(Don Bosco Joint Action for New Alternatives to Narcotism and AlcoholisM)
A Department of Counselling and Treatment for Alcoholic Patients
EPP for the Department
Alcohol-related problems are emerging as a major public health concern in India. The ever increasing production, distribution, promotion and easy availability of alcohol joined with the changing values of society have resulted in this situation. In the country about one third of the adult population seems to consume alcohol in a regular manner. In an urban or a rural community the use of alcohol is found anywhere between 20 to 90 per cent. The normal age group is 15 to 60 years. But today the lower age limit is further shrinking to 11 or 12. This phenomenon is noticed across the whole country. The ailment is also said to be noticed among two percent of women which is also on the swift increase today.
Alcoholism destroys not only the drinker, but his entire family. The family members, wives and children, carry the wounds of the disease of alcoholism far more than the alcoholic himself. Their lives are marred by shame, disruption of family life, and wasting of hard earned money on alcohol generating a cycle of indebtedness and poverty. Children become disoriented, perform poorly in studies and many drop out. Domestic violence, child abuse, mental trauma, multiple ailments, suicides, poverty, poor self esteem, burden of debt, child labor, malnutrition and social disorganization, juvenile delinquency, criminal behavior are endemic to this population.
Women and children in Tamil Nadu traditionally are perceived to be from a healthy family culture – ‘unbreakable’ marriages, simple and peaceful family environments… But today the families and relationship with self and others become dysfunctional. One of the main secrets or underlying cause is alcoholism in these families. The family members become codependents. Their self esteem and their quality of life are immensely drawn down. In these disintegrated families one could easily notice the unhealthy upbringing and development of children. Specially the women and girl children are the victims and become more vulnerable in these bewildered, suffering families. Alcoholism generates such a confusing and complex problem that many of the alcoholics and their family do not know that there is a hope.
The family of an alcoholic is robbed of many vital things. Life has literally been taken away from them –emotionally, physically, spiritually, socially, and vocationally. The family of the alcoholic moves in society as a hurt and broken unit, desperately seeking a ray of hope in what seems to them a hopeless situation. Especially the children of the alcoholics are literally marginalised. Even though they have their parents existing they are factually orphans. Many of the children of alcoholics are ashamed of being born in that (alcoholic) family. About 99% of the runaway children are children of alcoholics. Around 80% of the prisoners are children of alcoholics. The whole world may come forward and ‘lavishly’ pour out their money on the affected and infected children of AIDS. But very few may have concern towards these unfortunate and ill-fated children of alcoholics. It is high time now to have the concerns of these children addressed in all our agendas.
There is an urgent need to educate the youngsters about the evils of alcoholism and drug abuse. There is a need for us Salesians to establish an open and frank dialogue with our children and youth on alcoholism / drugs, instead of sweeping the issue under the carpet. We are hesitant to talk about the issue, but that approach does not help. There is a limit to what other de-addiction centers can achieve on their own regarding awareness and rehabilitation programme for children / youth especially children of alcoholics. But the Salesians have a primary and major role in setting up Department for counselling and treatment of alcoholic patients and the members of their families.
Until 1935, addiction to alcoholism was considered as amoral problem or a character disorder. Since then the WHO has recognized it as a disease. As a disease it affects not only the physical health of man but also affects the brain very badly. It affects one’s body, mind, spirit, family, and other relationships. It is said that when one alcoholic patient recovers, he brings joy back into about 28 people in his life, meaning his family members, relatives and friends. A total treatment for alcoholism does not exist. The ultimate treatment lies in teaching the person to lead a joyful life without alcohol. It is a long and strenuous job. The treatment services include detoxification, counselling, treatment, residential rehabilitation, family services, yoga/meditation, AA (alcoholics anonymous) meetings, relapse prevention, 12 steps, Ayurvedic treatment, occupational therapy and so on. Children-related services are very few. However the awareness for child-related services is on the increase.
According to the Rector Major, “Given the importance of the family for the well-being of individuals and society, family ministry needs to become a dimension of the work of our settings. Initiatives such as workshops for parents on good parenting, handling stress within the family, conflict resolution, management of family finances; visiting the families of young people; providing counselling opportunities etc., are to be undertaken” (3.6_Team visit, South Asia Region, closing address of the Rector Major, NBCLC, Bangalore, 5th March 2011).
The Community reflection written by the Provincial in his May, 2013 circular states the following: “To be true Salesian Educators, we need to understand the world of youth much better. We will make a great mistake, become irrelevant and inefficient, if we don’t make a sincere effort to understand them. The youth today are experiencing very serious cultural changes, institutional challenges and setbacks in family life… Family too is going through a setback; from being an ambient of affection, love and understanding to a weakening of all the above values with a desire for autonomy. Youth are facing family breakdown caused by infidelity, superficial relationships, divorce, distress, alcoholism and drugs. We do see that a good number of them are not psychologically prepared to enter into married life or bring up children. We see affective inadequacy, insecurity, maladjustment and the risk of aberrancy” (Community Reflection: Rediscovering the Salesian Educator, Salesian Province of Tiruchy – May 2013).
