Former alcoholic turns savior
Until 2002, Kumar Dhakal, 51, of Surkhet was a respected journalist, a teacher and a responsible family man.
In the five years that followed, that image was shattered as Dhakal made a descent into the abyss of alcohol abuse. He lost his job and was incapable of shouldering family responsibilities.
“In those dark years, there was nothing in my life except alcohol,” said Dhakal.
But Dhakal fought back. Today, he is a source of inspiration for people who want to overcome alcohol and drug abuse.
Dhakal, who has personally set up the Spiritual Awakening Society (SAS), now devotes his days to rescue alcoholics from the brink.
Dhakal´s journey to sobriety started at Sahara Rehabilitation Center, where he was taken by his wife and father. He stayed there for six months beginning November, 2006, and walked out a sober man. Ever since, he has worked to help others give up alcohol.
A year ago, he set up SAS, which is probably the first organization in the mid-western region started by a former abuser to help cure abusers. In May last year, it started the SAS Nepal Rehabilitation Center where 80 people have received treatment so far.
“Fifty of them were successfully treated. About two dozen are still trying to overcome abuse,” he said.
Dhakal´s is a personal initiative. So far, the Society has not received support from the government or donors. Instead, it is former abusers like him that have pitched in.
Dhakal says seeing abusers transform into sober human beings keeps on motivating him to work to save more abusers from self-destruction.
Dhakal, who was once shunned by society and family members owing to his alcohol abuse, has earned back respect.
“Before, I was just a school teacher and a journalist. But today, I am also a teacher who shows the way to people who have lost their way,” he said with pride.
The pride is well-founded. Dhakal´s SAS has today become the obvious destination for people whose parents or children are into abuse.
Dhakal has followed a simple routine for the past one year. He heads for the rehab center early in the morning, gets back home for lunch, goes to Amarjyoti Higher Secondary School to give classes, and then again leaves for the rehab.
Dhakal´s effort to rescue abusers is not limited to Surkhet. Every Tuesday, he reaches the Bhairab Rehabilitation Center in Birendranagar and provides free counseling to abusers.
“Giving time to SAS Nepal and Bhairab Rehabilitation Center has helped my own recovery,” he said.
Relapse is a common problem among abusers. There are examples of people who go back after recovering from SAS Nepal Rehab Center and later relapse. Dhakal says relapse is due to lack of determination and honesty.
“In the absence of these two qualities, an abuser can relapse no matter where he receives treatment,” he said. He added that those who come to a rehab must admit that they are abusers. And they must stick to a long-term recovery regimen.
When asked whether he sometimes feels like partaking alcohol in situations when there is no one to see him, he said, “That is when you need honesty.”
Dhakal did his SLC in 1975, and completed intermediate in education six years later. Four years later, he started teaching at the lower secondary school. He also practiced journalism while teaching in school.
His drinking problem almost cost him his teaching profession in 2006 when he stopped going to school. Fortunately, his was a permanent job.
According to NGO statistics, there are around 1,000 chronic abusers in Surkhet alone. A majority of them do not reach rehabs. A section of those who visit a rehab end up relapsing.