Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

A sharp whistle breaks the quiet at the Happiness Centre Recovery Volunteer Group (HCRVG). It is 3:30pm and time to play. Several teenage boys hustle up to the volleyball ground nearby.

Located on the confluence of Toorsa and Omchhu, the voluntary centre renowned for “relapse prevention” is inching to complete its first year since inception.

Although the centre today has become a popular spot for the needy recovering addicts, it is not without challenges.

The recovering addicts just have a house that is partitioned to two rooms. It has a common toilet. Recently, a makeshift kitchen has been raised outside the centre, which has created some room. However, it still appears congested.

The centre’s founder and a volunteer, Bhupdhoj Ghalley said more than 20 addicts have already left. But not everyone left on a positive note.

“Some got jobs, some went to schools, while some stopped coming,” he said. “But some had to go home as we were finding it difficult to afford.”

Many from the business community and other professions have contributed to support the centre both in cash and kind. However, ration still is the primary concern with the centre.

Happiness Centre caters to all those in recovery mode. It has students, dropouts, and homeless of ages ranging from 17 to 40. It has become their second home – one where they are understood better and keeps them on track to recovery.

A 17-year-old class nine student from Chapcha is about a week old at the centre. His mother who works in Phuentsholing has dropped him at the centre.

“My parents were divorced. I haven’t seen my father for about two years, now” he said.

The teenager said he got addicted to sniffing fluids. But he has realised what he is doing is wrong and he wants to change. He wishes to return to school.

At 40, Bhushan is the oldest in the lot. He was into alcohol and other substances. After entering into the centre in October, he has been sober.

“I have worked different jobs in my life but all in vain as I was addicted,” he said, adding that he used to get anxious and hallucinations that affected his performance.

Bhusan said he had been sober before and relapsed all the time. Families and relatives don’t understand the phase addicts and alcoholics go through, he said, adding they would only talk about will power, which was not possible for those who had hit “rock bottom.”

Another recovering addict has come to the centre straight from the rehab centre in Siliguri in October 2019. The guitar enthusiast said he got divorced due to his addiction problems.

“I grew up in a bad surrounding,” he said. “I saw my parents gambling at home.”

Tshering said addiction had started as early as 14. It has been 11 months he has turned sober.

Each one at the centre has a story to share. Most talk of neglect and denial, family problems, while some started taking drugs due to peer pressure.

Bhupdhoj Ghalley, who is a former addict, meanwhile, has better plans for the centre’s growth and sustainability.

“Legalisation is our first priority,” he said. “We are working to include ourselves under the umbrella of Nazhoen Lamten, a non-profit organisation in Thimphu.”

Bhupdhoj said the centre is currently stuck at getting the land registration, which is under thromde.