Drugs – How I Kicked The Habit
Yeh wohi bacha hai jis ko log kehtay thay keh he will not make it. He will die on the streets. Aur yeh ab doosron ko sahih karta hai.
Ali Rauf has been a victim of drug abuse. He started taking drugs when he was 13 years old. Drugs and alcohol usage nearly took his life. He finally managed to attend a successful rehab program and has been drug-free since January 2011. Today, Ali runs a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program at ARC – AAS Recovery Centre. He is a certified rehab therapist. Ali talks to FUCHSIA about the highs, the lows, the challenges and the triumphs of his journey – from drug addict to therapist.
How did it all begin?
I belonged to a broken family. There were always arguments in my family. I was always being compared to others, how they are doing so much better than I am. I was not happy … I couldn’t sleep properly. One day I went out of the house after listening to negatives from my family. I went to a friend’s house and there were some boys smoking cigarettes. I was so upset, I just decided to try some. I felt so good. I went home and actually went to sleep. I thought to myself, this is so good, I don’t remember the pain.
So I started with smoking one cigarette. Soon I started meeting with people who smoked more than just plain tobacco. There was Hashish. The chemical in the cigarette gave me a calm, soothing feeling. I felt confident, and good.
Soon I started rolling a joint in the morning, in the evening, and then at night too. And the quantity increased gradually. Then I thought, why should I limit myself to hash. there’s alcohol too. So I went to a store and bought alcohol. At the time, I used to watch movies. I would see Amitabh drinking on screen, people having a good time, and I felt, I was young, I wanted to party too. It was my age, so I started drinking. I wanted to rock n’ roll and party too!
Gradually my school life became disturbed. I was 17 at the time. And I was addicted to alcohol and Hash. I started caring less about my family, my grades. The focus was on being cool, on partying – The Rock n Roll times.
When did your family suspect that something was wrong?
I started hanging out with people who smoked or took drugs. My circle of friends changed. My grades dropped. My daily routine changed. My eyes started appearing red. I started keeping Curine in my room, to reduce the redness in my eyes. Eventually, mothers find out. I feel mothers can sense, they can feel everything and they know. We might be in denial, but they know.
Once she found out I was doing Hash and alcohol, she asked a relative to take me to Saudia Arabia. she felt I might be cured of the habit there. But let me tell you, there is no place in the world where you cannot find drugs if you need them. I found them in Saudia Arabia too. I’m lucky that the police didn’t catch me. But my office people got to know, and they decided to send me back to Pakistan since they didn’t want any trouble. So I came back home.
I started looking for a job and opened up a small ad agency. Then I attended parties and was introduced to Heroin. Once I tried Heroin, – a much more potent drug, I felt like WOW! This is the next level. That’s awesome. It felt so cool.
‘I didn’t plan to become an addict. That was not my plan. I wanted to live a normal life. But once I was exposed to drugs, I got high and it felt so good. My work started deteriorating. It was expensive to get Heroin. When I started using it, I was using maybe Rs. 500 per day but slowly I ended up using about Rs. 2000 per day. That is how my usage increased. Financially I was broke. I was about 22-23 years old now.’
Addicts always need money. They start getting withdrawals. They seem crazy, but they just want to feed their addiction. They’re not bad people actually, They just want money to get another fix and feel okay. Withdrawals are not fun you know. It is painful, we can’t function, we start vomiting, we can’t focus. We can’t even have confidence without using drugs. You could buy drugs in most liquor shops. They were available if you needed them. Now it has become so advanced you can buy it online too.
I couldn’t tolerate that pain. So I would find something at home that I could sell. then I would go out and sell it, and then go and buy the drugs. I would do all this to get that ONE fix.
How did you start rehab then?
I went through my first rehab in 2007 for 3 months. My parents forced me to go. But I was soon back on alcohol and hash, and soon back in rehab. This time I went for 5 weeks. This was all in Karachi. Before this, I had been to multiple psychiatrists and therapists but nothing really worked.
