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The Road to Recovery

The Road to Recovery

At 20, I had my whole life to look forward to. A wonderful family, a good education and a bright future. I should have been starting my journey to the top but instead there I was stumbling right off a cliff.

Thankfully that is not the end of my story. I was rescued and restored from the deep dark pit that I had fallen into. My name is Subhasis Chatterjee and I am going to share with you my life story.

I was brought up in a middle-class Bengali family as the only son of parents who did everything they could to provide me with a decent education. My father especially took pains to see that I received what any boy could hope for. He had lost his mother when he was very young and he wanted to provide a much better life for me. I received everything a father could possibly provide for his son. During my college years, I began to hang out with a different kind of crowd.

I wanted to be seen with the “hep” group. Prior to that, I had always maintained a good company of friends but maybe I was getting tired of the same old routine and always doing what was typically expected of me. I wanted to be different and it was my experimenting nature that first led me to this group of friends in college and then later to do drugs with them. This is not to say that the guys in the group were academically bad – in fact few of them were very good.

As for me, I did get into an M.B.A. program in Kolkata after appearing in the CAT examinations immediately after my college. It was my desire to work in the marketing line like my father had. I was also the only son and naturally my parents had a lot of expectations from me. In the beginning it was mostly marijuana/grass and hash that were not physically addictive, although there is an element of mental dependency with such drugs.

However, after I joined the management program I graduated to higher-order drugs like heroin and brown sugar. As time went by I realised that I was getting into trouble with drugs as I began to get dependent on them, particularly heroin. During those days, back in the early 80s, heroin used to be sold only by two people in Kolkata and there were only a handful of people who were doing heroin during those days.

I really do not know what happened to me at that time, but as I was to realise later, I lost my sense of reasoning and I thought of nothing else but my substance and became completely obsessed with it.

Later brown sugar made an entry in the city (in the mid 80s), and those who were using heroin shifted to brown sugar as the latter was much cheaper. Thus, my life gradually began to unravel.

Slowly but surely I changed into a completely different person; people who knew me could not recognise me anymore. I began to manipulate my parents, friends and relatives for money and even got involved in crime just to support my addiction.

Things came to such a pass that people stopped talking to me as they realised that either I would ask for money or lie about my condition in a manner that would make them part with some money.

I managed to complete my M.B.A. program, but obviously I did not do very well as I was dependent on my drugs and required my substance even for studying. After I managed to complete my management program I decided that I needed to quit drugs altogether. I had had enough of manipulating people and the life of lies that I was living. I realised that if I had to l live like a normal person the one thing that I needed to do was stop doing drugs.

In spite of what I had done to my parents, the hurt I had inflicted on them, they were willing to provide any help that I would require to quit drugs. I took the decision to simply stay at home and go through the pain of physical withdrawals. Of course I knew that it would not be easy, but at that time there were hardly any detoxification centres and the concept of rehabilitation for drug-dependency was almost alien in Kolkata.

The way that I went through withdrawals is something I cannot really recall, excepting that I was hallucinating and the pain was unbearable. When I came to my senses after about five days I could not recognise myself as I looked in the mirror. My knuckles were covered with dried blood and my forehead had several cuts as well. My parents told me that I was actually punching the wall and banging my forehead against the wall.

They called in a doctor to administer some sedatives but even that did not have its desired effect. It took me at least a week after that to recover and, as I settled down to a normal life, I promised myself that I will never do any drugs again in my life. I began to look for a job and things began to look brighter as I was appointed with Goodlass Nerolac Paints as a Marketing Executive. I continued working in the Paint Industry for the next 12 years or so, but I ran into a problem similar to my drug-dependency.

I began to drink alcohol thinking that since I did not have a problem with it, I could consume alcohol as most others in the profession did. However, in course of time I realised that I was getting dependent on alcohol as I began drinking too heavily. Initially I did not think that it would become a problem as I consoled myself by saying that if I could quit higher-order drugs like heroin and brown sugar, alcohol could never cause me harm.

By the time I was in my seventh year of work, I could sense that dependency to alcohol was affecting my performance on the job and it was once again damaging my relationship with my family and friends. Now, with alcohol the physical withdrawals were not very severe, at least in the initial stages. But since I managed to stop drinking whenever I wanted to, I felt that I was in control.

However, the physical withdrawals began to get worse with every binge of alcohol consumption that occurred. Later on I understood that my drinking pattern was that of a binge-drinker where I would drink very heavily for about ten or twelve days non-stop and then would get physically so weak that I had to be confined to bed for at least two days after that. Well, this cycle continued for more than six years or so before I thought (and so did my parents) that getting married would change my life for the better.

