It was 2005. A 15-year-old boy, who was a victim of physical and domestic abuse at home, took refuge in controlled substances hoping it will calm his mind and solve his problems.

Eleven years later, Karma Drubchu, 26, regrets that it was only a temporary solution and substance abuse had, in fact, worsened his condition. “More than the family problem, drug addiction became unmanageable.”

Born to a lay monk and a housewife in Omba village, Trashiyangtse, Karma Drubchu said his parents divorced after they started drinking. “My father beat my mother often and there was nothing we could do.”

He said that after his parents divorced, he had to do all the household chores when children of his age were playing. “To make matters worse, my mother abandoned me and my sister.”

Karma Drubchu said his father physically abused him after his mother left. “He drank more heavily and became violent.”

He said his aunt, who lived in another village took his sister. He has not seen her since then.

Two years after their mother left them Karma Drubchu said his mother returned to take him and his sister with her. “My sister who was with the aunt in Gelephu then refused to come.”

Karma was then brought to Paro and his mother enrolled him in a school there when he was nine-years-old. But Karma found out that his stepfather was also an alcoholic. His stepfather also abused him, physically and verbally. “My mother would sit in a corner and watch when my stepfather beat me with a cane and wire,” he said. “At times, I was tied up like a dog.”

It was during those times that his friends brought him controlled substances. “It made me forget my problems,” he said. But he started missing classes and teachers called his mother to school frequently. “One day I hit my stepfather when he tried to beat me. My mother threw me out of the house.”

He dropped out of school but his maternal uncle brought him to Thimphu and sent him to a boarding school in Wamrong, Trashigang.

He said that during the winter months, he worked at construction sites as day labourer and would use the income to buy school necessities, alcohol and controlled substances.

When he couldn’t qualify class 10, his uncle enrolled him in a private school in Thimphu. “I was addicted to drugs but I controlled the intake and studied hard.”

He claimed he performed well in class 11 examinations but he had stabbed a boy when he was intoxicated in 2012. “I was detained for six months for the offence but the school principal allowed him to sit for class 12 examination,” he said. “The school had high hopes for me but I couldn’t meet their expectations.”

He said his uncle also gave up on him. “I thought I would end my life with drugs and alcohol. All I wanted in my entire life was to have some peace of mind but I never had it.”

Karma said he managed to quit drugs and alcohol after 12 years in 2013 when Lama Shenphen and Her Royal Highness Ashi Kesang Wangmo Wangchuk sponsored and sent him to a rehabilitation centre in Siliguri, India. He spent six months there. Since then, he claims he never touched drugs.

Karma Drubchu is currently studying law in Siliguri. He is in his third year now. A French couple, who lives in London, is sponsoring his education.

“My life changed with the support and confidence placed in me by Ashi Kesang Wangmo Wangchuck and Lama Shenphen,” he said.

Karma Drubchu aspires to become a lawyer and help others who have suffered like him.

Dechen Tshomo