For many generations, alcoholism has been one of the typical issues in many Naga families. Looking at the vicious cycle of alcoholism trends running in the family unit, it effortlessly demonstrates intergenerational transference of substance use. Children as young as 12-13 years are already introduced to alcohol use. There are many places and different reasons why young people start drinking alcohol and one of the contributing factors can be the presence of alcohol in the home. The culture of “occasional drinking” is often considered harmless but the problem arises when alcoholism turn into a destructive or negative lifestyle and the use puts a person at increased risk for developing substance dependency.
Contrary to popular opinion that young people are reckless and immature to understand the negative impact of alcoholism, counsellors working with educational institutions, health centres and faith-based organisations have a completely different opinion. During a recent youth camping event organised by a church under Mokokchung district, over one hundred young people between the age group of 14 to 28 years attended the programme and also availed the one on one interaction sessions with a team of professionals from different backgrounds. In the course of the personal interactions and counsel spread over three days, majority of the campers admitted having issues with alcoholism, directly or indirectly. While some of them were abusing alcohol themselves, others had parents or relatives in the home living with alcohol addiction.
The experience was equivalent for the female and male campers. In some cases, young people were burdened with the responsibilities of taking care of their siblings and managing the household as their parents have started drinking more regularly and developed problematic drinking patterns. Few have encounters of physical abuse and many were going through mental trauma caused by the regular fights and altercation between the father and mother, and even elder siblings. A high school student who by now is into smoking and drinking alcohol habit is developing breathing complications; a 21 year-old female who has backed out of school can barely articulate or have regular conversation, wishes to run away from an agonising environment at home. Likewise, many stories of young people living with challenges and consequences of alcoholism were told.
Scientific studies tell that children with alcoholic parents are four times as likely to engage in excessive drinking in their life and can ‘experience loneliness, depression, anxiety, guilt, anger issues, and an inability to trust.’ As individuals the young people are trying to change, do the best to handle and survive, and break the cycle of alcoholism to strengthen the family unit. Addiction problems must be dealt with and corrected. However the whole issue of alcoholism in the family needs a very comprehensive approach, one that the family alone might not be able to attain. From the law enforcing systems to rehabilitation agencies, educational institutions to churches, perhaps it is time to stop condemning, imposing shameful punishments and threatening the alcoholics. Alcoholism in the family is hard not just for the alcoholics but the family members. But eventually, with the right help and support, it is possible to reach a point where real people and the society can contribute in finding healing for the alcoholics and their families
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