was aware of the fact that I was slowly getting addicted. I would tell myself every night that it was my last drink, my last smoke and the last day I would be addicted. But the next day I would succumb to my addiction. However I never thought of approaching anyone to overcome my drinking or drug problem. It was my parents who decided to send me to rehab.
While I was being taken to Hope Trust, I resisted and yelled. I had this misconception that addicts were given pills that would turn them into psychos. I did not co-operate with the doctors there. The doctors at the rehab center told me that I was 21, but I had the heart of a 41 year old. This shocked me deeply. After my system was cleared of all the drugs and alcohol, the withdrawal symptoms started appearing and I was frustrated. Then I realised that the doctors were in fact only trying to help. The overall experience was positive. I stayed in rehab for four and a half months.
MY BREAKTHROUGH MOMENT
The first time that I attended a Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meeting, I realized that I could give staying clean a shot. It was at NA that I was told, “We will love you until you start loving yourself.” I gained strength from the stories of other people at the rehab center and challenged my own ability to overcome my addiction.
LIFE AFTER REHAB
Life is simpler after coming out of rehab. I have been able to completely avoid both drugs and alcohol by filling my day with activities like attending college, studying, going to the gym and playing basketball. I also use my time to meet cousins and friends with whom I had lost touch. I have an extremely tight schedule so there is no free time where I can even think of going out for a drink. I try my best to avoid situations where there may be alcohol or people taking drugs. I use NA’s motto of HALT – Hunger, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. This motto teaches addicts how to abstain from drugs when they are in any of the aforementioned situations. Whenever I feel the urge to drink or take drugs, I talk to my parents or to my colleagues at NA who help me restore my faith in myself.
ADVICE FOR YOUNGSTERS
People say that your peer group or your friend circle is the reason you take up smoking or drinking. I don’t think this is completely true. Even if majority of your friends are addicted to something, you can still hold your ground. I strongly feel that the media has a great influence on how youngsters perceive drugs and alcohol and that films promote addiction to an extent. Drugs that I considered to be my best friend turned out to be my worst enemy. If you have started doing drugs and think you are in control, think again. You may need a reality check.
Usually it is dif ficult to distinguish normal teenage moodiness from signs of drug use or alcohol addiction. Hope Trust India lists truancy, changes in friend circles,neglect of appearance, extreme isolation, red eyes, disturbed sleep patterns and change in appetite as a few warning signs.
HOW TO HELP AN ADDICT
- Prepare yourself to be a support system. Put your own self-care and sanity first.
- Set an appropriate example – never drink or smoke in front of a friend who is an addict.
- Stop reacting to their emotional outbursts or tantrums. Keep the focus on the addict. Screaming and losing your temper draws attention towards you.
- Give an ultimatum such as ‘Go into rehab or I won’t be part of your life anymore’ but don’t resort to bullying. Give ultimatums only if you can enforce boundaries with your loved one.
- Leave them or detach yourself emotionally temporarily till they stop using drugs and consuming alchohol.
- Don’t project the image of rehab with a negative tone, don’t equate it with going to jail. Encourage them to visit a counsellor.
Volume 2 Issue 12