Profile: On the second floor of the Karma Khangzang building, one of the most frequented places by youth these days, is a newly opened pizzeria.

With comfortable modern-looking chairs, colourful curtains and a warm ambience, Siena Pizzeria, a name that rings similar to a famous place in Italy known for its cuisine, doesn’t disappoint.

Namgyal, 25, owns the restaurant. He has a cheerful and friendly personality. In a nutshell, his family and friends adore him.

But this was not the case seven years ago. Namgyal was a different person back then, someone who abused drugs, frequently partied and stayed away from home for days.

It all started in 2009 when Namgyal, a young boy studying in the seventh standard was drawn towards smoking and other questionable behaviour. He gradually also began losing interest in studies. He started bunking classes and played video games rather than read books.

“I was curious and I wanted to try out everything; I started smoking which led me to sniffing correction fluids and finally to other drugs that led to addiction,” Namgyal recalled.

“Nobody influenced me back then. I thought all these stuff were ‘cool’ as a kid and then one thing led to another,” Namgyal said. “Soon, I started attracting the same group of people who were into drugs. The group started expanding and there was no looking back from there.”

“To buy more drugs, there were instances where we used to steal from our parents or buy on credit in various shops. What started from small doses increased to the point of no return,” Namgyal said.

“I couldn’t complete my high school because I just couldn’t focus on my studies. This gave me a lot of free time. I got the hang of ‘roaming’ all the time and staying out late at night after that,” he added.

Then in 2011, Namgyal became sick when he tried stopping the drugs.

“I wanted to leave these drugs – that’s what my mind told me but my body refused,” he said. “Whenever I tried leaving it, I was consumed by the withdrawal symptoms. I realised I needed help.”

Motivated to give up his habits, Namgyal confronted his parents and relatives. He told them about his drug habits and the wrongdoings he had committed.

Soon he was referred to a detox centre in the referral hospital in Thimphu and then to Siliguri where he stayed for four months and 20 days under a detox programme.

With a new perspective and a second chance in life, Namgyal decided to give his cooking skills a shot. He laid out his future plans to his parents and uncle, who supported him.

Namgyal attended a six-month internship course at the Taj hotel in Thimphu and another year in Thailand learning the skills of cooking especially the art of cooking pizzas.

Today, Namgyal is proud that he knows how to make 41 different types of pizzas, which can be found in the menu of his restaurant.

“The biggest regret I will ever have in my life is the time I’ve wasted by focusing on drugs instead of other aspects of life. It was difficult to gain back the trust of my family. I realised that trust and support is the most important part of our life,” Namgyal said.

I remember how helpless my parents were because of what I did but they still stood by me, I’m truly grateful to them, he said adding he is also grateful to Lam Shenphen who helped him and other young people who are in similar situations like him.

Namgyal said there is help for those that want to beat their addictions but most of all strong support from family and friends is required.

“At the end, embracing drugs and becoming addicted is definitely not worth it. I hope through my story, young people won’t be tempted to try out such behaviours but instead learn through our mistakes,” said Namgyal. “Sometimes observing and learning from other’s mistake is enough in life,” he added. “Today, there are more people that appreciate or look up to me for turning my life around than criticising me. At the end of the day, everything depends on an individual’s mind-set.”

At that moment, two customers walked into his restaurant. With a bright smile, Namgyal invited them and made them feel at home.

Everyone deserves a second chance.

Thinley Zangmo