Let there be no doubt. In life, there's no bigger, and persistent, high than good health. No drug can match the thrill of competing in sports. Reality well lived is more enticing than the coloured vision of a drug addict.
There's always hope, and life has this enviable capacity to bounce back, unless, of course, it is too late. All it takes is a moment of clarity to shun any form of addiction, howsoever incapacitating.
It may sound easier than it is. It is challenging to arrive at this profound moment of clarity, especially for those whose minds are crippled by addiction. This moment of clarity is the starting point for restoring life and fighting any debilitating addiction. It happens to those who have an abiding trust in the purpose of life and have the will to make it a worthwhile journey and not a wasted errand.
The real battle is fought continuously in the mind, during the addiction and de-addiction phases. Many of the de-addicted, or those in the process of de-addiction, suffer from what's called "substance abuse disorder" or SAD and have shown the capacity to shun the past and look forward to life anew, if they get positive reinforcements.
Sports is one such positive reinforcement that can transform their lives by restoring healthy habits while doing away with drugs. There are certain critical behavioral aspects that make a person susceptible and, later, subservient to drugs. We call them dependencies, and they can be replaced with healthy habits just by indulging in sports.
In that sense, sports is not only a significant antidote to drugs; it is also preventive. Because, to play is a great way to deal with anger, frustration, stress and other such factors that drives people to substance abuse in the first place. Sports also provides the necessary distraction and vent to stress caused by denying the drug an addict is habituated to. It therefore supplements classical pharmacological and psychotherapeutic approaches to de-addiction.
Of course, there are players, some quite successful, who are found to be on drugs to enhance their performances, but that is a different matter. A performance-enhancing drug in sports is different from sports used as a potent tool to defeat drug addiction. Unlike psychopharmacologic and psychotherapeutic interventions, where the relapse rates are high, with sports as part of the intervention strategy, it is observed globally that the relapse rate is significantly reduced.
Sports is, as recent research has pointed out, an essential antidote to addiction and the best way to integrate the de-addicted into the mainstream. This is particularly true for young adults, as drug abuse makes them reclusive and incapacitates their ability to function in a social set-up involving more than two people. Research has found that sports, in young people, can lead to improved self-esteem, ability to handle stress, improved academic performance and better inter-personal relationships.
Moreover, providing players with structured opportunities to develop life skills, such as communication, decision-making and anger and stress management, can enhance the preventive value of sports as a tool for drug abuse.
Think about it: Sports is nothing but a social forum where people participate as equals and apply their minds and bodies to achieve a certain objective. Sports requires a rigorous application of body and coordination with others. The de-addicted need just that to be re-initiated in society.
Addiction is enticing and alluring, but drugs only kill. So, remember, there is no bigger high than good health.
(Siddhartha Upadhyay is member of the Governing Body of the Sports Authority of India and Founder of STAIRS, an organisation dedicated to the uplift of sports. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at email@example.com)