Client Stories



I still remember the first time I tried drugs: sixth grade, back in Nepal.  My friends gave me an inhalant, some white-out paint to sniff.  Wow!  I felt so good!

Although I came as a Tibetan refugee to Nepal, I was still lucky in many ways.  I had a good family, a happy mother and father who loved me very much.  I had a good home.  You may not have looked at me and thought that I would grow up to become a drug addict.  But all it took was one taste of the highs I could get.

Soon, I was taking tablets with friends.  At first, it was all partying.  At age seventeen, I tried injecting brown sugar heroin.  My friends gave me my first shot.  I wasn’t depressed or in pain.  I just wanted to have a good time.  That first injection made me vomit, but still, I felt so good.

Within a short time period, I found that I couldn’t stop.  When I didn’t use heroin, I was in so much pain from withdrawal.  I was dizzy.  I was shaking.  I was sweating, vomiting profusely and kicking my legs without control.  Every single person seemed so annoying and I found that even if I could get past the week of hell called withdrawal, I would be blessed. I was very angry when I wasn’t using drugs.  Even if I stopped for some time, I would go back to drugs when I was bored.  Boredom turned to severe anxiety, and the only solution was more heroin.  It was automatic, like some sort of instinct or reflex.

I was lying to get money from my unsuspecting and ever-forgiving parents.  I always had a story for them, and they were always disappointed.  I was breaking their trust every day.  I loved them so much, but all I could think about was how to get my next high.  After I drained their money and trust, I began selling drugs.  This went on for years.  I was in and out of jail.  Nothing mattered except drugs.

Somehow, twelve years have gone by since my first injection, but it feels like only yesterday.  My friend told me about Kunphen Center while I was getting high in Delhi.  Now, I have been clean for almost two months.  I didn’t go to a detox center; I went through the withdrawals here in McLeod Ganj by myself at an apartment.  I even had several seizures as my body painfully withdrew from what it was so used to for almost half of my life.  Then I moved into the recovery center with the group.

I feel very lucky to be in Kunphen Center.  I have good food, and I am learning about addiction.  I practice yoga with the group every morning, and meditate in the evenings at meetings.  I like to share my feelings with our peer counselor, mentor and the Secretary Mr. Nima Tshering.

The road ahead will not be easy.  I still have problems sleeping.  I wake up with severe anxiety.  Twelve years! I feel like I wasted so much of my life.  My thoughts race and I feel disappointed in myself.  I often feel guilty for things I did while using drugs.  Still, whenever I am bored, I want to get high, but so far I am working as hard as I can to maintain sobriety.  This is my karma.

In the future, I would like to have a job and maybe my own business.  I want to be married and have a family.  I think that if I was married, my wife could help me stay sober too.  Still, I am afraid for what the future holds.  I am afraid for how my marriage will be.

I want to make amends with my family, but regaining their trust after breaking it so many times will be difficult.  I want be sober for longer before I try, so that they know that I am serious about it this time.  They are still in Nepal, and I lost contact with them.  I do have a sister living nearby, and I really want to reconnect with her and be an older brother that she can look up to.  I want to help other addicts one day.

Drugs are like chewing gum: at first it is very sweet, and then it tastes like rubber in your mouth.  Drugs break up families.  You will be left with no girlfriend, no friends, only drug partners, a very lonely existence.


I was born in a Tibetan settlement in Mustang, Nepal.  I came from a good farming family, one of five boys in my family, with three sisters. At age ten, I started drinking chang, or homemade fermented rice alcohol.  That sounds really crazy now, but it was so normal then.  That stuff was everywhere and unregulated.  Everyone in my village drank it, or so it seemed.  I really enjoyed drinking it.  And then, I enjoyed it more and more and more.  By age seventeen, I was drinking from morning to night.

