Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A basketful of experiences at a rehab centre near B.G. Road, Bangalore

The second part of this series features at Why do they throw away a life that was going hunky-dory?

As a counselor and as an interviewer….

Life can indeed take strange turns at the most unexpected moments for inexplicable reasons for someone. This truth has been staring at me from time to time whenever I visit a centre for rehabilitation of addicts to talk to the people there as a part of my counseling journey. My sessions there with people from different backgrounds give me a view of a different world – a world unknown to most people around us. At the centre, some of the inmates are alcoholics, addicts and into substance abuse.
Why does someone veer off the track he was walking on and allow himself to go astray and ‘fall’ before the public eye? What are his internal struggles? When he finally does pick up the pieces, and aim to come back on track, how do people around take it? How does it in turn affect his morale?
My own conversations with some inmates over a few months and a recent interview with the chief official there gave answers to many questions that have hovered in my mind and many minds for long.
The following questions and answers carry the essence of my talks there as a counselor and the conversations as part of the interview (I've kept it shorter and simpler through editing). The answers carry answers to multiple questions, though not in the exact order in which I asked them during my counseling sessions with the inmates and during the interview of the chief official.

Why and when do they start going astray? Is there a usual trend seen amongst them? Is it linked with the economic background etc?
It can happen at any age. Nowadays, even boys in their teens are falling prey to this habit. Some of them are school-dropouts. There are middle-aged men too. They are a few old people too. People from different economic and social sections of society come to the centre. They can succumb to the ‘disease’ without any logical reason. It may have triggered from a failed relationship or a failed marriage. It can be owing to being unemployed and idle. It can be because of influence of friends going astray.

Under what circumstances do their relatives come to get them admitted here?
When they get violent or act in an extremely unacceptable way under the effect of alcohol/drugs/substances, they even hurt their near and dear ones mentally, psychologically and physically. Sooner or later, sometimes in the very next morning, it is all flushed out of their mind. They are in no mood to believe how unreasonably they have behaved and how much hurt they have caused to their near and dear ones repeatedly over a period of time.

Sometimes they get alienated from their family and friends which brings about a quicker ‘fall’. They lose focus completely and literally do not know what to do with their life because it is already in a mess.
It is under these circumstances that they are brought to the centre.

What is the mental state of the addict during admission to the centre?
When the addict is brought in for admission, he is consumed with resentment and anger. If he is a father, he still loves his child and is thus furious that his wife, with help of family, has taken the audacious step of keeping him away from their child. He does not realize that he has been a nuisance to and a burden for the family instead of having been a support.
If he is a young, unmarried man, he is extremely annoyed and bewildered that he has been left behind by his parents here.

Does his mental state undergo any change over time? How does it undergo change? How fast or slow is it?
As he begins to follow a schedule in the centre, away from alcohol/drugs/substances, he begins to feel better in every way. His appetite returns. He sleeps soundly. His mind gets clearer. He is again able to think logically. It dawns on him that there can be a life without alcohol/drugs. The truth glares at him – he has been irresponsible. He begins to feel that he has let his family down. He has caused them misery to no end.
Then his ego begins to overshadow the thoughts. It provokes him to think that he is not the culprit, that he had no option but to resort to drugs/alcohol because of certain events or certain unreasonable people in his life.
There begins a struggle in his mind between his new self and his ego. And there begins a transformation. It is a very difficult stage of his life when he realizes that he should mend his ways, but does not have the courage and determination to. This process of self-introspection, realization and transformation happens at its own pace. Some people leave the centre at the end of three months, while some take more time.
But for people who have been brought by family under some condition (as a sort of bribe), the transformation does not usually take place. When they go back to their familiar environment, and see that the condition is not being met by the family, they tend go back to their old ways.

How does the centre help the inmate go back to the normal way of life?
A rigid time-bound schedule from early morning till night ensures that every inmate follows a routine. A good healthy diet throughout the day everyday helps him feel healthy from inside. Regular health checks by visiting doctors and psychiatrists and face-to-face sessions with visiting counselors give a boost to his mental health.
After some days of staying ‘clean’ at a stretch, when he is feeling much sober, his family visits him. This is termed as ‘family confrontation’ during which he interacts with his family and understands all the more the huge ordeal his near and dear ones have gone through again and again, owing to his addiction.
This is followed by a solitary confinement when he is suggested to self-introspect.
The next stage is the group discussion, when he is given a forum to share with the group his past and how he feels about it and how he intends to pick up the pieces of life to move on. The other group members too, do the same. Since during family confrontation before the self-introspection, some other inmates were told to be present as mute spectators, they too act as witnesses during the group discussion. This does not allow him any room for telling lies about himself or the circumstances under which he took to alcohol/drugs.
When the realization finally comes to him that now the time has arrived to mend his ways and he finally feels he can and should begin working in that direction, he has dealt with his ego at last. He is given permission to walk out of the centre when his family comes to pick him up. (Sometimes there is a relapse. It could be because of the fact that he was brought here in the first place under some condition that is not possible to satisfy, which he realizes, when he is out again.)

I'm glad if my post has touched you. Since I have the constraint of returning home well before my daughter is back from school, I cannot give myself to counseling as much and also as often I'd like to. So maybe your sharing of my experiences with my counselees, with your friends, and you asking them in turn to do the same, could compensate for that a little bit at least.


  1. This article will help lots of peoe going thru pain.

  2. Thank you, Sunita. When I set off on this counseling journey, the foremost thing in my mind was to be able to reach out to people through counseling sessions. Since a session helps only a counselee, I thought of sharing my experiences as a counselor on a platform where visitors can come and pick up something to gift it to someone they know who is going through a tough time. This way I hope to reach out to more and more people who can gain from others' experiences. I would be glad if you could spread the word by sharing this post with your friends and ask them too to do the same.