After the last rehab I had to sign a contract; 2 months of primary care and 4 months of after-care. And since then, I’ve been clean. It was January 31st. 2011, my last day of taking drugs. And I celebrate that day – my recovery anniversary every year. Now I’m married – A good husband, a good father. (He smiles with a note of triumph in his voice).
How can we protect our children from drugs?
What I have learned is, that you must talk about drugs to your children. You must tell them of the consequences. You must not treat it as a taboo topic. Humaray muaashray mein drugs keh baaray mein baat bohat chupa chupa kay ki jaati hai. I say, NO. Children are very rebellious and they feel, they can get away with it. But they need to understand that recovery rates are very low. If 100 people are addicted. less than 20 will come out of it.
Does our parenting need to change?
It is not the parent’s fault. There is no such thing as perfect parenting. Some parents use physical punishment because that’s what they’ve seen. That also leaves a trauma for the child. Some parents compare their children to others in our society. Parents come to me saying that their child has low self-esteem. I ask, that where did he get this low self-esteem? I note the history of the person and then I also note the family history. Once I understand the relationships, I can make sense of their behaviours.
Can an addict be completely cured of drug use and the emotional scars that come with it?
Myself, I was in rehab. I have been counselling since 4 years now and I have BEEN in counselling myself for 9 years now. I still undergo counselling. And I feel these traumas will never go. Some scars will remain. I get cravings sometimes. That’s why I say I’m a ‘recovering addict’. I’m continuously working on myself so that I can be a better person. I need support, I can’t do it alone, as do the people who come to me. they also need support.
‘Addicts are not bad people trying to be good, they are wounded people trying to heal. That trauma needs to be resolved so that the recovery rate is higher.’
Does rehab really work?
Sometimes it takes time for an addict to realize that his life has become unmanageable. 1 or 2 times in rehab doesn’t work always. I went 8 times. Sometimes families need to set healthy boundaries of consequences if the addict does not go to rehab. Until and unless he feels the pain of his addiction, the addict will not be moved to give it up. The family has to tell them: We love you, but we can’t handle your addiction.
Eventually an addict will drain all your finances. If we’re giving food, shelter, money to an addict, that means, indirectly, we are supporting his addiction. We have to lay down our boundaries so the addict understands how his addiction is affecting him and his family. If he doesn’t understand it, there is a lower chance of him getting clean. Sometimes, families have to kick the addicts out of the house. When the addict realizes how difficult life is, and how addicted he is, he gets into trouble, he eventually comes back to the family to ask for help, to help him out of his addiction. This is how it works. We call this tough love, healthy boundaries. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.
And your story?
The same happened with me. My family told me that you’ve been into rehab 7 times. We cannot take it anymore. You have to either give it up, or you leave, we cannot take this addiction in the house. I was very upset and I left.
I was standing at the Sohrab Goth Pull, and thinking of committing suicide. My mother had told me: Mein tumhay drugs chorrtay huway tarrap kay marta dekh sakti hoon, lekin drugs letay huway marta nahin dekh sakti. I stood at that pull and I thought about my life. And how it had come to this? I used to be a good kid, with a good family. And all this happened because of drugs. I looked at the drugs in my hand, and I was taking them and cursing them at the same time. I laugh now at this crazy conversation in my head. That’s when I decided to quit. I signed up for rehab again.
My mother had stopped going to family functions. she used to feel ashamed. everyone would ask: Kya wo theek huwa keh nahin. Today, my parents are very proud. My mother goes out now and tells everyone: Dekho, Yeh mera beta hai, ab yeh doosron ko sahih karta hai. She feels very proud.
Ali has been drug free since 8 years now. Every January 31st., he celebrates his recovery anniversary. According to statistics, there are over 7 million registered drug users in Pakistan. ARC has a recovery rate of 30-40% They and other NGOS are offering rehab facilities at reasonable rates. If you or a loved one needs help with drug recovery, contact them here, or visit their Facebook page here.