April 15, 2013
Exactly three years ago, in the April of 2010, I was on the road towards a slow death and no one knew it. Maybe not even me! Or at least I didn’t realise how bad a state I was in until later.
I was still in Kangkong, Pasir Mas at that time living all alone in a house on stilts just off the main road leading to Tanah Merah, and about 40 metres from the mighty Kelantan River. It was a house that I had built with a government housing loan in the early 90′s; a house which I had then lost ownership of due to non-payment brought about by drug addiction. It was just 30 metres away from where my former wife’s house is. That was where I had lived and somehow survived from the last quarter of 2004 and until April 2010, with the exception of those 16 months where I had spent three months in the horrific Pengkalan Chepa Prison, and then a gloriously happy 13 months at Pusat Serenti Gambang. But big things were coming my way…
From late 2009, my health was slowly deteriorating. This was brought about mainly by my poor nutritional intake and general neglect of my own self. I had just gone through a divorce, which was very bitter at the start of the legal proceedings. Later, I was starting to totally withdraw myself from society again. It was two years after my release from Gambang and I was having difficulty trying to adapt and fit in with the society that I was forced to live with. “Forced” because, if given the choice, I would gladly have gone back to spend the rest of my life at Pusat Serenti Gambang. I was wondering what my purpose in life was – if things had not been what they later are, I might likely have relapsed and gone down that pit of misery yet again.
I was also the type who didn’t like to go anywhere. I also didn’t have any transportation – not even an old kapchai. The only way to get food was to wait for a bus or taxi and then go to town, which was 4.5 miles away. Often, I’d procrastinate until I was getting dizzy from the hunger before finally going. Usually, I would be content to just have oats from morning until night whenever I was hungry. The rest of the time was spent reading – either from printed material or from the internet. I was gradually losing weight and would suffer frequent bouts of constipation, some of which were very severe. How severe? Well, have you spent six hours in the toilet before? I had… a number times. However, I didn’t quite realise the bad state I was in – since I could get up and walk, I felt I “was okay”. Only later did I realise that I might have arrived at a point where there was no return.
But, yet again through the grace of God – as it was when He brought about the intervention in the form of my arrest on 12 August 2005 and the subsequent road towards rehabilitation, He put into motion what was to save me and bring forward to a new phase in life. And He did it through someone who accidentally stumbled onto this blog on 1 April 2010 – a reader who had used the name of “An Nisaa” in her comments. The regular readers already know what then transpired; plus I had already written a few posts about this. It is indeed remarkable of how things have gone from there – from when I made the big move to the west coast and until now, April 2013. A lot had happened in the last three years and this “An Nisaa” had recently written something about it at her blog.
Earlier on, before making the move and also after it, I was burdened by one huge worry – that I would be a parasite to her. I didn’t have anything to offer – what was in it for her?? Here was someone so honest and sincere in wanting to help me, especially in getting my health back… and not expecting anything in return! But I didn’t want to live like that – a life where one person gives while the other only takes. And, after the stay at Gambang and the lessons and realisations that came along with the experience, I resolved never, ever to be a parasite to anyone again. Definitely not to this woman.
But she, somehow, had faith in the future – for as long as we are honest and sincere, and for as long as we keep doing the right things and, most importantly, having faith and trust in Allah, things will turn out right. And they have!
After 12 years of unemployment or under-employment, I finally became productive again. I finally have the ability not only to support myself but also to fulfill my obligations. Thanks to this wonderful woman – the only person in the world who could ever love me this much, who has the courage to risk everything with me, and who has the patience to put up with all of my weaknesses and shortcomings – my life has moved forward to another phase and level. With me, the ability to also help her with what she is doing has given added meaning and purpose in life. The latest project that I’ve been involved with is in helping her move to a new office – an undertaking which we accomplished last month despite the obstacles which we had faced.
My wife, Aniza, had done the rounds before she found her true calling. Earlier in life, she had worked at managerial level with two well-known companies, Guthrie and Royal Selangor. But, as with many of us, there was also the certain uneasiness and desire “to do something else… something better, whatever that is.” With her, it is Perubatan Islam (Islamic Treatment System), which she had started in 2007 (Click here for Bitly link on Sistem An Nisaa). This was a progression from her interest in alternative healing which began with Colour Vibration Therapy a few years earlier.
