Get addicted to helping others

2016-11-08 06:00

Staff of Athlone Police Station’s trauma room hosted an awareness evening at the station’s hall on Thursday night.

The aim of the evening was to help community members see the options available when dealing with substance abuse.

Shamsheer “Pinky” Singh is heading up the awareness programme, which will lead those who seek help towards a traditional 12-step programme to help sufferers onto the road of recovery from substance abuse.

He says that the initiative is not only aimed at addicts, but also for those who have had their lives affected by addicts.

“You find because of the social stigma, a lot of people don’t like to talk about it.

“If you are experiencing that your family member has a problem, you as a child will keep quiet and pray it away and hope it away. You feel that if you share it with somebody else they are going to laugh at you. So then who do you go to, what do you do? As a trauma room we are looking at these things,” says Singh.

He adds the programme is not intended to control those who are affected by substance abuse nor have the platform be an outlet for anti-drug campaigners.

“We are not there to criticise or insult drug dealers and things like that. That is not our thing. Our thing is recovery. We are not talking anti drugs. We are talking about how we can deal with the current situation.”

The programme will host numerous speakers who will share their experiences and tell about how they were introduced to the 12-step programme.

Singh says his 22 years of being a councillor for substance abuse addicts have brought their own challenges.

“There are treatment centres which are there for 21 days. You are looking in the region of R30 000 to R40 000. Some of them can be a little bit cheaper.

“Most families in our area where we are hosting the programme, they don’t have that money and they can’t afford it. What are your options then?

“You look at the government institutions, which charge you according to your circumstances. These facilities are overcrowded and have a long waiting list and some people end up staying there for too long, almost similar to prison for example,” says Singh.

He says once initial treatment is over, the recovery process does not stop. This is another reason the trauma room has opened its doors to hosting a wider ranging programme.

“We have something like 93 AA meetings every week, daily and we have 64 NA meetings every week, daily in every area.

“To attend these meetings costs you nothing. There is no requirement for membership, any social standing or money. That is where the “anonymous” comes in, because they are not interested in who you are or what family you come from. You are free to disclose that if you want to,” he explains.

StigmaSingh warns that even if you do not perceive your particular habit to be a problem, it may still be a habit that is life-altering should you choose to stop.

“Let’s take it from this scenario; so you have these two ladies travelling in this aeroplane. The one lady says to the other that her husband passed away. The other lady asks what he passed away from. The answer is ‘alcoholism’. The other lady asks why her husband had not gone to AA; her reply is: ‘But he wasn’t too bad.’ You are not too bad to find help, but you can die. That is what the stigma is,” Singh says. “Unfortunately you are going to have that stigma.”

Singh says in his own experience in Rylands he has witnessed families sweep issues of addiction under the carpet instead of seeking help.

“You realise [the problem] and come to understand the whole idea that addicts are not bad people trying to become good people. They are sick people trying to get better. The moment we understand that and realise that, because it can happen to you or anybody, we can start recovering,” he says.

The programme will continue to run weekly and is free of charge; something Singh says is not something to scoff at.

“In society, when people don’t pay for something – I don’t know why – we are very sceptical.

“In AA and NA, we advise those attending to stay for 90 days. Make 90 meetings in 90 days. We will help you and try. If you don’t like us after 90 days, tell us, we will refund your miseries and you can go.

“Many people don’t like to go after that. When they stay for 90 days, they realise the value of what they are getting.”

He concludes by saying that the mechanisms that play a role in someone becoming addicted also play a role in helping that person recover – akin to reverse addiction.

“Recovery is exactly the same thing; you become addicted to helping others.”

V Contact the Athlone Police Station’s trauma room on xxx xxx xxx.

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