In the dark world of substance abuse, the biggest challenge for anyone in counseling or treatment or any other intervention is to persuade the addicts to open up. It is well known that those consuming drugs are very low on self-esteem as they are stigmatised by society. Even their friends and families are often guilty of pushing them further to the margins.

And as a reaction, these addicts go into their shells and refuse to share anything about their lives. This is something that Jyoti Sharma Bharadwaj, a substance use prevention practitioner and addiction professional, has achieved through her strenuous efforts to bring out a book, Yellow Blossoms, that underlines hope for the addicts and their families.

The book is a collection of nine soul-stirring real life experiences of people in recovery and further pieces on substance related issues. It was released online last week by V.V Lakshminarayana, a former joint director of the Central Bureau of Investigation who is now into social work. The session was attended by professionals working on the issue of substance abuse in different corners of India and abroad.

The essence of this book is that addiction is treatable and recovery is possible.

"It takes courage to share your deepest secrets with a stranger. Scores of people and families struggling with substance use disorders entrusted me with their innermost selves in the hope of being heard and inspiring others along the way. Listening to their experiences made me realize that their past was just a part of them, and it moulded them into a better person. As I sifted through the layers of meaning and attempted to gently weave the intricacies of their experiences into a narrative worth sharing, I stalled. I recognized that I needed to have a deeper understanding of the subject," shares Bharadwaj.

Sample some of the experiences of people whose stories are mentioned in the book.

"I had tried every trick to win my husband's heart but the lure of chitta kept him hooked," goes the tale of a wife who tried various methods to help her husband recover and finally succeeded, though with some injuries.

"I had no life left in me. All that was left to do was to wake up, find money, get high, and repeat," goes another story of a person who reached rock bottom before making a comeback.

There are also instances of those who have found their passion in drugs, a love story with no return. "Every breath I took was for you. Your love turned me into a liar, a thief, a con artist. You took away my self-respect and made me an emotional mess." Still he continued to love drugs!

Bharadwaj mentions in the book, "The articles offer evidence-based information on substance use problems, prevention, treatment and recovery maintenance in a comprehensible manner. It is a humble attempt to address perceptions, attitudes, norms, beliefs and behaviours of society towards substance use and related disorders."

It was the social organization Gunjan, based in Dharamshala and a regional resource and training centre for the prevention of alcoholism and substance abuse, that gave Bharadwaj the platform to regularly interact with people with substance use disorders and their families during primary prevention interventions, capacity building training, counselling sessions, family meetings, field trips to service providers and discussions with various stakeholders.

Dr Thomas Scaria who is an internationally acclaimed name in the field of prevention and treatment of substance abuse has written in the foreword to the book, "For the reader, the silver lining to cling onto is the happy ending of most of the life experiences, stressing on the fact that there is 'hope'. Every ocean has a shore somewhere, and all one needs is navigation skills to help reach there."

He has further underlined, "Not only will the author keep you addicted to reading each chapter with her superb storytelling skills, but also guide you through the psycho-education series on various stages and symptoms of addiction, co-occurring medical and mental disorders, stages of recovery as well as debunk myths and misconceptions. A writer without clinical experience cannot present the feelings and depth of the tale so powerfully."

Unveiling the book Lakshminarayana expressed concern at the drug menace spreading to tier-two cities and rural areas where the children are getting imbibed leaving the parents in pitiable conditions. "The teaching faculty is faced with absenteeism and indiscipline," he pointed out.

Referring to the youth in India as a demographic dividend, he said, "This is the right opportunity to take the youth in a positive direction." He said this demographic dividend would lose its sheen by 2040 and a roadmap has to be drawn keeping this in mind.

It is interesting how the document got its name. "Hurrying to Gunjan one day, a tuft of yellow blossoms poking through a crack in the compound wall caught my eye. The delicate flowers swayed gently in the spring breeze spreading bright cheer. The second I stepped in the training hall, the participants, mainly people in recovery, gave me a hearty welcome. A thousand smiles blossomed and together we vowed to trust in the magic of new beginnings," Jyoti who is currently living in Palampur disclosed, while underlining that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.