How My Internship At A Rehab Centre Gave Me A New Perspective on Life
Last week, after what happened to be a very exhausting day of college, I sat down to watch another episode of Mom during dinner. The American sitcom revolves around the lives of a recently sober woman, Christy and her estranged mother Bonnie, who, along with their friends, attempt to overcome the never-ending problems that they encounter daily as recovering addicts, with their hysterical and often, chaotic antics. Interestingly, at the same time, this dark comedy equally manages to draw the attention of its viewers towards extremely critical issues such as alcoholism, drug addiction, teen pregnancy, problem gambling, homelessness, relapse, domestic violence, overdose, rape, obesity, stroke, cancer and death by addressing the same in a more serious light.
An essential and recurring theme of the show focuses on capturing heartwarming interactions among the characters in the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings. Here, they discuss and reflect upon their day to day struggles as addicts in recovery and thereby, play a key role in helping each other stay sober in the process. Alcoholics Anonymous is a 12-step, self-help recovery program whose aim is to serve as a mutual support group for recovering addicts. The whole essence of an AA meeting is to provide a comfortable environment for individuals to share their vulnerabilities and feelings as honestly and openly as possible without any fear of judgement while at the same time being able to retain their anonymity.
I happened to be in my final year of high school when I discovered the existence of a support group like the Alcoholics Anonymous while I interned at a rehabilitation centre as a part of my case study project in Psychology. I still remember how wary, unsure, and nervous my friends and I felt when we were going to interact with the AA participants for the very first time. However, before talking to each of them individually, we were made to attend a few AA meetings. Surprisingly, it would be much later when I would come to realise the privilege and responsibility we high school kids enjoyed. In spite of being outsiders, we could not only get in touch with the sponsors but also actively participate in the AA meetings.
As I proceeded to interact with my subject, I came to know that his family got him admitted into the same rehabilitation centre again for the second time as he, unfortunately, could not stay sober after more than fifteen days, during the first time around. The main reason for his relapse was the fact that soon after his discharge, he went back to spending time with his old group of friends and under their influence, began consuming alcohol all over again. The subject remembered grappling with intense feelings of guilt, regret, anger, shamefulness, resentment, and loneliness whenever he thought about his family. He had further recalled turning to alcohol to cope with difficulties that crept into his love life and deal with considerable financial losses that affected his business. It was only in retrospect, when he spent time in rehab, that he came to realise that how his previous actions and behaviour had deeply upset and hurt his family. Therefore, once he went on to attend the AA meetings regularly, he started looking at things with much more clarity by coming to terms with reality and was determined to make positive changes in his life.
Important things that I learned from my internship:
In a country like India, there is still a strong stigma attached to issues like alcohol and drug abuse, which is why many people are still hesitant or even embarrassed to seek professional help for their immediate family via rehabilitation centres, let alone talk about the same. Furthermore, the easy access and availability of alcohol and drugs, not to mention very little to no awareness regarding the consequences of substance abuse in a country like this, only aggravates the growing challenges concerning the same. Apart from factors like peer pressure, sheer curiosity, and boredom, this is what caused the subject and many other individuals from lower economic backgrounds to indulge in alcohol or drug abuse from a very young age.
One of the primary objectives of the AA meetings is to generally focus on dealing with each day at a time, i.e. by taking each day as it comes. It is important for addicts in recovery to focus on living in the moment at present as this would enable them to set realistic goals on their paths to sobriety. We must also keep in mind that once a person becomes an addict, he or she will always be an addict in recovery throughout his or her life because there is a dangerous possibility of them relapsing at any point in time, especially in the most unexpected situations. On account of this, it is all the more necessary for addicts to find themselves a support group outside rehab. Moreover, the risk of alcohol or drug abuse becomes higher than before and they have to rely solely on themselves to remain sober.
It is also rather impressive and fascinating to note that Alcoholics Anonymous eventually became a catalyst for the emergence of other 12-step, self-help recovery programs such as:
Online Gamers Anonymous
We must also understand that most of the time, something as vital as the wellbeing of the families of these addicts often ends up going unnoticed. Sadly, they end up suffering the most and are at the receiving ends of emotional, physical or financial abuse which makes them more prone to mental health problems like depression and anxiety. It is a relatively lesser known fact that support groups exist for the family members of these addicts too. Some examples of such self-help groups are Al-Anon/Alateen, Nar-Anon, Gam-Anon/Gam-A-Teen and Co-Anon for family members of alcohol, drug, gaming and codependent addicts respectively.
Finally, if we come across any of our loved ones struggling with addiction of some sort, we must choose to offer our unconditional love and support by assuring them that they are not fighting their battles alone and that they do not have to suffer in silence. No matter what, we must strive to create a safe, comfortable, and trusting environment to make it easier for them to open up and talk about their problems freely. More importantly, we must all gently remind ourselves of the fact that there is always a great deal of strength reflected in asking for help. By doing so, it would not only help in making the world a better place to live in but also provide some significant meaning and perspective to all of our lives.