Health

Meet the people who quit their addictions during the pandemic

“Every time someone compliments me on my health, I break into a big smile. Not because I crave validation but because these are the results of putting my past behind me. It was a past defined by alcoholism and the time I had spent regretting, but not acting on it,” says Robin*, a 27-year-old corporate employee.

Support and courage

Two years ago, Robin moved to Bengaluru from Dharwad for a new job. “Initially it was great but in a few months the work environment started turning toxic and I was stressed all the time. This led to a fallout with my long-term partner. Rather than handling it in a healthy way and working on my mental health, I turned to alcohol just to numb the pain. In a few months’ time I had gone from an occasional drinker to an alcoholic,” he says.

Here are a few apps that you can turn to if you are planning to quit your addictions
  • Smoke Free: Based on the data you enter it provides you the health and financial benefits you’ll enjoy if you resist a cigarette. On Android and iOS
  • Sobriety counter: With a colourful interface this app has a health tracker that gives details about your cell regeneration, withdrawal symptoms, blood alcohol levels, when you’re in the process of quitting alcohol. It also has a game to distract until the urge to drink passes, and a tab that shows your savings by giving up drinking. There are badges for every time you say no. On Android
  • I Am Sober: The app helps you choose from options that include alcohol, marijuana, smoking, and drugs. It keeps a track of the number of days, minutes, and seconds spent sober and the money saved. It also connects you to a wide network of people in the recovery stage and those who have recovered. On Android and iOS

This continued for over one and a half years. Then the lockdown was announced. “I was at my parents’ place when the restrictions were imposed. Both of them are teetotallers so there was no alcohol at home. With my previous experiences, I couldn’t go more than a week without drinking. I did manage to sneak in a whisky bottle which I downed in two days but after that there was no way to procure alcohol. I struggled to get a grip over myself as the withdrawal symptoms started showing,” he adds.

Robin recalls those weeks of nausea, fever and heavy sweating. “My parents, initially, did not understand what was happening to me, but they helped me deal with it and that was my wake up call. I knew I had to give up drinking so I started reading a lot about it online and learnt about withdrawal symptoms and how to deal with them,” he says. He has been sober for over three months now.

Several people went online for help to tackle their dependence on alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes

Several people went online for help to tackle their dependence on alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes   | Photo Credit: AJ_Watt

Locking up temptations

Several people used the lockdown to tackle their dependence on alcohol or drugs. “Having friends and family who are supportive is extremely important when one tries to get over addictions. After the lockdown, I have noticed a positive trend where parents are willing to come forward and help their kids rather than judging and humiliating them,” says Leonora R Mohan, consultant psychologist who runs Sparsh Counselling Centre in Visakhapatnam.

Leonora says that her clinic saw a 25% increase in the number of people who sought help for de-addiction. Most are young adults and teenagers for weed addiction. “Lockdown gave people the time and space to rethink their decisions. It also crippled easy access to the addictive substance,” she says, adding that being away from a group or situation that may have earlier supported the addiction, also helped.

The lockdown was a busy time for the staff of Green Valley Foundation, a de-addiction centre in Visakhapatnam. Earlier, they would get one or two calls for help in a week. “During the lockdown we had six to 10 calls every day from families. Our team turned to online counselling,” says Uma Raj, caretaker at Green Valley Foundation. The staff guided families through the deaddiction process and counselled members about talking to loved ones. They also chalked out diets and exercises to help the person regain health.

Uma believes that the true test for people who curtailed their dependency on drugs and alcohol during lockdown would be now, when we have easy access to everything. “I would advise people to seek professional help, as counsellors are trained to identify behavioural patterns, and avoid the chances of a relapse,” she says.

Amrita*, 29, who quit smoking during the lockdown agrees that a relapse can happen any time. “I went 61 days without a cigarette and then after a tough day at work, I decided to light just one. Over the next few days, I smoked an entire pack. The relapse hurt a lot. I felt terrible, like a failure.” But she has now gone without one for 85 days.

What worked for Amrita was setting smaller goals and support from her partner and her friends. “I announced it on social media. Once you put something out on social media and get some validation, it’s helpful,” she says, of turning a negative of online platforms, into a positive.

(*Names changed to protect identity)

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2020 12:21:48 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/people-who-gave-up-their-addicitions-during-the-pandemic/article32890041.ece

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