“My name is Dasho Paljor Dorji. I’ve been sober and clean since June 2004 …”
“I’m Dechen Wangmo, 26 years old and I haven’t been drinking alcohol since 2007 …”
“I’m Tshewang Tenzin, a recovering drug user, and I’m proud to say I’ve been sober since November 2006 …”
About 150 recovering drug users and alcoholics gathered at the YDF hall in Thimphu yesterday to celebrate the “clean and sober day”. Most of the participants wore white T-shirts and badges showing their sobriety, as they exchanged stories among themselves about loving the clean life. The T-shirts stated: “Ask me. See me. I am drug and alcohol free” – the theme for the event.
The sober and clean day attracted people from all walks of life, with many forms of addiction and varying lengths of sobriety.
Among the group were nine young men, who are still undergoing detoxification at the Thimphu referral hospital.
“Some of us may be sober for a day but that day matters. You have to start somewhere,” said Nima Dorji, who has been sober for almost four years. “Recovering from an addiction shouldn’t be a lonely experience. There are people, who care and will help you through it.” He is a peer counsellor at the drop-in centre for drug and alcohol dependence established by the Youth Development Fund.
Chitheun Phendey, a substance abuse and alcohol abstinence support group, organised the one-day programme.
Dasho Paljor Dorji, known as Dasho Benji, also shared his personal experience as a recovering alcoholic. The former deputy minister and present advisor to the national environment commission told Kuensel that he must have had his first drink at the age of 10. But now that he has 65 months of sobriety under his belt, he said: “The quality of life I enjoy today is wonderful. I still party with my friends and have a good time without having a drink.”
“I had health problems and it was certain that, if I continued drinking, I wouldn’t be here today,” he said. “I used to wake up and have my ‘bed beer’ everyday when other people were having their morning tea.” He told the participants that, if they have an illness, seek help. “There’s no shame in seeking help or saying that you’re a drug addict or an alcoholic,” he said. “If I can do it, so can you. God loves you all just as much to help you through the road to recovery.”
A 18-year old student, who was both drug and alcohol user, said that she has been sober since June 23, 2009. “I still have problems admitting that I’m a recovering addict, because of imagined social stigma against female addicts,” she said. “I like myself today and I’ll be continuing studies next year.”
The participants lit butter lamps and prayed at the start of the programme. Then they went on stage, one by one, to inform the gathering on how long they have been sober and clean, followed by numerous cultural programs. Some of the participants also volunteered to speak at length on their past and the choices they made.
“We want to make it an annual event to celebrate sobriety and addiction recovery,” said program coordinator Tshewang Tenzin. 31-year-old Tshewang, a recovering drug-user, has been sober for three years and is working as a peer counsellor at the Bhutan narcotics control agency. He said that the first celebration had been on November 26, 2008 with about 50 participants.
“It’s a day for people, who were and are fighting against alcohol and drug addiction,” he said. “We’re here to support what we have achieved or hoping to achieve.”
By Phuntsho Choden