It was also my interest in one of her products that had started it all – my curiosity of anything that says “Cendana” (Sandalwood) . Even from the start, I had a fascination with what she is doing; of someone who had left the comfortable corporate life and doing something that has a lot less certainty. There was also a certain attachment to her products the first time I received them in Pasir Mas… and of wanting to somehow be involved.
When I first came here, she had sub-let an office at Desajaya Commerial Centre, Kepong. However, in May 2011, just three months after we were married, she had to move. It was a stressful time, especially when money was short. But, as always, God Knows best. As it later turned out, the move to Nusa Subang, which was nearer the house, was a very good decision – her practise became even more successful at the new office even though it was rather awkwardly located.
Nonetheless, I wasn’t really happy with where her office was. Again, she had sub-let it from someone else and not directly with the owner. It was also located at a rather “semi-industrial” area, with most of the units around there being used as stores. There was also a certain untidiness about the area with the local council (Shah Alam) generally neglecting it most of the time. But, out of necessity rather than choice, we simply had to take it due to our lack of resources.
Things took a dramatic turn from last February. Firstly, the main tenant decided to move to another office nearby. As a result, we had to take the whole floor, which also means paying a higher rental. My wife then decided to expand her business with her good friend by renovating the extra space and conducting training classes there.
Fortunately, before this was started (and spending valuable capital in the process), a new development forced us to evaluate the decision to stay there and take up a whole floor. Early last month, someone rented the ground-floor unit and turned it into a depot for recycled items… a besi buruk store! As seen from this picture, the besi buruk store made the already depressed-looking area even worse. That was the last straw – its presence made having and maintaining the pusat rawatan Islam there intolerable.
In a way, there was also relief for it meant we now can go look for a better place. At the same time, we were also worried because that would also mean higher expenditure. One day, while driving along the main road near the house, Aniza said “I want to show you these lots”… and turned into a road which I know had really nice corporate factories. I was thinking “This is a waste of time looking at them – we can’t possibly afford to rent a three-storey factory! And why would we want to?” But it was to another place – a recent development which I wasn’t even aware of despite it being so near!
Sunsuria The Core, in front of the famous Uptown and just off Persiaran Surian in Kota Damansara – when I first saw this spanking-new development, it was love at first sight. And it was the same with my wife – this is where we want to be! But we were quickly brought down to earth when both of us then asked the uncomfortable question: “Can we afford something so nice? The units look so expensive.” Well, there was no harm in asking – at least we’ll know for sure that we can’t afford it and move on. But we also know that we will always be thinking about it, especially if we find ourselves in a dinky office. And I wouldn’t be happy – I know what my wife is doing, her intentions, her abilities, of the people that she has helped and wants to… she deserves to have a decent office. Her patients deserve to be at a comfortable place. If Allah Helps us, then all will be well. And yet again, He came to our rescue!
Through a very earnest and cooperative real estate agent, Terry Tang, we discovered that “it was possible” to get a unit despite our small budget although we would need to meet the owner halfway and agree to something “a bit more”. That’s because there are units which are smaller than the “usual” office size. Here’s the deal: a unit that is smaller than the previous office (at 60% the floor area) but costs 50% more. It took us a few days to think and evaluate, besides looking at it three times with the agent (not to mention the other times when we drove around just to see and feel the area): We’ll take it.
It was a big decision and we were apprehensive about it. Besides the usual three-months-rental deposit, there was also the renovations that needed to be done. The unit was bare-bones empty with a concrete floor. And there’s also that big matter of moving things from the old office. All of these would be easily taken care of if we had a big budget – something we didn’t have. Again, we had to place our trust and hopes in Allah; that He would give us the energy and the help that we need. And again, He did just that.
Those three weeks in March were among the busiest and most tiring ever for me. So many things to do and problems to overcome! But I also realise one crucial thing – with Aniza, when we are together, when we are sehati and do things together, we can achieve a lot. There’s energy in togetherness and when we do things honestly and sincerely. To cut costs, we did things ourselves whenever we could. And that included packing and hauling the smaller items with a borrowed pickup truck.