I was married in the year 1991 to a woman I had known for some time. I really did think at the time that marriage would solve all my problems, but it did not. My alcoholism took a turn for the worse and, to cut a long story short, my wife and I separated after three years and finally divorced, on mutual understanding, by the fourth year.

I had once again damaged relationships as a result of my addiction both with my family as well as friends. I had lost one job and I had to quit another before I was asked to leave. In short, alcoholism took a great toll on my life particularly because those years were the prime years of my life. Instead of developing and growing in my career, I deteriorated to an extent that it had become impossible for me to continue working. It was then that I realized I had to seek treatment for alcohol-dependency.

I was at a Detoxification Centre for about a week before I was brought to the Rehabilitation Centre, called Arunoday Midway Home. It was there that I learnt that addiction to alcohol and drugs is a disease and how this disease could destroy a person over a certain period of time. The year that I went in for treatment was the same year my father had passed away. He had a massive heart attack. His death came as a shock to me and many among family and friends thought that I was partly responsible for his cardiac arrest.

I too feel that I had been partly, if not wholly, responsible for the death of my father as he had been through tremendous mental trauma and anxiety for more than 20 years due to my drug abuse. I realised that I lost the most important person in my life and my life would never be the same again. My father had truly suffered for a prolonged period of time, except for the times that I had been abstaining from drug use, which were in small intervals not exceeding six months. I had taken him for granted for many years. It was only after he was gone that I understood how much I had hurt him and my mother.

It was after I came into the treatment that I understood how potentially dangerous the disease of addiction to drugs (alcohol is considered a drug in the program) truly is. In fact so dangerous is the disease that even after having suffered so much I relapsed at least four times before I finally sobered up from the year 2002 onwards.

The program principle that is followed at the rehab centre is called the Psycho-Spiritual Principles of 12 Steps. This program is followed world-wide for treatment of people who are drug-dependent and is probably the most successful form of therapy for overcoming drug abuse. It is necessary to practice the program principles rather than to merely know it academically. The sessions of the rehabilitation program helped me to comprehend the power and the deception of the disease and be able to negotiate real life with the help of the spiritual principles on a day-to-day basis.

I was surprised to learn that these principles are based on the Bible and as I used to be a good reader at that time, I started to read it myself. I began to realise that there is a God who had come for people like me. I mean I was able to identify myself as a worthless person who had up to this point of time done practically nothing but to give trouble to my family and friends. I came across one portion where it says, “It is not the healthy but the sick who need a doctor.

I have not come to call the righteous, but I have come to call the sinners unto repentance.” I began to wonder, who is this God who claims to have come for wretched people like me? As I began to reflect on all the things that I had done over the past 20 years of my drug abuse, tears rolled down my eyes and I realised that I had not given a chance to God to work in my life. As I read on, I began to wonder if there is any way I could be forgiven for what I had done.

Vijayan Pavamani, the Founder-Director of the organisation, who had become my mentor, showed me a verse which said “I have come to seek and to save that which is lost”. This really got me going as I began to understand that it is not possible to reach God by works at all. It was simply by the grace of God that we are saved. It is a gift of God. We are suffering from the disease of sin, quite like the disease of addiction.

This link made a lot of sense to me and I realized if I were to be saved from all the terrible things that I had committed over the last 20 years of my drug history, I could only do it by accepting God into my life. I began to give some serious thought about what I should be doing for the remaining time that God has given me in this life. I consulted people who had known me for a while as well as others who had a hand in my recovery.

By the year 2002, I was already 41 years old and after much deliberation I thought I will remain in the field of De-Addiction and not just help myself but those who have been/are going through the same kind of pain that I had been through. Today I try to help others who are suffering the way that I did – the degree of pain may vary but the disease is the same. I think that this has been God’s purpose for me.

I know the money is definitely less than the corporate sector but you know there are certain things that money cannot buy and one of them is peace and contentment. Almost ten years have gone by since I have become sober. Life has definitely changed for me and I have gotten back many things that I had lost. Of course, it is not as if problems have disappeared for me. But I was rescued from the deep dark pit that almost swallowed me up and now I have the satisfaction of knowing that I am trying to help people who are struggling through the same thing.

There is help for such people and there have been many cases of drug abusers living a happy and sober life and have after treatment gone on to do very well in life. As a quote from our program says “I may not be what I could have been, I may not be what I should have been, but I thank God that, with His grace, I am not what I used to be.”

Contributed by Mr. Subhasis Chatterjee. He is the warden of Arunoday Midway Home in Kolkatha and has been working as a Counsellor there for eight years. He is also the Project Manager of Micro Credit which is part of Emmanuel Ministries.