Say NO – Bolo NA,
Highlights of interview of Atul Agnihotri, a recovered alcohol addict
Webinar was initiated by Rtn. Deepak Bodhani by introducing the main speaker Atul Agnihotri, an engineer who had become totally addicted to alcohol 20 years ago but has recovered fully after treatment at Muktangan and now teaches Yoga. Atul’s interlocutor was Nihar Hasabnis, who has gone through similar conditions and is now a counselor with Muktangan. Third participant in the program was Atul’s daughter Mrunmayee, who has seen the transitions first hand and works counseling psychologist for children of alcoholics.
Atul said the addict often takes to alcohol to calm his own mind, gradually becomes dependent on it and then the original purpose is lost as alcohol takes the primary spot. The addict thinks that his own need for alcohol is supreme and is not concerned with other people.
Atul considers addiction as a deceptive illness, which is progressive, worsens and becomes permanent. Personal traits like overconfidence make things worse. But an addict can come out of it on realization of being trapped. This is when the addict can seek help for himself. While de-addiction treatments are useful, family support is most important. On admission to Muktangan de-addiction centre he benefitted from being totally separated from alcohol, as well as being helped in managing the stress of withdrawal symptoms. The aim there was to focus him back to his the pre-addiction physical and mental state. An addict may quit for a while, but staying away from alcohol forever requires basic conviction as well as persistent follow-up.
He narrated how Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) developed their de-addiction methods. It was observed that when addicts interact with each other in alcohol free conditions, their craving for alcohol diminishes. This discovery has been utilized to extend AA to some 90000 centres worldwide. AA assist in uplifting the person’s spiritual strengths through voluntary sharing of personal experiences, admission of mistakes, struggles etc during their regular meetings. Friendships developed in such conditions are extremely useful to help participants stay away from alcohol. They also reduce withdrawal stress by prompting ‘Quit only for today’ rather that a bigger pledge to ‘Quit Forever’. It is observed that one addict adversely affects about 40 others. AA tries to help one person such as the spouse, child, parent closest to the addict, who is often the worst affected through AL-ANON. These have encouraged many other groups to help addicts of Narcotics or Gambling too.
It is a matter of concern that barely 5% of the addicted people are able to quit permanently. People often start with social drinking but there is no way to predict who will get addicted. The best way therefore is prevention. Hobbies, good company, healthy living and sleep pattern are indeed useful. Current trend in cinema, media, smartphones etc are not healthy.
Mrunmayee narrated her childhood experiences from the time her father Atul was an alcoholic till he recovered. Although her parents shielded her from direct impact of addiction, other influences remained and she was concerned that her father should get well. However, she closely bonded with her ‘house-husband’ father who cared for her after recovery. Her empathy with other children in similar situations inspired her to help them. She is conducting research on such stressed children in Indian conditions. In her interaction with friends who drink, she is clear that the substance is the culprit and is firm about staying away.
Nihar summed up by appreciating the participants’ courage to disregard any stigma associated with alcoholism. Atul concluded by reciting Marathi version of AA’s poem.
Contributed by Rtn. Dileep Paranjpye