The renovating – we were fortunate in that someone we had known from the Nusa Subang office offered to help us to handle it. And we are very pleased with the cost and workmanship. The final major piece to the jigsaw was the airconditioning. It was something which we had spent days thinking about and discussing trying to come up with the best bang for the buck. We would look at a nearby office which took up three first-floor units – a company which obviously had a big budget – and then at ours with our very limited resources. But we were happy – despite everything, and despite the various problems and obstacles, we have succeeded in getting the office up and running. There isn’t a signboard yet though but at least the office is now fully operational (Click here for location on Google Maps) For me, there is the satisfaction and happiness in knowing that I have helped Aniza, the same way that she have helped me ever since three years ago. We can only pray to Allah that the new treatment centre will be a success; that my wife will be able to do what she wants in life, that is in helping others in their lives.
January 13, 2013
Readers who follow this blog and have read all the posts are surely aware of one very noticeable characteristic here: there isn’t any semblance of a system in the writing of the posts here. Sometimes there might be some sort of a sequence where one post is a logical continuation of the previous. But often – and I know to the annoyance of many readers – you simply don’t know and can’t predict what the next post will be about or when it will come out.
If it’s of any comfort to the reader, I don’t know either. I don’t have any timetable or even clear objectives when it comes to this blog and there certainly isn’t any kind of “To do” list of things that I am going to write about. But I do know why I had started this blog in the first place. No, it’s not with the noble intention “to help others”, although I’m happy to note that it had indeed been of use to some readers. Rather, my original intention, which still remains until now, is this: I simply must write about this for my own sake. This is something which I had learned from Narcotics Anonymous: We need to look back at the past, see things as what and how they were and accept them. Only then could we live in the present and move on.
Seeing and accepting the past for what it is… and letting go
Many will acknowledge that doing so is indeed therapeutic and it works not just with recovering addicts but also with `normal’ people who are bogged down with various personal problems and carrying the burden of past guilts, slights, grudges and “If only” and “what-might-have-been”. “You must let go of the past… ”, says the wise but it’s not something that’s easy to do. Unfortunately, there is no other way and we have a choice here: continue to carry the burdens and live with the monkey on our backs in the form of the miseries, shame and dissatisfactions that inevitably affect the quality of our day-to-day living, OR move on.
If you have read all the posts here – plus my replies, some of which could be new posts by themselves – you might feel that I have already written “ a lot”. Would you believe that there’s a lot more… that I had written only 10 percent (if that) of what I know I should write about. This is not being narcissistic, that is in having an inflated idea of one’s perceived importance. Rather, the things that I have yet to write are not actually “about me” but a combination and mixture of personal experiences that are intertwined with the people whom I have known over my life so far. There are so many events in life – the “small” ones especially – which seemed insignificant when they happened… a passing remark by someone, a person’s response to an incident, something which I expected to happen but didn’t or vice versa etc. – nothing earth-shaking but “just everyday things.” But upon reflection and with the benefit of hindsight and new experiences years later, these small incidents add up and help to provide new insights concerning this all-important matter that is “Life”.
The posts here: there are a lot of gaps. There is one very critical period of my life which I had not really delved into so far – the period of my relapse from 1993, which was the start of the downward spiral and the inevitable collapse and almost total destruction of my life that mercifully ended with the magistrate court’s order on 31 October 2005 to undergo compulsory treatment and rehabilitation for two years at Pusat Serenti Gambang (plus another two years of supervision by the AADK upon release).
A lot had happened during this period but I have yet to write much about it. I know very well the reason for this: cowardice… the fear and uneasiness of facing the shame, embarrassment and guilt of knowing that I had failed myself and those closest… especially the innocents – my children. This was the greatest torment of all; the biggest source of self-loathing and hatred of my own self.
1993 to 2005: it’s somewhat difficult to conceptualise; to really feel the passage of time that passed. Merely writing “12 years” just doesn’t leave much of an impact in the mind as to the length of time that went by; of the 365 days of a year… and another, and another…
No one starts taking drugs (AND alcohol too for that matter) with the intention of becoming an addict: it is always “to experience what it’s about”… “to just have a good time”. And certainly no one sets out to destroy his life; to lose everything that he has, including his self-worth. But it will happen when you set out on the spiral descent of addiction and when there’s no intervention to check the fall, to have the will and resources to change direction and to climb that (very) steep slope of recovery.
The addiction works in an insidious way – you simply don’t know that you are getting addicted! No alarm bell goes off; there isn’t any clear indication of the change because it is such a cunning and subtle evil. Different people may have different opinions of this but with me, the physical addiction with heroin and morphine is after three consecutive days of usage.
