B.C. lawyer addicted to cocaine and alcohol talks about stepping back from the edge

A man who was once at rock-bottom as a drug addict is now working to help deal with the drug overdose crisis in the south Asian community, where social stigma often prevents people from getting help. Sonia Deol reports.

“I come home and my family’s gone. I come home to an empty house. And I hate myself now. And I’m thinking, ‘Go kill yourself.'”

That’s family lawyer Sumit Ahuja, describing the moment he decided to end it all.

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“I checked into a hotel, and I make a decision that I’m going to use enough substances to overdose,” he told Global News.

This all happened around March 2017.

Ahuja’s addiction to cocaine and alcohol led his wife and kids to leave.

He checked into a 20th-floor suite and spent two days trying to end his life.

“Alcohol and cocaine… trying to use so much that I just fall asleep and it’s not working,” he said.

Ahuja walked out to the balcony, stepped over and hung there with his hands.

It was at this moment that he saw images of his children, and he decided he couldn’t go through with it.

He went back inside and used more substances — “trying to make myself numb so I can do this.”

He remembered saying goodbye to his children in his mind.

It was only when his best friend and brother-in-law had a security guard break down the door to his suite that he finally stepped back from the edge.

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“If they didn’t come at that time, I was gone,” Ahuja said.

He didn’t even know how they found him, later learning they did it by looking through credit card statements.

“They saved my life.”

His addiction began when he was 13 years old, when he lost his father.

His drinking worsened in 2007, while he was in law school. A friend died in a motorcycle accident.

Ahuja would use alcohol in his downtime. It took away feelings of anxiety, feelings of not being good enough.

“And that became a learned behaviour for me that when I don’t want to feel feelings, I can numb them out with alcohol or substance,” he said.

Then, in 2010, a friend introduced him to cocaine.

“It became an addition to the alcohol, became a relationship between the two,” Ahuja said.

He knew this wasn’t good for him, but he wasn’t about to stop.

For a time, he was moving up into different places of employment — joining a larger law firm, becoming a managing associate at one place he worked at.

Eventually, his professional life suffered. He was hurting his family, too.

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But something held him back from seeking help: the “shame and the guilt associated with culture.”

“It made it so difficult for me to want to reach out for help,” Ahuja said. “I felt paralyzed by that. I felt like the fear of judgment was too strong for me to say, ‘I’m struggling.'”

He grew up in a home where talking about things happening within was not appropriate elsewhere. As a man, he was expected to be strong.

“Men don’t cry, men don’t feel,” Ahuja said. “That’s the way that I was brought up.”

Today, he’s been sober for 14 months.

And he has a goal to help others into recovery, too.

He has founded the LiveBIG society, an organization to help people who have issues with substance and alcohol addiction access counselling, treatment and other support.

And he’s seeing signs of progress.

“East Indian males coming from affluent families — two of these guys are now both one month sober each and I can see it in their eyes,” Ahuja said.

“I can see how their families are healing together and actually taking the steps because they’re talking about it for the first time.”

As for Ahuja, he has his family back – his wife, and his children.

And after turning around an addiction that hurt them all for decades, he has a message.

“I’m hopeful that people will reach out for help sooner than I did,” he said.

  • Video report by Sonia Deol

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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