An alumnus shares his experience with substance abuse and how he got over it. (Coordinated by Deepak Sahoo and Sumanth D.)
My first experience with marijuana was at a friend’s birthday, soon after my 12th standard exams and just before joining IITM. It was a small group of friends that I had grown up with and fully trusted, so their enthusiasm to share the experience was very genuine. I had no apprehension and only curiosity to experience this supposedly amazing thing myself.
The first time it felt great, to be completely honest. It felt like everything was right with the world and every activity or conversation seemed a little funnier and a little more relaxed. It was only when I was eventually getting home later that evening that I started to worry about whether my mother would notice. I waited a few hours at another friend’s place. This mild ‘paranoia’ eventually swelled up over time, but in the initial stages it was just a playful thing.
I probably never accepted that I might be ‘addicted’. But in retrospect, I would say there was a distinct point in the beginning of my final year when I started to prioritize ‘getting high’ as an activity above other things that I would have previously considered important, like academic commitments.
Halfway through my final year, I was reasonably addicted and consuming the substance on a daily basis. I was quite depressed, in no small measure due to some of the popular music at the time that I was listening to (Radiohead, Alice in Chains etc). I had become disillusioned with my life and its purpose. Nothing seemed to matter, nothing felt worth caring about.
Generally, a group of us would pool in cash and purchase our supplies every couple of weeks or so. One of the possibly positive sides to this whole affair was this culture of sharing and giving that brought a sense of belonging. However, this viewpoint might again well have been just our own decorations for the truth – that we couldn’t admit the simple fact that we were doing nothing constructive and just wasting away our minds and health.
I reached a point where I almost gave up on my degree and B.Tech project, avoiding interaction with my professor and project guide at any cost. Luckily, I met a girl around the same time and the relationship was strong enough to lead me through the rest of the year. In a sad and ugly play of scenarios, however, I returned to the habit a few months later (after successfully and satisfactorily completing my degree requirements) and ended up breaking up this beautiful relationship by once again succumbing to the monster which had overpowered my consciousness.
When my father discovered my habit, I was taken to psychiatrists and rehabilitation clinics. I found them all quite amusing and not very effective in really addressing my issues (or not worthy of my intelligence – a case of the classic IITian narcissism). But then, an unexpected gift made its way to me and literally woke me up. I was introduced to yoga and meditation at the Isha Yoga Center in Coimbatore. It was only then that I truly felt the desire to change and stop substance abuse. It took a lot of time, hard work, discipline, dedication and sacrifice before I could discover the true essence of yoga. The discovery that there was a source of unlimited joy and energy within myself was overwhelming enough for me to completely lose interest in just getting high.
My parents were quite badly affected by the whole episode. I even remember my mother saying she wished I had never gotten into IIT. The occasional ugly rumour from some corner of the family still makes its way back to my ears but I am now in a place where I recognize and take pride in my ability to contribute value to people around me, so I don’t mind.
If I had to give any advice to current students, it would be this: remember that there will always be people in your gang who will manage quite well with their lives having experimented with drugs at some point, who manage to excel and achieve their dreams. But don’t let yourself be that one guy who didn’t make it, who went a bit too far, or partied a little too hard and sank a little too low and never fully came back.
If you are friends with someone who is addicted, the best thing you can do is avoid piling guilt and regret on the person affected. The “what you could have been and what you need to be” hypotheses and lectures do not really help. If you can provide some distraction or engage the person in activity that involves them fully, that would really help. But you must be prepared for disappointment and frustrations. Be a friend, rather than a moral authority.
T5E thanks MiTR for helping share this story.
If you would like to share your addiction experience, send us an email at t5e.iitm[at]gmail.com. We guarantee total anonymity! Alternatively, you could use the confession box at the MiTR website.