Arnie Swan

My name is Arnie Swan and I am forty eight years old. I am an alcohol and drug counselor and program manager at a larger alcohol and drug center in Salem, Oregon, in the United States of America .

In February and March of 2007, our family of six traveled from our home in the United States to India to assist in any way we could at Nijaat, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center located in the city of Dehradun in Uttaranchal, India. Because of my work, I was very interested to see and experience an alcohol and drug rehab center in another country. We have always been interested in the Indian culture and were very excited as a family to experience life in India. We were able to come and assist at Nijaat for about seven weeks and also to do some traveling. We are very grateful about what we have seen and learned in India.

After our arrival, the staff at Nijaat was very kind and helpful throughout our stay. Before we arrived they had made arrangements for us to rent a nice house and even supplied us with some furnishings. For the first few days they provided food for us while we learned how to survive on our own and to shop in Dehra Dun. Throughout our stay we had some of our meals at Nijaat. The food was simple but good (usually rice, dal, curry, vegetables, and chapattis). The Director, Saurabh is well connected with numerous officials in the city and is a great resource for Nijaat. He has been a great blessing to all of us.

I was very impressed with the positive change we noticed in the men while they were there. During our stay there were ten to twelve clients who participated in morning and evening meditations, some physical exercise, daily group meetings (based on the 12 step model), teaching times, and weekly meetings with the director. The men were enthusiastic and very willing participants in the meetings. Throughout their participation in the program, they were not allowed to leave the site except for those who were allowed once a week to attend a local place of worship. They seemed to have come from all walks of life with diverse backgrounds of education. While I was there, only one person relapsed. All of the others maintained their sobriety, and were progressing towards healthy living habits.

For change to take place in an addict’s life, the first several months are very significant. A place like Nijaat is essential for an addict to recover because they must separate themselves from their old environment and past unhealthy relationships. In a new healthy and supportive environment, they start to regain perspective so emotional healing can begin. Eventually this can lead to a permanent change in both, their thinking and behaviour. During this process, honesty is also essential. At Nijaat, which provides a supportive environment, the addicts talk about their fears, hopes, past wrong thinking and behavioural patterns without fear of judgment. Participants will take questions sitting in a circle and give answers relating to their thinking to determine what errors they make in certain situations. They are made aware of how they struggle in specific areas of their lives and learn to become more effective in dealing with them.

They are constantly reminded to turn those areas over to God for serenity and power to change. Together the men discover their thinking errors, and work on changing their living habits.

To achieve successful rehabilitation, it is important that there be a structured environment. Addicts who come to the Center usually live very unstructured lives. Those who want to be successful in the program must temporarily surrender most of the control they have over their own lives to the counselor because addicts in general have lost self control. Again, Nijaat is a controlled and safe environment where hopefully addicts surrender control to others whom they can trust to make wise decisions for them until they are able to form the right and healthy habits for themselves. It is fascinating how people are the same everywhere. The therapy practiced at Nijaat and the healing process that follows seems to work everywhere and brings change and hope to many human lives which have been adversely affected by the problem of addiction.

Saurabh, the adminstrator at Nijaat conducted all of the teaching and directed the group meetings. He is universally respected by the men at the Center for both, his wisdom and experience.

As I participated in all the group meetings, I observed that when Saurabh corrected or confronted the men with different issues, they were always willing to listen. Saurabh , who himself has experienced problems with addiction has international experience in drug rehabilitation. I found Saurabh to be both, compassionate and knowledgeable in helping others with recovery. I am very grateful for having learned from Saurabh’s experience in the area of drug rehabilitation.

One of the services that Nijaat performs for the community on a regular basis is to conduct alcohol and drug awareness seminars at various local schools and at other locations in the community. A team from the staff and clients performs skits, presents testimonies and teaches about alcohol and drug addiction. Coming from U.S.A, I was surprised about how naive and unaware most of the students were about alcohol and drug addictions. I felt that the seminars were very effective in educating them to protect them from the dangers of alcohol and drugs. During the time I was there, nearly three thousand students were involved in the seminars. I believe these seminars provide a very important service to the community. An old adage states, "A gram of prevention is worth a kilo of cure."

I suspect that addiction is one of the most overlooked problems in India. It is very common to think that if I don't drink too often or use drugs, I will not be affected. This is not necessarily true as alcoholism usually takes years to develop in a person's life. Also an addiction is often the leading cause of crime in many communities. In many cities in America it is estimated that over 80% of the crimes committed are caused by drug addicts and alcoholics. All of this crime is either directly related to alcohol or drugs addictions or because addicts are involved in crimes to obtain money to support their addiction. As addicts lose control over themselves, their addiction becomes more important to them than their work, their moral standards and even their families. So addictions are very costly and tragic to everyone in a community.

It is also true that in most cities of any culture, leaders are not willing to admit that their community really has a problem with drugs or alcohol so treatment is not made available.

Most of the world including half of Asia is now being ravaged by addiction to meth-amphetamine, a newer drug which is both powerful and inexpensive. Soon, India will probably also be affected.

Despite of its limited budget, I was very impressed with the accomplishments at Nijaat. In my humble opinion, the Center is performing a very valuable service to the city of Dehra Dun and many parts of India as they help in the fight against alcoholism and drug abuse. The cost to support a center such as Nijaat is small compared to the service it provides, the money it saves the community and the lives that are restored. Many of the people receiving help at the Center have nowhere else to turn for help.

As long as the men who lead them are honest and effective, such treatment centers are a very good investment of community resources.