New Delhi: They call it ‘The Hangout’ but it is more than that for those who come here. In Gurgaon, on Nathupur Road in DLF Phase-III, this café is an attempt to redefine a drop-in-centre for those recovering from alcoholism and its rippling effects.
About 80% of the visitors suffer from alcoholism, the rest are indirect sufferers of it because of a loved one. The buzz is like any other café — non-intrusive, private. A cup of coffee heals some sitting in silence, and new friendships are forged over small talk.
Soothing music in the background acts as a balm. Movie nights, reading sessions, therapy through painting and cooking sessions, this café is innovating with various themes as it offers visitors a menu of quick bites.
From a sandwich to a parantha, it’s ‘ghar ka khaana’ for many addicts in recovery who miss out on those meals due to strained relations at home. It is also a space that helps them break their sense of isolation from society and rebond with people through board games, a library and some good music. A guitar propped in one corner is a friend for those who make music.
The experiment is part of the larger facility called “reboot wellness centre” that provides more than professional psychological counselling for various addictions, stress and lifestyle related diseases. It focuses on steering those who come here into long-term rehabilitation. Steered by Sarita Anand and her husband Ashwani Kumar Anand, who lead the recovery counselling, their own story is empowering and a source of courage for alcoholics seeking sobriety and their families.
Ashwani, a peer recovery coach and mentor focuses on instilling hope and modelling recovery through his personal, lived experience of addiction and recovery. Sarita, who saw addiction at close quarters, chose to work with addicts in jail when the couple lived in Singapore to understand the issue better. She has now worked for over 15 years in the field of de-addiction and recovery. The couple returned to India and last year decided to set-up this centre, and as people came in for counseling, they realised the need for a space to hangout where they are not judged.
The average walk-in for various services at the centre is 100. The café came up some five months ago. For regular visitors, monthly membership is available for Rs 3,000.
In pastel shades, the walls carry stories that inspire. “Keep it simple; one day at a time”—two lines on the glass entrance set the tone. Inside, you find hot cups of ginger tea being passed on from the kitchen to the visitors.
Some people like to be anonymous. A 23-year-old marketing professional working on her laptop stopped to chat. She was there for help to deal with her father’s alcoholism. She now understands him better. “This feels like your own space where you know you can reach out to your counsellor for a word. There is a sense of empathy,” she said.
Prasang Sharma (27) chose to shed anonymity. An advertising professional, his partnership business collapsed and he took to alcohol for comfort. “I realised what was wrong and sought counselling. Now, I am preparing to take up a job in a corporate,” he said, with a smile.
“Movie nights were like therapy for me as the Bollywood and Hollywood films shown here have characters struggling with emotions, addictions and challenges of life,” Sharma added.
Ashwani was engrossed in an intense conversation with a woman who emerged from a weekly meeting of a group that calls itself ‘codependence anonymous’. They were discussing about coping with difficult relationships. Others were taking down notes. They were all busy choosing life.