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A Community in Crisis: The Need for Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings in Our Mandirs and Masjids

A Community in Crisis: The Need for Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings in Our Mandirs and Masjids

  • So many young Indo-Caribbean men are dying because of addictions. Our enemies are from within our own habits, passed down from one generation to the next.

As a recovering heavy vaper of three years, I can’t help but draw a loose correlation between premature male deaths in the Indo-Caribbean community and our often-unspoken vices that include domestic violence, intergenerational schisms, alcoholism, and worst of all vaping. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now has a medical term for vaping overdose called E-Cigarette or Vaping Use-Associated Lung Injury, or EVALI. 

One winter night after hitting two THC vapes at the same time with a mega-deep pull only meant for a newly coaled hookah, I drifted into a deep sleep with lungs so filled with dried thick e-liquid that they caved in and triggered in me a simulated heart attack. The pain felt like Andrew Tate sticking a syringe filled with cyanide directly into my lungs. It was an arresting state of mind that I would not wish on my worst enemy. Not even Piers Morgan.      

Perhaps, a legitimate question is: Who can young men who know they need help in our community talk to when they feel they can’t? Good, honest, decent Indo-Caribbean men are some of the smartest people I know. They are maestro musical bridge builders like Avirodh Sharma and Ben Parag, political savants like Richard David, Roopesh Ramjit, and Mohamed Amin, brilliant legal minds like Sanjai Doobay and Ryan Budhu, and compassionate healthcare professionals like Kenneth Rampersaud, RN and Ramesh Seegobin, MD. How do we create a network of male counselors to help our young men who are struggling with addiction that they are too ashamed to admit to their loved ones and even their spouses? 

How do we create a network of male counselors to help our young men who are struggling with addiction that they are too ashamed to admit to their loved ones and even their spouses? 

Recently, my wife researched a deep list of therapists to cater to who she thought I needed. I tried white and black therapists, but they just couldn’t relate. It wasn’t their fault. Was there an Indian, or, dare I say Indo-Guyanese male therapist out there who understands the Hindu psyche and our cultural customs? To this day, my wife has yet to find one. Deeper still is the quest of who we as Indo-Caribbeans truly are. When the British brought us to South America’s most fertile sugar plantations, weren’t we waiting to one day be free to live in a new India that the explorer Sir Walter Raleigh termed El Dorado?

Yet, within all the ethnocentric constraints that Indo-Caribbeans must navigate, we were sleeping with the mental enemy that has come to our newfound shores of New York City that now must be met head-on. Our enemies are from within our own habits passed down from one generation to the next. History repeats itself which is why we need to break away from it now more than ever. 

See Also

June marked both Caribbean American Heritage Month and National Men’s Health Month. It was an opportunity to examine the prevalence of drug and substance use disorders in men. Compared to women, men are more likely to engage in illicit drug use at a younger age. These factors contribute to a rate of substance dependence in men that is twice that of women. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, men are also more likely to experience a drug overdose. In fact, out of the 47,600 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2017, two-thirds were men. 

This disparity is also true for alcohol. For example, men are more likely to drink excessively, which is associated with higher rates of alcohol-related deaths, one such being drinking and driving. Ever walk into a bar on Liberty Avenue in Richmond Hill around noon? For other drugs, such as marijuana, use in males is higher, as is the prevalence of cannabis use disorder. It’s not hard to see the connection that vaping, now considered an addiction, can be related to substance use, thus creating a new category of future deaths of our otherwise gifted and talented Indo-Caribbean men. Again, and in closing, who can Indo-Caribbean men who know they need help turn to when they feel that they can’t? Should there be Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in our mandirs and masjids just as there are in our churches? 


Rohan Narine is a Hindu storyteller and clean amateur comedian who lives in Queens, NY. He is a co-founder of Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus. 

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