Given this fact, the layman might be led to conclude: “So don’t take it for three days then. Stop at two and things will be okay…” Actually, that was my thinking too, plus that of many others: this self-deluding “control your usage” which leads to a full-blown relapse again and again. From my own experience, which is verified by honest discussions with various inmates, and through observation, the truth is this: you simply can’t control using drugs – it’s drugs that will control you. And regardless of how many consecutive days it may take for an individual to be physically addicted, it takes JUST ONE usage to be mentally addicted.
That was how I first got addicted when in Form 5 in 1976, and that was how it happened again in 1993 – the “Just this once” euphoric feeling immediately changed the mental state from “everyday normal” to wanting to be in a pleasurable state all the time; to `cheat life’ by not having to feel the boredom and drudgery which everyone has to go thorough occasionally. The stage is set for a continuation of the “Just this once”, again and again looking for that euphoria which would never come again. In this quest to seek that elusive euphoria, the physical and mental addictions grow ever stronger. And then one day – days, weeks, months or whatever -you finally acknowledge that you are addicted.
You’d try to stop by undergoing cold turkey – “Seven days clean should do it”. It should… except that you will also discover the harsh fact that you don’t have enough will and strength to voluntarily undergo the 24/7 pain and torment brought about by a narcotics withdrawal. With the body in agony, with no lying down or sitting position being `right’, and not being able to get any temporary respite through sleep, the mind torments you with this choice: “Continue with this for yet another few days to be clean and undergo yet more torture, OR bring all the pain and torment to an immediate end?” You also know that all it takes is just a dose and all the pain and torment will miraculously disappear within 10 seconds. Guess which an addict in that state would voluntarily choose 99% of the time?
And so it went for me; the days of being addicted turned to weeks, then months and then years. Along the way, life gradually took a turn for the worse, bit by bit until it went beyond repair and collapsed. As with a wooden house, it doesn’t come down just like that due to a storm. Neglect weakened the structure, and then came termites. Something could still have been done to mitigate the situation but it would have required effort and resources, which could only come about through a strong will and various support to do so. But when nothing substantial was done, the house the house inevitably deteriorated until it reached a tipping point. And then came the collapse.
If I have to pinpoint when my collapse was, I would mark it at 1999. That was the year when my previous marriage essentially ended and life was just a series of unending hostility and bitterness. That was also when I was practically unemployed, without anything and was all alone. The worst part was the hopelessness – during that time and in that state, there was nothing I could do to even try to improve my situation. And I had no one to turn to. Life was just a continuation of one dreary day to the next; of living a life where there wasn’t any hope or anything to look forward to – 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005…
I don’t know how I had managed to survive, to go through all those years of emptiness and loneliness. But go through I did, simply because God didn’t want take away my life just yet and I still had a sliver of akidah left so as not to commit the ultimate wrong against my own self. There were times when I was in total despair – if there was a way to give away my life to anyone, I gladly would. I didn’t see any point in living my life – there was NOTHING left in it or to hope for and that its continuation “was just a punishment from God; that the remainder of my life will comprise solely of misery and drudgery.” I was wrong, of course, and I started to see a bit of His Powers on 7 November 2005 when I arrived at Pusat Serenti Gambang; of His Signs and the opportunities He had Created for me to do something about my life, beginning with ME. That was the greatest gift of all and things gradually changed – so much beyond what I had even dared to fantasize during those depths of despair.
But I have gotten ahead of myself, going yet again to revisit those happy days at Gambang. The tipping point and collapse in 1999: like a house, it didn’t happen just like that. “Things happened” along the way – from that fateful decision that began with the relapse and the downward spiral which went unmitigated. I just hope I will have the courage to look back at it and write it here so that I will be free…
January 3, 2013
I’ve read quite a number of books in my lifetime thus far but for some reason J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings (LoTR) wasn’t one of them, unfortunately. I had been aware of this title since long ago but somehow I’ve never had the chance to read it.
I was also aware of the LoTR films, beginning with The Fellowship of the Ring in 2001 which was a box-office hit since there were frequent references to it in the newspapers. But I didn’t have the opportunity to watch it or the sequels of The Two Towers and The Return of The King – when the LoTR films were all the rage, my life had totally crumbled due to the addiction.