Later, I married and had two beautiful daughters. I had a good life, but I wasn’t in control – the alcohol was. I did nothing but drink. I blacked out. I was fighting – I think.  Everything around me was falling apart, including my marriage.  But I just couldn’t stop drinking.  My life was completely unmanageable.  Finally, in 2004, at the behest of my loving parents, I entered rehab for the first time in Kathmandu.  I went through the first week of withdrawals and hardly slept.  Slowly, my body became more regulated.  As soon as I left, however, I went straight back to drinking.  After that, I went to four more rehabs, I just couldn’t stop.

When I stopped drinking I would start thinking about the past.  Then, the guilt would come.  What had I done to my wife?  My family?  This would trigger me to relapse.  Then I would feel even guiltier.  It is a crazy cycle.

I have now been sober for one month. I feel like God gave me a gift. I am around loving and kind people. One day at a time, I am repairing my life. I enjoy practicing yoga with our group every morning. When boredom sets in, I pass the time here by cooking, working, and playing chess. It is really a good feeling, but I am still afraid of how to deal with my family. Loneliness is usually there on some level. When I share these thoughts at meetings, it seems to help.

My goal is to work hard and save money for my daughters. They are now twelve and fourteen and I want them to have a good future. Besides them, I am not really thinking of the future. I don’t really have confidence in my ability to stay sober, based on my history, but I am just telling myself, “one day at a time,” like we say in A.A. The fellowship I have found gives me strength. I am not alone.  Society thinks that drugs are so dangerous, but alcohol is acceptable.  I know from experience that alcohol can be just as damaging.  It turns me into “crazy boy.”  When I drink, I lose all control.


Dharamshala in my teenage years was quite the party. This was back when it was smaller, before the cricket fields.  There were many foreigners, hippies everywhere, with wild gatherings. This was back in the “good old days,” before the police started really cracking down. Drugs were everywhere: “Full power, twenty-four hours.”

I was born in Ladakh in 1978, but I moved to Dharamsala when I was two.  My mother died when I was young, and I went to a TCV boarding school. I started smoking cigarettes at school when I was thirteen. At age sixteen, I was smoking hash, or charas. My friends gave it to me and it felt good. So when my friends offered me heroin at age twenty-one, I tried that too. I was hanging out with foreigners, seeking enjoyment all the time. With them, I was trying all sorts of new drugs, but the heroin was coming from locals bringing it in from Delhi. For about a year after trying heroin, I felt amazing. But soon I began to wake up sweating. My stomach ached and I had severe diarrhea. I was in severe discomfort, but one more shot of heroin would cure everything. I was a full-blown addict.

What made me different from “normal” people?  An addict parties all night, but still wants it again in the morning. An addict stops changing his or her clothes. An addict stops caring about food. An addict stops caring about everything, especially themselves; all that matters is drugs. The people around them, even family, seem unimportant unless they can help the addict get drugs. The addict is completely disconnected from the world.

I tried many times to get clean on my own, but I would end up feeling completely hopeless.  Every winter, as the snow came and the tourists left McLeod, I would follow the crowds to Goa.  I worked in a bar there for money and was surrounded by drugs and intoxicated people.  It was a celebration all the time, nonstop.  Whenever I drank, I would inevitably go back to using heroin.

I am really lucky that Mr. Dawa la (Director of Kunphen Center) took me into his home ten years ago.  I was alone, with no mother or father and I didn’t know my brother.  I had no one. I was strung out and hopeless.  I did what addicts do – relapsed – many times, but he and his loving family never gave up on me.  I must have disappointed him many times, but he continued to have faith in me.

Now, I have been off heroin for one year and four months.  I stopped drinking three months ago, when I finally admitted to myself that the alcohol would just lead me back to heroin eventually.  I still want to get high though.  This feeling doesn’t just go away.  I like being sober most of the time, but there is still this urge, especially when I am lonely.  If I could get high, I would forget all the loneliness.  But I am trying my best; I want to be a good person, as His Holiness teaches.

