Finding my healing mission with addicts – Matters India



By Joan Chunkapura

Kottayam, November 7, 2022: When I first started working with people with addictions, I heard many comments that this was an unimportant and unnecessary area of ​​service. Still, I felt it was more meaningful and had more of a sense of connection with human beings than working in an administrative position at an educational institution.

Yes, when you enter fully into another’s life, you find true identity and belonging. Julien from Norwich was amazed at the existence of a hazelnut, which is very small and insignificant. But being mystical, she found it important and precious since it is “God loves it”.

Everything is created from the love of God which gives uniqueness and significance to every being. I see part of me in the other, and I also see the face of God in the other — even with all our weaknesses and failures.

India has over 500 tribal groups, with distinct ethnic situations and cultural traits. Some of our sisters working in these areas have invited me for “awareness” – motivation for people with addictions. I have also worked in Africa, mainly in East Africa, with two diocesan formations for basic family health groups, and I also facilitated a treatment camp for dependent people.

Although primary health care is effective, mental health and addiction problems are still not under control, whether in India or in Africa. But many Christian churches, working with other ecumenical efforts, are expanding nationwide through the Christian Medical Association of India, one of the country’s largest healthcare networks.

In the absence of knowledge about the harms of alcohol and drugs, tribal people, working classes, students and people living in slums are easy prey for these addictive substances – compounded by easy access due to of tradition, as well as legalized substances or illegal trade. So, I got involved with fishermen, tribal people, slum dwellers and daily laborers like head workers and plantation workers.

But pioneering a field dedicated to bringing about positive change in people with addictions has always been a challenge for both professional groups and communities. But with the help and support of churches, other organizations and movements like the Gandhi Peace Foundation and the Sarvodhaya Movement (a common religious group working for social change), campaigns could be developed in the preventive area of drug addiction in my whole state of Kerala and also nationally (all India).

I would like to share the story of a young tribal man who started using sleeping pills as a college student away from his family and culture. He felt lonely and studying was difficult for him. He had no close friends to share his struggles and loneliness. He started using cannabis but soon felt it wasn’t strong enough to numb his anxiety, inferiority complex and orphaned feelings.

He switched to the Nitrazepam drug group and he soon found himself confident, rested and making friends – who were also using addictive substances. Then he tried to stop using it and switched to MDMA; it made him feel very high and live in the hallucination of succeeding in life.

But he struggled to manage the day without her as the withdrawal was severe, making him restless and violent. Slowly he became a social menace, causing fights and frequently getting involved in feuds. He was referred by the police for counseling and treatment, and told me in detail about his drug addiction story. The treatment was holistic, with psychiatric and medical help as well as counseling and social reintegration to bring him back to his studies. He not only recovered, but even brought other companions for help and care.

Jesus teaches that only those who love God can love their neighbour. It is only at this sign that everyone will know that we are his disciples (John 13:34-35). The celebration of a jubilee year is described in the book of Leviticus, and it teaches us how God the Father cared for and accompanied the marginalized. Jesus also had a preferential option of concern for the excluded.

So, as religious women, let us also give a witness of life by sharing our skills of service among groups of oppressed and marginalized people. Our healing presence and our willingness to be a prophetic hope even when the problems are beyond us and the solution is in the darkness, will be a witness and a model for many others to respond to the cause of addicts and their families. , which are always in the periphery.

To serve in health care for the marginalized, who have addictions, takes faith, courage and compassion. We cannot always measure our success by immediate and permanent healings. Let’s not forget that life in all its forms is a gift from God, and our life is connected to others who need strength and support – because they too are part of us and loved by God.

(Sister Joan Chunkapura is a member of the International Society of Catholic Medical Mission Sisters. With graduate degrees in clinical psychology and training in family therapy and advanced psychotherapy, she has been a trainer in counseling and psychotherapy in management addiction, stress management, trauma, and psychotherapy. grief work, and family and marital issues. She speaks and writes on these topics, and co-founded a rehabilitation center for people with addictions. Currently, she works with a rehabilitation center and at IHM Hospital, and is an adjunct faculty member at Martin Luther Christian University. This column first appeared on on November 2, 2022)

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