According to the PC’13, the team of Salesians involved in ‘Salesian ministry for alcoholics’ will study and present a report to the Provincial Council to take this Ministry to the next level by starting a separate Department in the Province. The following is a tentative proposal.
History: The Humble Beginnings
The Salesian ministry for alcoholics was started in the year 2008, in a small catholic parish of Therespuram in the coastal town of Tuticorin in South Tamil Nadu. A seed was sown in the form of starting of an AA with a small number of seven recovering alcoholic patients. Soon a wider consultation and a networking began with the Health Commission of the Tuticorin Diocese led by Fr. A.J Rex and the Jesuit Ministry to Alcohol and Drug Dependents (JMAADD) led by Fr. Jayapathy S.J. In November the same year, a batch of nine patients joined a treatment in Tuticorin and became the first set of witnesses to recovery and abstinence among the fisher folks of Therespuram. This awakened the hope of many and in no time there was a queue for treatment with advance payment, about 80 of them. Today we have successfully initiated treatment for about 200 patients.
In October 2009, Fr. Maria Arockiam Kanaga, Regional Councillor for Asia, from Salesian Generalate, Rome visited the programme and named it a meaningful new initiative. Later as he concluded his extraordinary visitation to the Tiruchy Province, he made a special mention of the same and mentioned that this is something that he would very much recommend in the south Asian region. In December 2009, Fr.. Jayapathy s.j. visited us to study the phenomenon of massive requests for treatment in one locality and in a short time. He attributed this positive impact to the Salesian team and its preparedness in Therespuram.
In January 2010, The Province of Tiruchy in her Provincial Chapter 2010, unanimously voted for developing this ministry in the province. Soon the Provincial Council appointed a team of four Salesians to organize this sector. They are: Fr. John Samuel, Fr. P. Daniel, Fr. Jude Muthuselvan and Fr. John Dharman. Later Fr. Noelraj willingly joined the team as a volunteer. Fr. Daniel had already underwent a special training in de-addiction counselling. Fr. Jude and Fr. John visited the JMAADD CAMP SITE and familiarized themselves with the procedures. Soon we trained about 15 barefoot counsellors in seven of our Salesian presences. These included youth leaders, ex-service men, Salesian Cooperators, VDBs, and other lay men and women especially from SHG’s for women. The Salesian presences that have trained bare-foot counsellors are: N.Kuttapattu, south Paganur, Lalgudi, Nettur, Vilathikulam, Therespuram, Coimbatore, and Keela Eral.
Official Approval and the Effect
Soon after the approval in the PC 2010, a series sensitization programmes were taken up by the team. The leaders of the communities were animated on this theme on the 10th July 2010 in Sirumalai Hills. On the 17th of July the Provincial council was presented with a concept paper on the ministry in scientific terms. Between July and September in 2010, almost all the perpetually professed Salesians were sensitized by the team members. At the next level, the awareness programme was taken to the lay people in our Salesian settings. Nettur, Vilathikulam, Keela Eral, Lalgudi, Therespuram, Amsam Nagar including the four sub-stations of N.Kuttapattu, Muthukulam, South Paganur, and North Paganur, Pallithammam, Kuthenkuzhy, were the first ones to be sensitized with the help of the team from JMAADD. On the 8th March, 2011, on the International Women’s Day, about 1, 500 women were sensitized during their Day’s special convention. On the 9th July the same year World Anti-drug Day was celebrated as a huge public awareness event on the problem of alcoholism. On the 31st August 2011, the Salesian parish priests and their parish executive council members were sensitized in Madurai in a special animation programme organized for the purpose. On January 23, 2012, the Tamil Nadu State Level Network of Treatment providers met with the Salesian Provincial of Tiruchy, Rev.Fr. Albert Johnson and his core team. In June 2012, our team was invited by the Bishop of Kumbakonal for a consultation to begin an intervention programme in his diocese. In August 2012, our Team with the help of Ms. T.Sheela VDB, animated the MSW students of two colleges in Coimbatore, Bishop Ambrose College and Bishop Appasamy college, family members of alcoholics at Karunai Rehabilitation Illam, and the members of Jesus Youth Movement. In September 2012, Fr. John Dharman, Br. Martin (MSW student) and the team addressed on de-addiction and created awareness on the same to more than 200 high school students as part of neighbourhood ministry.
In the Provincial Chapter 2013 once again the Chapter members unanimously voted for taking the efforts to its next stage. A new team was named by the Provincial Council. The members are: Fr. John Dharman, Fr. Amala Jeyarayan, Fr. Arul maran, Ms. T. Sheela (VDB), and Fr. Daniel Pushparayar. In May 2013 the first Salesain Treatment camp was carried out and six alcoholic patients were treated successfully at Don Bosco Manikandam.
