The costs of Experiments

Ugyen Kelzang from Bumthang has been drinking for the last 11 years. He has had a decent upbringing but could not continue his studies after the 10th standard as his parents were economically backward, although he was keen on attending school like any other kids in the locality. There were two options for him: to either lend his hand in the farm works or to get himself recruited in one of the training institutions befitting his academic qualifications. He could not opt for the first one since his parents did not have much land-holdings or farm animals to tend to and make a living out of it. He chose the second option which brought him to the Painting School here in 2008. That exposed him to the bustling city life of Thimphu, away from the simple life style he was accustomed to back in his village. There he met old and long lost friends, friends who were school drop-outs, divorcees, struggling with life. It was then where he “experimented” drinking. That experiment introduced him to a different world, a world where everything was possible just with a gulp of alcohol, a surreal world. Then he became an occasional drinker, when and where every next moment in his life became an occasion. By the time he realized, he was already out of the institute and onto the streets, with drinking the only next best thing happening in and around his life. Although the thought about quitting struck him so many times, the nerves in his body over powered the will. “My organs were demanding alcohol on a regular basis and if I didn’t have it on time, the world would come crashing down on me,” he says. The only thing he was worried about would be where the next sip would come from and the one after that.. It was the sign of addiction. A change of scenery might do some help, he thought, and headed back to his parents, his village. But then, he learnt that addiction followed him no matter wherever he went. It was in his mind. Then he got employed at the Punatsangchu Hydropower Project. “Drinking will definitely make your head pop out ahead of everyone but your foot will be rooted onto addic¬tion,” he says, reminiscing his 4 year stint at Punatsangchu. He met a girl and then got married, leveraging that he would quit drinking. That didn’t happen. Instead, he spent almost 40 percent of his monthly income on alcohol. Just around that time, he was blessed with a son and again quitting struck him once more. It never happened but his wife and kid left for their village for good. Alone, he got more submerged into addiction. Family members, relatives, friends and all the people he was acquainted with began stigmatizing him. A series of events unfolded in his life which led him more into the dark crevices of the addiction world. Three years sober now, Ugyen feels that instead of demeaning, people should support addicts and create an atmosphere where he/she could grow as a responsible person at any stage. “Give them a new lease of life not by patronizing or stigmatizing them. Support them, your backing will count the most in their re-growth,” he says.


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