Being fired from his job in May was a wake-up call that permeated through the relaxed mellowness induced by the marijuana Devank was hooked to.
“I realized I had to get my act together before it was too late,” Devank says.
Devank smoked pot for the first time during a college fest at the age of 19, giving in to his friends’ cajoling. After that first time, it became a weekend affair, but soon, he was cutting classes to smoke up with his friends.
He kept this up for four years before college authorities called his parents and told them he was missing too many classes. That’s when his parents found out that he smoked weed. All Devank could say in his defense was, that he was not an addict.
But, by this time, Devank had started smoking up every day. Although he was unwilling to accept it, he had become one of the small number of people who became dependent on marijuana.
According to a 2012 article in Scientific American, just 9% of people who use marijuana ever get hooked. Comparisons with other drugs show that nicotine, heroin and alcohol are more addictive.
In four years, the occasional joint had become an everyday affair. Devank panicked. When he was sober, he panicked even more.
Under pressure from his parents, he went to a rehabilitation centre but found that the counsellor’s advice to “breathe deeply” when he was tempted to smoke up did not help. “I did decide to stop using it, but was unable to,” Devank said. His social circle kept bringing him back to weed, but his parents were content that he was getting help.
Soon, he began to get caught more often. “Then my dad started taking me to a cop, who would tell me not to use it,” he recollects. “But I just couldn’t stop using it,” he says, the helplessness in his voice evident.
After college, he got a job, but was shown the door for underperformance in slightly over a year.
Set to leave rehab, Devank says: “I can now see clearly how my life went down the drain. Initially, I had difficulty even talking to my parents when I got back home (after smoking up). But once I got used to it, I would study and even talk to them even when I was stoned.”
From there, it wasn’t long before he began to smoke up everyday. “I had to do it even in the morning once I woke up. On days when I went to work without smoking up, I would sit all day thinking about the time I would go back and smoke up. I had no choice but to provide what my body asked for,” Devank says.
Devank has spent 22 days in rehab, the longest he has ever stayed away from marijuana, but the road to giving up weed was longer and harder for Samuel, who has been addicted to both alcohol and marijuana for 10 years.
Six months after trying marijuana in college, Samuel began to use it frequently. He was barely 18. For four years, he managed to hide it from his parents. When they found out, he denied it. But his parents kept finding marijuana among his things and made him seek help. However, he would skip medications and generally disregarded therapy.
Two-and-a-half years ago, he quit freelancing for IT companies. He attempted to quit marijuana, but gave upwithin six months. With nothing to keep him occupied, Samuel drank and was “perpetually stoned”.
“There have been times when I had to drag myself home, unable to even stand properly,” 28-year-old Samuel says. Things got so bad, that he had to smoke up even to eat.
About two months ago, he finally got help and decided to follow instructions at the rehabilitation centre. Conscious of the emotional trauma his family had to go through all these years, Samuel is optimistic.
More than Samuel and Devank, Samar’s case shows that addiction is not simplistic and neither is it easy to give up. Samar has been in and out of rehab for about five years and hooked to marijuana for nearly 10.
“It’s just so difficult… you wouldn’t know,” he says. “When you are in rehab, it is not difficult to divert your mind to other activities, say reading or yoga. But it’s when you’re out, that you don’t have the courage to withstand the urge. Sometimes you go with the flow, and the flow needn’t be in the right direction,” he laughs lightly.
Asked about the first time he did drugs, Samar chuckles. “Curiosity kills the cat, isn’t it?” But this time, things are different. He had been hospitalised and was heavily sedated when he was taken to rehab.
"Life might give you a couple of chances, but will not keep giving you chances for the same mistake. When I see my family's support even after all these years, I have no choice other than to hope that this time would be different," he says, sounding determined.
For starters he has some ideas about how to live once he’s out, even he doesn’t know when that will be. He wants to go back to a childhood interest – reading. And perhaps, even write about the price he paid.
(All the names have been changed)