There was the curiosity to know what it was all about but I simply didn’t have the means or resources to watch these films. That was a time when I had practically nothing except for an obsolete 1998 desktop computer with a 200 MHz speed and 32 MB of RAM which I was still using in 2005. It was adequate enough though – after all, you don’t need the latest computer to have access to the internet… to emails and newsgroups especially, which were my sole contact to the outside world. It was very slow – a top speed of merely 33 kilobits (not bytes)/second. But it was okay for me – speed and features are secondary to me. It’s the content and ability to contact others (and be contacted) that mattered the most. Unfortunately, from 2002 onwards, my phone line was disconnected due to non-payment of the bills… and with it, my connection to the outside world. Handphones were already common enough even at that time but I didn’t have one – I simply could not afford to buy or maintain one. Without a phone, access to the internet and with no one who cared, I was cut off from the rest of the world.
The only thing that kept me sane during those dreary years were books. To be precise, “reading”. Some people might call me a snob but this is just me, for better or for worse: I’m only interested in reading material that’s in the English language. And nothing else. That created a problem for me – Pasir Mas, Kelantan isn’t exactly the centre of English literacy so where was I to get books in English? The public library? Believe it or not, I had read practically all of the English books there! It’s not really because I was a voracious reader – it’s simply because there were only a very limited number of books there. I was desperate for something to read – something to take my mind away from the dreariness and misery that was life, from the torment of having failed my children, from living a life that was without hope. Without books, my life would have been totally empty… without books, I doubt I could have managed to force myself to just live yet another day.
But through the Grace of God, the internet came to my rescue, as it had time and time again. Out of desperation, I figured out that having access to material in digital format would be as good as the printed form. As long as my computer kept working, I would manage somehow. During those days when I managed to scrape enough money for the bus fare to Pasir Mas (RM1.60 return) and an hour at the internet cafe (RM2.00), I would download various titles from that excellent site of Project Gutenberg and save these files to a diskette. Various titles by Franz Kafka, Friedrich Nietzsche, Henry David Thoreau, Fydor Dostoevsky and various 19th. Century Russian writers and whatever else titles that I came across were saved. And I would then spend almost all of my waking hours reading these titles from the computer’s monitor. I’d much prefer to read from books, of course, but in that situation anything was better than not being able to read. That was my temporary escape from the emptiness of life…
I attempted to try and make some sort of a living from my dire situation where I was essentially alone and not receiving any help or encouragement from anyone. With my minimal resources and the very limited opportunities, I tried to be a freelance writer the best that I could. Occasionally, my articles would be published by the technology pullout of The Star. It was very tough though. That’s because you need to do some researching and interviewing to come up with the material to write – you simply can’t pull things out of thin air, unless if you’re writing fiction (and even then you’d still need to do some research). Not having access to the internet was a major handicap. But I tried – I’d think of what to write and then search for material when I’m at the internet cafe. This would then be saved to the diskette to be re-read from the computer at home later. When I had enough material, I could then write something. It was tedious, troublesome and it pains me that no one cared to help me try to start anew and maybe salvage something from the ruins that was my life.
But regardless of the obstacles, I did manage to write quite a number of articles. I even attempted to write something in which I had absolutely no previous knowledge of – intellectual property. I knew the payment wouldn’t commensurate with the time and energy spent; of days reading legal writings and articles just to get a grip on the matter. But I went ahead… because I wanted to.
When writing this particular article, Tolkien’s epic came to mind and I rephrased it to be “Lords of the intellectual property ring“. Both my chosen title and the whole content were published by In.Tech, The Star in May 2005 (Ah, now all the readers here will know my real name!) I had only discover today, after doing a Google search, that it was also mentioned in an Arizona State University article! I wonder what they would have thought had they known that the person who had written it was a total nobody who never had a single day of grounding in legal matters… someone who was all alone and was to be arrested and incarcerated just three months after the article’s publication.
The saga of Lord of The Rings would continue for me at Pusat Serenti Gambang. Two months into my stay, free television (can’t remember whether it was TV2 or TV3) helped to make it even more memorable for me by showing The Fellowship of The Ring at the end of December 2005. This was followed by The Two Towers a few weeks later. At last!… I finally know what the story was all about!
