Smita thought she might have always been prone to addiction and viewed herself as demanding, stubborn, and given to fits of rage when she did not get what she wanted. On the other hand, she saw her older brother being pampered by their parents. It seemed he was given everything he wanted while he just indulged himself in drugs. Her brother had 23 rounds of treatment and finally got clean. However, during this time Smita felt her parents “forgot that they had a daughter too”. She felt it was unfair that, while she had stayed clean, it was she who suffered the consequences of her brother’s addiction. At the same time, she was trying to manage a long-term relationship with her boyfriend who was also deep in addiction.

The first time Smita tried alcohol it was out of anger, curiosity, and spite as she grew tired of seeing the men around her using substances while she missed out. She said: “You like alcohol so much? One day I will try too. What is this thing? My brother also likes drinking it a lot. You also like it a lot. Dad too likes it. What is this thing? I will try this time.’”

At first, her drinking was just casual but her relationship problems started affecting her education and she changed her school. She said: “I met friends who were older than me. Then there was no stop to drinking alcohol.”  This continued when she went to college where she started using more substances. This was a very difficult time for Smita: “It is such a page in my story. That page I do not let anyone read. I always skip that…So with them I got into using. I used upper drugsTo drink you need a gathering. Drugs doesn’t require a gathering.”

Smita did not inject drugs fearing she would be caught like her brother because of the marks. She was terrified of rehab because of what her brother had told her and wanted to avoid it at all cost. However, later she learned that her brother made rehab sound dreadful because he wanted the family to let him come home so he could start using again.

As time passed Smita looked for more and more intoxication. She explained: “Suppose when you make a vegetable dish the spice isn’t coming up to taste. If you give more spice maybe the vegetable dish will be more tasty. It was that type. That, this in present day, this much quantity isn’t giving me a trip. Let me add another two or three substances then I will get more trip.” However, Smita realised she was going deeper into addiction and reached out: “Then slowly, slowly what happened is so I told mom. I thought then that no it’s a lot now and at that point you can relate this too (refers to photo). I was very stuck at a point in life.”

Photo representing feeling ‘stuck’

She tried quitting on her own but quickly relapsed. She then met a man in her brother’s rehab who helped her get to a turning point. Their conversations supported her to stop using, change her lifestyle, and develop a strong motivation to stay clean. She experience a revelation about her drug taking: “That day I broke. No I am not powerless. I won’t be powerless with you. I go and buy you. Do you come to buy me? I go to the shop to buy you.” They developed a close relationship and just being listened to helped Smita immensely: “He only listened. He didn’t make me listen. You understand the difference?”