Don Bosco JANANAM
The Salesian ministry for Alcoholics has been christened as Don Bosco JANANAM (Don Bosco Joint Action for New Alternatives to Narcotism and AlcoholisM). Jananam, meaning birth, refers to the new life the patients receive. Incidentally it was the name given to the same ministry in 1995 when it was officially initiated in Coimbatore, Don Bosco Anbu Illam. Though it had died after a few years then, the ministry itself has now had a rebirth, a ‘jananam’. The acronym has an additional attraction as its birth coincides with the bicentenary of Don Bosco’s birth!
Restoring alcohol-free, joyous, disciplined, purposeful, and spiritually conscious life to all.
- Awareness Creation
- Treatment and counselling
- Intensive follow up
- Formation of support groups (AA, NA, Alanon and Alateen)
- Protecting and promoting the rights of the children of alcoholics and young addicts.
- Emotional capacity building
- Spiritual awakening and empowering
- Alcoholics / drug addicts
- Children of Alcoholics
- Young Children of alcoholics
- Adult children of alcoholics
- Family members of alcoholics
In the schools, parishes and other institution of our presences the DB JANANAM Department in Tiruchy Province will employ a wide variety of strategies to address the problems related to alcoholism. The following are the different activities the Department will carry out in favour of the children and families affected by alcoholism.
- Creating Awareness
- Screening and identifying
- Treatment camps
- Formation of support groups – AA / Alanon / Alateen
- Follow up
- Halfway homes with job support
- AA / Alanon / Alateen Retreats
Composition of the Department
- The Department of DB JANANAM will be constituted by the Provincial by appointing a minimum of two Salesians one as the Head of the Department and the other as his assistant. In addition the Department will have two lay persons at least one female member deeply committed to the cause. The Head of the Department is in charge of appointing them, making sure that they are well qualified.
- It will be ideal if one among them is a recovering patient.
The Role of the Department
- The Department of DB JANANAM is overall responsible for the animation and coordination of activities and projects of DB JANANAM
- The Department will prepare, execute and evaluate yearly action plan for the promotion of interventions on behalf of the target children, youth and their families
- The Department will organise province level training courses on counselling for animators and volunteers who would like to work with these silent sufferers.
- The Department will network with National and State level GOs and NGOs to influence the Government in policy formulation.
- The Department will facilitate and ensure that the Children of Alcoholics’ Week and World Anti-Drug Day (June 26th) is celebrated in every community in the Province.
- The Department will gather data/documentation on various categories of Children of alcoholics and their families and make them available.
- The Department may also identify and suggest to the Provincial, names of confreres and Salesian Family members and specific areas (alcoholism, drug-addiction, children of alcoholics, co-dependent, specialised counselling, substance abused street children and HIV) in which they need to get qualified.
- The Department will devise ways and means of creating awareness among confreres and collaborators and others in their neighbourhood. This will ensure that the Salesian presences in the Province encourage, support and promote works for the families of alcoholics.
- The Department will help the formation communities in the province for the capacity building of those in formation towards Alcoholism ministry.
Additional Human Resources:
Besides the staff of DB JANANAM, there is also professional support readily and surely available from Fr.A.Nelson Ph.D (in addiction Science, New York), Fr. Francis Jayapathy SJ (Founder of Tamil Nadu Network of Treatment Providers), Fr.A.J.Rex (graduate in Pastoral Counselling), Fr.J.A.Kennedy (social work), Fr.S.S.Sahayam Ofm (Cap) (graduate in psychiatric counselling) for awareness programmes and counselling.
It is important for any society to take care of its young, the neglect of whom can result in severe societal problems. Most of the street children, the abused children particularly the sexually abused ones, the child labourers, children in the boardings and free hostels in India are children of alcoholics. The children alcoholics are children at great risk. Unless they are identified and helped, their lives can be very miserable. They will also tend to make life miserable for others knowingly or unknowingly. The problem of alcoholism is very high in the coastal areas in general. It is estimated that about 85 % of households face this problem in the coastal areas. Having been part the networks of treatment providers in Tamil Nadu, we the Salesians have worked among alcoholics themselves and their families. The problem of children of alcoholics is an urgent problem and a severe crisis that has to be attended at the earliest. The issue of Children of Alcoholics and their families, is not just one among the issues but an issue which should figure in the agenda of every Provincial Commission and the Departments. With appropriate interventions, many lives of children and their families can be saved. Children cannot wait for too long for their name is today. It is a family ministry. It is a work that takes a very special good news to these families. In this regard the birth of DB JANANAM will be one of the best memorials for the Bicentenary Celebrations of the Birth of Don Bosco.
Fr. P. Daniel
Fr. Arul Maran
Fr. Amala Jeyarayan
Ms. T. Sheela
Fr. John Dharman