Nepali Times
Helping people like us


Suraj stuck a needle in his arm almost everyday for seven years. He is a 'brown sugar' heroin addict and an alcoholic. Only after numerous attempts at recovery and staying a year at a rehab in Pokhara did his life move out of hell to founding a drug rehab himself with other ex-addicts.

This is a story of hope and courage-the very thing Nepali people need to hear today. After being drug free for a year-and-a-half, the parents of two drug addicts approached Suraj to help their sons. The sons had already been to drug rehabs several times, with no success. They absolutely refused to return. The parents were at their wits end.

Suraj was asked to help. He responded without a moment's hesitation. He stayed with the sons in the parent's house, day and night, taking them through the terrifying experience of withdrawing from a drug. Suraj had been a volunteer counsellor in rehab, so he knew the ropes. He gave them the proper medications to ease the process but he couldn't do it alone. He asked a friend, Dinesh, also a recovering addict, to help. Both, hardly sleeping, supported each other.

But the parents couldn't bear it. The screaming, the fighting, the physical restraining of their sons when they wanted to run away was overwhelming. So, the parents rented two rooms in a hotel and the treatment proceeded. Addicts going through withdrawal can't stand to be in their own body. They want only one thing: drugs. And they will do anything to get them. It was their own past experience that gave Suraj and Dinesh the understanding and compassion to take these sons through this ordeal. Fifteen days of this seems like an eternity. But they stayed steady, trying to catch a few hours of sleep while the other stood watch.

The two sons got through it but detoxing alone isn't enough. Recovery from drug addiction is a lifetime process requiring a change in values, attitudes and lifestyle. The sons were introduced to NA and AA (narcotics and alcoholics anonymous). There, addicts attend group meetings openly admitting that they have a problem, sharing their fears and attempts to return to drugs. Within the fellowship of these supportive meetings the main treatment takes place.

Other parents started sending their sons. Again, they responded but two rooms with no furniture was impossible to work in. So they moved to another hotel with four rooms.

This has been going on for four months now. Several more ex-addicts volunteered so that the others could spend time with their families and get some rest. They get no salary, no donations, no help from the government. The families give a small fee, if they can, to cover the rent, food and medicines.

The ex-addicts are inspired as well as an inspiration to others. They are truly alive, they have learnt that we are here to help eachother. They have learnt the lesson that an addict can't control a drug with will power. The acid test of an alcholic for instance is that they can't have 'just one drink'. They often finish the bottle.

When a recovering addict feels the urge to use drugs again because of loneliness, boredom or fights with family or friends, he now picks up the phone to call a fellow addict or goes to a NA meeting. An addict needs to abstain from drugs completely and share their urge to go back. We can't do it alone, we need each other. Ironically, many young addicts return to drugs because their parents give them the money.

Now, these four rooms at lakeside in Pokhara has a name: The Gateway Drug Rehab. It is government registered and a licensed psychotherapist counsels addicts. They are in the process of requesting affiliation with the Manipal Teaching Hospital, which will oversee medical complications.

Vincent Androsiglio is a former monk and Professor of Psychiatry. He runs worldwide email therapy practice while overseeing the Gateway Drug Rehab in Pokhara.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)