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Jesuit NGO helps drug addicts to turn over a new leaf in south India

Gilbert Arun, 24 from Tamil Nadu.

Gilbert Arun, 24, has struggled with drug addiction since he was a teenager. However, his vice no longer binds him.

Many thanks to the Jesuit-run nonprofit organization in Tamil Nadu, south India, Arrupe Health Enclave for Alcohol and Drug Dependents (AHEAD).

Thanks to AHEAD, Arun and many other young people who battle substance misuse were able to conquer their habit.

"I've used it since I was in school. When I was fifteen years old, I started smoking cigarettes. A year or two later, I switched to marijuana," Arun says.

He befriended peers his age and organized his introduction to the cannabis community on a secluded hilltop near his village.

It was an unusual experience. He took a few puffs and burst out laughing. He made fun of everything his friends said, which made them anxious and uncomfortable.

"As soon as I realized it, I burst out laughing even more. I couldn't stop laughing, and I had no idea what was making me laugh so much, which was very weird and scary," he remarked.

Arun felt terrified. He could not remember how the group concluded the meeting or how he returned home. However, all he wanted was to pull on the "joint" once again when he woke up the following morning. And thus, his march towards addiction started.

"I just managed to finish my school studies with a minimum pass percentage because my studies were neglected," Arun recounted.

He spent a year at the Jesuit-run Loyola College in Chennai, thanks to his uncle's successful admissions efforts. The college environment was unfamiliar to him. His difficulty in locating other marijuana users was the main issue.

After a year, he said, "I returned and received acceptance into the Jesuit-run undergraduate program at St. Joseph's College in Trichy, Tamil Nadu."

Since the college is only a few hours away, he could then reconnect with his drug-using gang from the countryside, and he has also made drug-using college friends.

Despite attending college for three years, he did not pass most of the exams.

"My family checked me into a treatment facility because they were worried about my drug addiction.

"Along with ten other patients, I was confined to my room," Around remarked.

He could only occasionally peek up at the sky through a tiny window.

Arun's relatives hid from him the news of his father's passing while he was confined. Arun was at the rehab facility for half a year.

"By now, my family had realized that I would get gloomy and listless. "One more time, my uncle saved me by removing me from the center and placing me right in the middle," Around explains.

There was a distinct mood in the air. There were two doctors present: a physician and a psychiatrist, and the cuisine was good.

He attended four sessions of lectures and group discussions, individual therapy, yoga classes, and morning mass.

Arun says, "I discovered that addiction is a sickness and how it has messed up my life.""I could walk through the surrounding fields in the evening and enjoy the outdoors." I have learned to review my life, talk about my addiction, and accept my addictive behavior.

Most importantly, he learned to pray, and over time, things started to change for the better in his life.

After almost half a year, Arun started going with the AHEAD team whenever they spoke to a group of kids about drugs and addiction. He said, "I told the audience my life story." "It was a testimony worth sharing to encourage and assist others."

As he developed sobriety, they moved him into a halfway house and allowed him to complete his college coursework. He hopes to finish the course of study by the end of May.

Jesuit Missions UK is a charity organization that supports AHEAD.

"I am appreciative of Jesuit Missions UK's support of AHEAD, as it allows many individuals, including myself, to overcome their addiction on an inner level and, most importantly, to begin anew," says Arun. - with input from Jesuit Missions  

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