Eastern Mirror Desk
Dimapur, Feb. 10: The ‘social stigma’ that comes associated with the use of alcohol and drugs—besides the ‘unlawful’ aspect, in the case of Nagaland—more often than not ends up shunting the users as ‘disgrace.’
The collective frown, in the case of Nagaland, is so deep that even those seeking rehabilitation choose to fight their way out in secrecy. Recently Eastern Mirror visited a rehabilitation centre ran by Prodigal’s Home, an NGO, at Murise village in Sigrijan, Dimapur to talk to the inmates.
Four of them agreed to tell their stories. Their original names have been changed, for obvious reasons. Thirty-one-year-old John, who has a master’s degree in business administration, said he suffered from alcohol addiction for seven to eight years.
“I started using alcohol when I was a teenager. Because I wanted to fit in with my peers,” he said.
According to him, he used to spend INR 400-500 daily on alcohol and cigarettes. “It was after college that my addiction got heavier,” he explained.
Despite repeated persuasion by his family, it was only when he was hospitalised recently that he agreed to join the rehab. “I suffered the first few days without drinking. It is now one month since I was admitted.”
It is easier for him now, he admitted. “We have counselling sessions and group meetings to share stories about our past lives. We help each other out, especially the newcomers. We are now like a family and it feels like home.”
He had two pieces of advice: “First of all, do not start indulging in alcohol. Do not risk trying it. And if you are trying to quit, do it on your own will. Do not feel embarrassed to admit to rehab centres, leave your egos behind and seek help.”
Another inmate, aged 29, said he was addicted to “khaini” (processed/kneaded tobacco) for ten years, till 2017. Later on, he became addicted to brown sugar.
What started as occasional ‘hits’ with friends turned into a regular habit, he shared. “Brown sugar is available everywhere in the state. It is still available in Longleng (from where he hails). The dealers keep the drugs in stock, and sell it in small tobacco containers (approximately 20-25g) for INR 5000,” he explained, adding that he used to expend between INR 500-1000 daily on brown sugar.
“It has been two-and-half months since I was admitted to this centre. I came at my own will to quit the habit. Now I have changed a lot, both physically and mentally. I tried to ask my friends to get admitted here but they were not financially prepared to do so.” He also had this advice: “Do not even think of touching drugs.”
Another male inmate, aged 27, from Arunachal Pradesh also said he was addicted to brown sugar for nine years. “My addiction to brown sugar started out of curiosity during a friend’s birthday party back in 2004. Since then, I started consuming more and more till it became an addiction from 2009,” he shared.
“The drug is available everywhere in Arunachal Pradesh, even outside my residence. I spent INR 2500-3000 in a day during my addiction,” he said before sharing that it even destroyed his relationship with his family.
He joined the rehab centre on Oct. 25, 2018. Despite the initial difficulties, he was confident of becoming completely sober. “I am focusing on my recovery. Every day I promise to stay sober though my past still haunts me. I keep myself busy and focus on the classes and programmes the centre offers.”
The last inmate to be interviewed, by his own admission, used to be a ‘multi-drug-user.’ The 30-year-old man who worked as an advocate in Arunachal Pradesh said he was once addicted to drugs like brown sugar, opium, and heroin. “It started among my friends circle. They did not force me; I just did it for fun. A just-for-fun turned into an addiction.”
“Heroin is not available everywhere, so I was addicted (to it) only for a year. I usually used to take brown sugar and alternatively, opium also,” explained Paul while adding that he spent about INR 1000-1500 in a day.
“Before I get to my office work, I gave my first priority to drugs. Only then, I started working. For six months I used the drugs for fun, later I realised that I was addicted. My family forced me to go to rehab, which made me uncomfortable. I even challenged them which made me break my relationship with my siblings and parents,” he shared.
“Soon I got fed-up with myself. I realised that I need to live longer and then I decided to quit. But even in my initial days here at the centre, I thought of continuing to use drugs after leaving this place. But my will power got stronger day by day. It is now two months and ten days,” he said.
“All drug-users are not bad guys. Such social stigmas should be removed,” he deadpanned.
According to him, “it is important to quit such addiction because life cannot go parallel with drug and alcohol addiction. You can only choose one.”