Dr. Vaani Rao, the lead psychologist of the substance abuse treatment team at St. Elizabeth’s hospital in Boston, felt out-of-sorts today. It was the 10th death anniversary of her twin brother, Vikram. She took a deep breath and focused on the patient chart that the night doctor had left for her.

“Vikram Mathur. 21 years old, overdosed on heroin, resistant to further treatment,” she read. A feeling of déjà vu came over her. Vikram Mathur’s background seemed uncannily similar to her own brother’s. Was fate giving her a second chance to make things right?


Vikram looked weak and exhausted from withdrawal symptoms. He was extremely skinny, the veins in his arms hardened and black from years of injecting drugs.

“Hi, I am Dr. Vaani Rao, the head psychologist here,” she introduced herself.

“Unbelievable! An Indian shrink! If I wanted a lecture, I would call my mother,” he spat out at her.

Vaani remained unfazed.

“Is it ok if I sit in this chair?”

“Your hospital, your rules. Stay as long as you want but you can’t force me to pay attention to you.”

“Thank you Vikram. 10 years ago, my twin brother, also named Vikram, died due to a heroin overdose.”

Vikram stayed silent but she knew she had his attention. She continued talking.

“My brother used drugs as a means of escape. He felt pressured to excel because he was our parents’ only son. He pursued painting and constantly felt guilt about his career choice. He believed he only brought shame and disappointment to the family. He isolated himself, and towards the end had also stopped speaking with me. We never found out whether the overdose was intentional or an accident but it devastated us. I was the one who found him in the bathroom of our house and rushed him to the hospital. It was too late though.”

“I don’t talk to my family too. I am so tired of feeling guilt and shame. I have tried to kick the drug habit so many times but I keep failing,” Vikram whispered.

“Heroin changes your brain chemistry. You are still very young, and the damaged neurons can be re-grown with the right kind of help. Recovery is always a group effort, and relapse is common on the road to recovery. Individual and group therapy will help you get in touch with more people who have been in similar situations like you. You will all learn from each other and support each other on this hard journey. Most importantly, you will learn how to develop a healthier relationship with yourself.’

Vikram was crying. Vaani held his hand.

“Let us help you. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain if it works.”

Vikram nodded his assent for continuing with treatment after getting discharged. Vaani walked out of the room feeling determined. It just the first step in the recovery process but she was better prepared this time to help another Vikram learn how to live.

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