Susan Roy* had a tough time with her marriage. Her in-laws and husband never spared an occasion to harass her and, in her despair, Roy resorted to using alcohol in a bid to dull the pain.
“My husband used to sell liquor so there was always plenty at home. It acted as a soothing balm after all the torture I had to endure,” said Roy.
But soon her alcohol dependency increased, and she struggled to even do her household chores.
One day her drunk husband set her on fire. Her parents filed a complaint and he was jailed. After recovering from her burn injuries, Roy got her husband released.
He promised to mend his ways while also insisting that she quit drinking, but she could not kick the habit.
Eventually, her husband admitted her to TELOCA — an acronym for “TEnder LOving CAre” — an addiction recovery center for women in Mangalore, a coastal city in India’s southern Karnataka state.
“I spent three months there and now have not approached the bottle for the past two years,” Roy said.
“My life has changed. We are a happy family. My son has a job and daughter is married,” she said.
“Earlier we just kept quarrelling; both my children stayed with relatives and refused to come home but now there is peace at home and togetherness as my husband and I turned teetotalers.”
Roy said her turnaround was all due to TELOCA. The center’s counselling and meetings with Alcoholics Anonymous groups help peoples get back to a sober and sensible life, she said.
The TELOCA addiction recovery center is managed by Clara D’Cunha who is the founder and trustee. It was established in 2012 after the Bethany Sisters, an indigenous congregation of Mangalore, provided her their convent to run a recovery home.
Sister Cicilia Mendonca, the provincial superior of Mangalore Bethany Province, said: “We provided the facility after being impressed by the great work Clara was doing. She has so far freed at least 300 women from the scourge and saved many families from destruction.”
Former addict Rose Vaz* said that for her the center was like a home away from home. “The love and care I got made me forget my pains. A broken marriage had increased both my woes and drinking. In despair my family had brought me to TELOCA,” Vaz said.
Vaz, a psychologist, started drinking during her college days. She always wanted to quit but could not. She felt bad at her behavior in front of her college-going son and daughter who is in the tenth grade but could not help.
However, things changed after she got admitted to the addiction recovery center.
“They have a 12-step program,” said Vaz, who now volunteers at TELOCA. “First you have to accept you have a problem and you want to get over it. Then counselling, meditation and group therapy helps to slowly wean away people from the habit,” she said.
“It is over eight months since I have left the center and never felt the urge to drink,” she said.
The center was initially free but now they levy nominal charges from those who can afford to pay.
D’Cunha, an internationally certified addiction professional, said after one to three months of intensive attention and therapy for the mind, a person can gain sobriety. Relapses rarely occur in normal conditions, especially among women.
D’Cunha said that women who become committed to give up alcohol and substances usually succeed in doing so.
Facilities for men
In 2015 she opened a similar facility for men in the city and another for men three years later.
D’Cunha is assisted by nurses, men and women attendants, addicts who have been cured, several professionals and students who volunteer their services.
One of the regular and very committed volunteers — Rohit Rao* was once a patient at the men’s center.
He was referred by a friend for alcohol and substance abuse. His father was an alcoholic and his mother committed suicide. Later his father passed away and he took recourse to drinking and taking drugs.
Now free from addiction, Rao, a talented musician, has been for the past four years helping other addicts at the center to recover.
D’Cunha said that a large part of the program is about people interacting and being positive.
“We have no system of lock up and no one is forced to come to the center,” said D’Cunha who has a masters in social work and psychiatry plus a MPhil degree in social sciences.
The Catholic woman is also a gifted musician who mesmerizes with her flute playing, said her first employer Dr Thomas Scaria.
“D’Cunha joined as an accountant at my firm Link De-addiction and Counseling Centre and she soon developed a passion to help women addicts,” Scaria said who is now director Ecolink Institute of Well-being.
“She has thus far helped hundreds of women and men kick the habit,” he said.
Today there are many who are thankful to TELOCA. Alcoholism is a major problem in Mangalore. The recovery centers also have people arriving from Goa and far away Kerala.
Research shows that alcohol use and misuse among women is increasing. It also says that women start to have alcohol-related problems sooner and at lower drinking levels than men mainly due to less body weight and less water in their bodies than men.
According to a World Health Organization study, between 2010 and 2017, alcohol consumption in India increased by 38 percent.
“A steady and silent contributor to this growth has been the increased consumption of alcohol among women who were till recently considered the obvious abstainers,” stated a survey by Community Against Drunken Driving (CADD).
CADD, who conducted the survey in Delhi, found that “more women are drinking, and women are drinking more.”
Poverty among underprivileged communities in rural areas and affluence among urban women who find alcohol a “social lubricant” is the reason for increased drinking among women, it said.
D’Cunha, who was recently presented the Woman of the Year Award by a Mangalore club, said: “My focus has been on welfare of alcoholic women and their families. It’s a great satisfaction to make people feel good. I have always felt God’s blessing in all my endeavors.”
*Pseudonym used for privacy reasons.