I feel like I did many bad things in the past while using, but I want to make amends.  I want to tell Mr. Dawa la that I am truly sorry for the many bad things that I did while using, and grateful that he never gave up on me.  I feel better when I share my thoughts with my family at Kunphen Center.  They understand me.  I feel good that I brought three current members into the group to get help.

What do I regret most in life?  My first shot of heroin.  That led to everything else bad.  Heroin will always end in suffering, but really, all addictions are the same.  All are a difficult life.


I am 26 years old and I have an elder sister and a younger brother. I was born in Dharamsala and I studied in two schools, one in Mc.Leod Ganj and the other on the outskirts of the town. I was a good student, scoring quite high academically, but at the same time I was mischievous as well.  My addiction started when I was transferred to a new school where everyone was new to me and I felt very uncomfortable and lonely. Later, I befriended a student two years my senior. I looked up to him and I always longed for his company, perhaps because in his presence, I did not have any thoughts about my friends that I had left and did not feel homesick.  I would idolize him and that proved to be very costly to me. He was in the habit of smoking cigarettes and I started my first puff with him in order to impress him and to be in his company. I also feared that if I did not do these manly things (which was how it was thought of during that time), I would be not included in their peer group. My forays into addiction started under that environment and very soon as the years passed by, I started using other things.

I was in class six when I received the news of the death of my father. He loved me very dearly from all the children and I also loved him very much. His passing away brought a huge shock to me and I could not bring myself to the reality of missing him. The winter holidays started and I went back home but it was not the same anymore, now with my father gone. I felt very depressed and could not cope with the new environment. I became indifferent to everything and my thought process changed a lot. My mother used to work and very soon I started to roam the town of Dharamsala all day. This period of discovering everything and being unable to differentiate the good from the bad had its toll on me.  I drowned all my sorrows with the new found freedom. I soon became friends with people who were very jovial, carefree and thrill seeking. I got in their company and I remember once the first drink that I had. It was fun and the feeling of getting drunk was something very new and exciting for me. Thereafter, the bouts followed. There were tourists from all around the world in Mc.Leod Ganj and we took fancy in befriending and accompanying them. There was music and there was hash and there were drinks. I was at an age where curiosity got the best of me as they say curiosity kills the cat.

I did not return to school after my holidays ended. Instead, I started roaming as usual and took delight in getting intoxicated at every opportunity. I looked forward to jam up sessions and parties which frequently took place. I still did not consider myself as being dependent on alcohol rather I thought of myself as a social drinker. But, my choice of use was not limited to alcohol.

My mother remarried and my step father objected to my presence at home, advising me to join the army. I eventually relented, fed up with his everyday blaring. The army was like a ladder for me to reach to other substances. I came in the company of a comrade who was using pills and I got my first pills from his hand. The use, frequency and dosage escalated very quickly within a short span of time and I went AWOL when I was in the middle of my basic training. Thereafter, with no direction, decision or any planning about the future, I went to lead my life and I offered it to fate.

Fate brought me back to home in Dharamsala and since I was now using pills, I started using here as well. After staying for several months, under the program of the Home Department of the Tibetan government-in-exile, I got the opportunity to go down to the South of India, to get trained as a hair dresser. My drinking and using continued excessively and one fine day, I got hospitalized due to liver and kidney damage. A surgery was conducted and I became better, but after staying clean for several months out of fear of dying, I resumed my old ways when I felt sure that now it was safe to drink and use.

I worked in South India after finishing my training but I could not hold a job down long. My using interfered with my work and I started to realize that I was badly addicted to drugs and that I was an addict, even if I did not accept it. The truth was clear that I was one big loser. I had started lying, stealing, selling whatever I could lay my hands on to feed my addiction. My parents knew and they became sad initially and they felt helpless and they knew that the time had come for extreme measures. I was asked to leave home. This crisis brought me to think that I definitely had a big problem coming through.

