This story took place in Iqaluit, an Inuit Community in Northern Canada. The names have been changed to preserve privacy.
When the Art of Living Course ended, I returned back to the home where I was staying with my two hosts. Emma and Jessica were both participants in the course. Jessica was addicted to drugs; Emma was an alcoholic.
I told them I wanted them to become completely drug and alcohol free – not just for the 6 days of the course, but for life.
Right away Jessica got up, opened the fridge, and gave me her last beer can. She said: “Here you go. I don’t want this anymore.” She went to her room and brought a plate with drug paraphernalia and a lump of weed.
I turned to Emma . “Your cousin did a brave thing. Is there a bad habit you want to surrender as well?”
She went to the kitchen under the sink and brought 4 bottles of liquor. She couldn’t let go of them. Eventually, she gave me 3 of the 4 bottles. She wanted to keep the bottle of Kahlua for her birthday. I looked at her and said: “In that case, keep them all. It’s no use.” She quickly changed her mind and gave up the Kahlua.
I turned back to Emma. She went back to her room and brought back a large Ziploc bag filled with weed.
The two started talking to each other in their native language, Inuktitut. After some time, they said, “We promise we won’t smoke it, but we can’t give it to you. We would rather get our money back by selling it on the streets.”
“What good is it if you improve your health by destroying the health of others?”
They agreed, and handed everything over. I put everything on the kitchen table and asked them if they were ready to throw it away themselves. Their breathing was heavy; they trembled; Emma held back tears.
She got up, took the liquor and flushed it down the kitchen sink. She sniffed the vapor above the sink one last time as it was going down the drain.
Jessica felt inspired by her cousin’s heroic move. She took her weed, walked to the toilet, emptied her stash and flushed it down. She went to her bedroom and returned with a crate of liquor she had ordered during the summer. “This is all I have left,” she said as she surrendered it. “There’s $500 worth of alcohol in here.”
“What will I do on my birthday if I’m the only sober one?” she asked. I said, “This year on your birthday, you will not waste yourself. Your birthday should be an occasion to grow in wisdom. You will invite Art of Living people for your birthday and you will have a nice time.”
Her cousin agreed to support her in organizing the birthday get-together. Emma poured the alcohol down the drain, three bottles at a time. Jessica went to her room and returned with a stash of magic mushrooms to flush. She exclaimed, “I feel so much lighter now! This house will be drug, cigarette and alcohol free from now on.”
I expressed my pride. “Today you took a stand and became leaders in your community. Now you can inspire others to do the same.”
I warned them that the days ahead would be difficult, but assured them I would be there for them. It was apparent that they were not confident in their strength to let go of their addictions forever, to be addiction free.
I took out a picture of Guruji, lit a candle, and invited them to come sit with me. Now, we will sing a very ancient prayer. It brings strength, blessings, and protection to those who hear it. I chanted Guru Puja as they sat near me, holding hands with their eyes closed.
They had tears of gratitude. The atmosphere in the house changed. Peace dawned. We sat in silence for a long time as we meditated together. I gave them each a blessing and sent them off to bed telling them what Guruji often tells us – sleep as though covered with a blanket of grace.
To this day, they are doing well.