Rising from the ashes: Drug abuse and life ahead

Ujval ShankarDrug abuse is a cause of concern in recent times. People, especially youngsters are trapped in this vicious circle out of an assumption that it would give them peace and happiness. The consequence of substance abuse is serious and affects not only the person who takes drugs but also those around. We’ve heard of accidents caused by driving under the influence of alcohol, deaths caused by cancer due to tobacco consumption, just to name a few and these are on the rise.

For Ujval Shankar, the lure of cigarettes, tobacco and drugs was impossible to resist. This was his story, a decade back. Ujval’s life took a U-turn when he decided to kick the habit. Pranayama, yoga and meditation were his tools to fight the battle against drug abuse.

On this International Day Against Drug Abuse, Mr. Ujval Shankar, shares his experience, talks to us about the difficult times he went through when he was addicted to drugs and also on how he overcame the addiction. Today, Ujval helps others gain a victory over their addiction. He conducts the ‘Stop Smoking, Start Living’ program by the Art of Living. Read the transcript below.

Despite knowing the effects of substance abuse, what made you take it up? What was it like?
Peer pressure & Friends. To be part of the high feeling group. It was a craving for feeling high & getting intoxicated.

When did you realize you were addicted? Who did you seek for help? Was the response positive?
The dependency increased & when I started consuming it everyday & even when I was alone. I then sought help from a friend who was into The Art of Living and his response was positive.

What made you realize you were in trouble and needed help?
My mental health stability & my dependency on the substance overtook my mind. I needed help when I realized that my health both physically & mentally was unstable. Emotions like anger increased & I became low in self confidence.

What was the withdrawal from substance abuse like? Were there any instances when you felt the need to go back to smoking?
It was a bunch of mixed feelings. I felt very irritated & restless.

Yes at times I felt like going back to it but thanks to the Pranayama, Yoga, Meditation & Sudarshan Kriya (Bio rhythmic breathing technique) which helped me cope up with my withdrawals tremendously

What kind of help did you receive to overcome the addiction? Were people around you supportive?
The Art of Living program was a big life changer for me. The Pranayama, deep meditations & the Sudarshan Kriya which I learnt during in the program was my guiding force to quit my habit. Also the wisdom & the spiritual guidance I received from Sri Sri Ravi Shankar & the Art of Living faculty really was my support system. There was constant support from all my friends & teachers.

Also I was guided to be a part of the advance program which helped me to overcome my withdrawal symptoms completely.

How has this experience shaped your life?
It’s given me a new life of confidence, happiness & peace. The Art of Living programs & the spiritual path have given me the platform to be dynamic, peaceful & has helped me overcome by emotions. Today I am able to mentor & guide others to come out of the habit.

What kind of help do addicts really need? How do you think parents and peers can support them?
Many addicts need a lot of support to quit their habit. They need to be shown this path of Yoga, Pranayama & the breathing techniques to overcome their aversion towards substance abuse, eliminate their stress levels & also how to lead life in a positive way.

Parents & Peers need to be their biggest support. They need to be constantly guiding them on taking up these programs as the techniques taught helps them overcome their habits effectively & also makes them better human beings with Spiritual growth.

What kind of help is available for addicts in India?
The Art of Living Drug de-addiction program is of great help for any addict who wants to quit the habit. The Art of Living centers & Teachers located across the country can be contacted for help.

Art of LivingWhat is your advice to teenagers who are vulnerable to such situations?
Teenagers & Youth who are caught up into the habit & are willing to quit have this wonderful program. They just need to spend a few days of their lives learning these techniques of breathing, Pranayama, Sudarshan Kriya & meditation. They should also inspire others to quit once they do so.

What kinds of signs should parents watch out for that may indicate their children are on drugs?
Some of the initial signs would be – drowsy eyes, too much sleep or irregular patterns of sleep. At times asking for too much pocket money & the set of friends they are with is a sign of the start of their habits.

What would be your advice to a casual user?
My advice is – if you are doing drugs or for that matter even smoking or drinking….don’t even try it. These substances only give u an artificial feeling of high.

There is more to life & society needs you. Make Life useful & don’t hurt it. Become role models for others..that’s the greatest High you can get.

How do yoga and breathing techniques help overcome addiction?
Yoga, Pranayama & Breathing Techniques like Sudarshan Kriya really takes off the craving of any addiction.
It helps to overcome your withdrawals & gives you instant energy. Also Meditation helps one control their emotions & avoids unnecessary thoughts of cravings of any form.

With regular practice of Pranayama, Yoga & Breathing one can easily eliminate stress which at most times is the cause of substance abuse.

Tell us a little about the ‘Stop Smoking, Start Living’ program.
It’s a campaign started by Art Of Living to help people quit the habit of Smoking & other substance abuse. It lets people know that there is a solution to quit your smoking habit & how you could lead a happy & peaceful life. The Art of Living program is experiential & loads of fun filled energetic activities to overcome ones habits.

What is your message to youngsters on The International Day Against Drug Abuse?
Let’s be role models in the society & inspire many more not to get into the path of Smoking, Alcohol & Drugs. If you notice any of your friends or family members who need help to quit the habit you should reach out to the nearest Art of Living center or a Teacher.

There is a better feeling of High which can be experienced through Meditation, Pranayama, Sudarshan Kriya & on the path of Spirituality.

For more details on the ‘Stop Smoking, Start Living’ program,  visit http://www.artofliving.org/in-en/deaddiction-program