Youth in focus: I used drugs for many years and during my addiction time I did many crazy and wild things. Later, I went to rehab in Siliguri, where I learned many important life-skills. I returned to Bhutan confident to start a new life, but unfortunately my family is not ready to accept me. They always bring up my past and often speak harshly with me. I feel demotivated and hurt by their rejection.  How can I face this situation positively? 

Sad recovering addict, Thimphu

First of all, you need to accept that you did many negative things during your addiction time. As a result, your family was probably very hurt and perhaps even scared of you. It will take time for them to realise that you have really changed.

Think of it like this: In the past, you were like a wild dog biting people here and there. Now, suddenly, you are wagging your tail. People will not immediately reach out and pat that dog, right? They will still be afraid that it will bite them again. However, if the dog continues to wag its tail and doesn’t bite or even growl, people will slowly begin to trust it. They will reach out and pat it. They will learn to love it.

Basically, you need to be patient. You need to be kind to your family and show gratitude for all they have given you in the past. Even if their words are harsh, accept this as a consequence for what you did during your addiction time and do not retaliate. Instead, show regret for your past deeds and vow not to repeat your previous mistakes. Basically, if you want respect, you first have to show it.

Anyway, I advise you not be disheartened, but instead focus on the positive aspects of your life. In particular, you should remind yourself of the past when you were in the hell of addiction. If you can just be patient, slowly things will change and your family will accept you again. Basically, you need to be like the dog that doesn’t retaliate but keeps wagging its tail. I know it is not easy, but try to see the situation from your parent’s point of view. Whatever happens, do not show anger or frustration with your family. If you do, then it will destroy all the progress you have made.

In addition, you should regularly attend Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings and request a trustworthy senior recovering addict to be your sponsor and advisor. At the same time, I strongly suggest that you repeatedly review the 12 step programme that you learned in Siliguri and keep an inventory. You should also get a job or enter a training programme. This will not only give you dignity as a human, but will also help you to gain the respect of your family.

Finally, it is important for you to recognise that problems are part of life. There is no one who goes from birth until death without encountering difficulties and setbacks. Even the Buddha had an enemy – his cousin Devadatta – and so how can we expect everyone to understand and support us? Therefore, instead of feeling demotivated by your family’s rejection, see it as part of life and think of ways to transform the situation into a positive learning experience.

This part of my reply is for your parents: You need to understand that the wild things your son did in the past were not done intentionally but as a result of his addiction. Basically, you need to recognise that the person who did all the crazy things and the one who returned from rehab is not the same.  Furthermore, you should consider that no-one is born an addict or a criminal, but that they become so due to the circumstances of life. In this respect, we can say that negative traits are like mud on a diamond. It is not part of the gem’s nature and so can be washed away. Therefore, as parents or members of society, we should never give up on anyone but instead recognise that every human has the potential to change if given the right intervention. Obviously, some people may need to be isolated from society if they are a danger to themselves and others, but still we should never consider that anyone cannot change and become a good human being. Basically, don’t give up on your son. He is your offspring and he needs you.

Here are some recommended drug-related resource centres in the region:

Drop-in-centres (for advice on addiction):

YDF, Thimphu:

(02) 333-303

Chithuen Pendhey, Thimphu/Paro: (02) 333-111

Jakar: (03) 631-627

Mongar: (04) 641-217

Rehabs (for treatment of addiction): Nazhoen Pelri Rehab Centre (YDF), Thimphu:  admission only after attending hospital detox programme.

Sahayata Rehab, Siliguri (mostly Bhutanese clients): (+91) 9609996661

Shenphen Zangpo was born in Swansea, UK, but spent more than 28 years practicing and studying Buddhism in Taiwan and Japan. Currently, he works with the youth and substance abusers in Bhutan, teaching meditation and organising drug outreach programmes.

Email to for any queries


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