I stayed at my friends for a few days and drifted here and there but eventually, I realized that life altogether was different in the sober world. Most of my friends started to avoid him and I was left helpless and hopeless.  My mother felt sad and hurt for me and helped me get employment, but there I did not last long with my use and hostile behavior.

In between, my mother left for Australia and I had no one to call my own or no one to look after me.  I had no work and with nowhere to go I approached the Health Department and they arranged a rehabilitation treatment for me.  I have finished my treatment and I’m now staying in the Kunphen Center aftercare center. I have lost a lot of things as I look back, my family, friends, and career and regardless to speak about time and money, but today, life has become much better. Today, I am living with dignity and my mother has forgiven me and has once again opened her arms for me. Today, I don’t have to worry about from where I am going to get my money to buy drugs. Today, I don’t have to worry about anything. I just live at one day at a time.

Dear Readers, I request you with folded hands not to use drugs at all.


I grew up away from my family at TCV School in McLeod Ganj.  I was often happy, with many friends.  But, I missed my family.  I remember the feeling when my mom and brothers didn’t come to see me at boarding school.  I felt completely disappointed.  Angry. Totally alone. Crying.  Why didn’t they want to see me?

My father died when I was two.  My mother was dealing with her emotions by drinking.  At a young age I could see that she had a drinking problem.  My whole childhood, I worried about her.  I wanted her to stop.  I did everything I could to “fix” her whenever I visited her.  I searched for her alcohol and threw it away.  Her visits to me continued to decrease, and my loneliness grew.  I hated this evil thing that was taking my mother away from me.

However, at age sixteen, I did what most of the boys who were my age around me were doing: tried smoking hash and drinking alcohol.  At first, I felt great! I had so many friends that I no longer felt alone. Gradually as time passed by without any realization, my mother and I began to drink together.  We were the best of friends.  This went on for some years.  I soon tried pills, and felt even better!   I quit school so that I could enjoy this new life more.  Soon I was also injecting brown sugar heroin.

Slowly, the highs that I was getting became less and less good.  I realized that when I did drugs alone, I had really bad thoughts.  I started feeling regret that I hadn’t finished my studies.  My old friends and family started telling me that they were worried about me.  I wanted to stop, but by then I was fully addicted.

Soon, I was lying to my mom so that she would give me drug money.  I was stealing.  I was doing whatever I “had” to do, to simply feel normal and not sick.  I just wanted to cover up the pain of withdrawal and a lonely sober existence.  I ended up in jail four times, for a total of two and a half years.  As badly as I wanted to be happy and “normal,” I couldn’t stay off drugs when I was out on the streets.  I realized that I really needed help.  I was really sick!

Now, I am in Kunphen Center and trying my best to stay sober.  I need to change.  I am thirty years old, and I want my future to be good.  One day, I want a job.  Right now, I wake up every morning with a promise that I will not touch drugs.  I go to four group meetings a week, and try to share my feelings and understand my disease.

Now that I am clear and sober, I have a lot of problems to face.  I did drugs for fourteen years straight.  Seven years ago, in the midst of my drug haze, my mother died due to liver damage from her own addiction.  She never got to see me doing as well as I am now.  Then, my younger brother went to Switzerland with the help of a foreign sponsor.  I was high, and no one gave me this opportunity.  My older brother is an alcoholic, and I also worry about him a lot.  I hate drugs and alcohol because they destroyed my health and tore apart my family. Sometimes, I feel that all of the problems are overwhelming, but I try to look forward to the future.

I am taken care of, and I have a good chance at sobriety.  I enjoy picnics with friends and getting interviewed. I am lucky that many people are compassionate and understand me. I also feel good that I am spreading the word about Kunphen Center and recovery from this disease. I have told four people to join our program, and one is here right now getting the help that he needs. It truly makes me happy that they are sober.  Maybe I even helped them stay alive.

I want everyone in the world not be worried, and always take care of their health.  Everyone wants to be a good person.  No one wants a bad life.  Also, I want a good life.  In this way, we are all the same.