My tenure at Pusat Serenti Gambang was the single most important and most poignant period in my life up to that point. And seemingly `ordinary’ events like seeing LoTR turn into special moments that live on in memory, which come back again and again whenever they reappear. When any of the Lord of The Rings films were shown on one of Astro’s channels (which is fairly frequent), I find it hard to resist – I simply must watch again and again, if only to relive those happy days at Gambang when life finally made sense.
There are also many memorable scenes and characters from the three films. I’m sure that those who like the LoTR films have their favourites. When it comes to “most favourite characters”, mine is probably different from most people – no, it’s not Frodo Baggins or any of the Hobbits. Nor everyone’s favourite of Aragorn or Gandalf the Wizard. Or Gimli the Dwarf or Legolas the Elf. It’s… the Nazgul/Ringwraith/Black Rider/Dark Rider (Below). Seriously.
“Now why would anyone like the Nazgul?!”, you might ask. I don’t know – I just like seeing them, just as I like watching “T-Bag” in Prison Break. Maybe it’s because I’m fascinated by them – my first ever reference was through a song I first heard when I was 15, and have liked ever since – Led Zeppelin’s Battle of Evermore (“The Ringwraiths ride in black…” and “Shoot straighter than before…” which reflects the desperation of the castle’s defenders in facing the massive force against them). But whatever, the Nazguls are memorable – their heartlessness, single-mindedness and dedication, the fear they evoked. I can watch again and again the scenes they were involved in… the Nazgul jumping off his horse near where the Hobbits were hiding among the tree roots… chasing after the Hobbits at the river crossing… barging through the gates at the town and running over the poor gatekeeper… riding a dragon over the marshes. Plain nasty!
But there are also a few other scenes which left a lasting impression in me involving Arwen, the daughter of Elrond, the Elves King. I would look back to when I first saw them when at Gambang in 2005/06 and then later – from 2010 onwards – with completely different perceptions and understandings. She loved Argorn of Gondor, who is a human… a mortal with a very short lifespan as compared to the elves, who lived to be thousands of years. Her father had reminded her of this – that she would live the rest of her life all alone when Argorn dies. (The link to the video clip is here)
The dialogue is like poetry:
“If Aragorn survives this war, you will still be parted. If Sauron is defeated and Aragorn made king and all that you hope for comes true, you will still have to taste the bitterness of mortality. Whether by the sword or the slow decay of time, Aragorn will die… And there will be no comfort for you – no comfort to ease the pain of his passing.”
“He will come to death an image of the splendor of the kings of Men in glory undimmed before the breaking of the world. But you, my daughter, you will linger on in darkness and in doubt as nightfall in winter that comes without a star. Here you will dwell bound to your grief under the fading trees until all the world is changed and the long years of your life are utterly spent.”
But Arwen chooses love, to be with the mortal even when she knows that life with him will be short and that she will have to spend the rest of her long years alone (See the scene here – different from the previous one above). During my first viewing of it at Gambang, my thought was “Wow!… but this is only a story. No woman can be like that. And even if there are such women, they have nothing to do with me. It’s not likely that any woman could have much love for someone with nothing, is nothing…”
Can’t blame me for having such thinking. At that time, my marriage then was all but destroyed; of two people living a life of hurt, bitterness and distrust. And even during the best of times, I simply couldn’t imagine “Arwen’s love and choice” or that something close could ever exist. “It’s just a story… exaggerated… nonsense.” Even if it does exist, “it can’t possibly ever involve me. Not at my age. Not with my situation…”
I was wrong… fortunately. And I thank Allah for my being wrong. By coincidence, my wife had also written a post about this at her blog earlier. I knew she was going to write something because she had asked my permission to use a BlackBerry message which I had sent to her a few days ago… when I was watching The Fellowship of The Ring yet again and telling her what it meant to me. So, I’ll just end my post here and let her post of A Bedtime Story be the sequel… just like The Lord of The Rings.
December 25, 2012
It’s been months since I last wrote a post here. In fact, the last one was almost a year ago and I certainly wouldn’t blame readers if they were to think I’ve abandoned this blog. Some might even be wondering what has become of me; of whether I’ve come full circle and being led back to that same route which had brought about almost total destruction the last time.
The reason for my being inactive at this blog is simply this: life has become so “normal” that I doubt anyone would want to read about it! A lot of things have happened since I first started this blog in August 2008 – good things I would never have dared to hope for or even imagine.
Over the years before that, as a direct consequence of the relapse which began around 1993 and the ensuing downward spiral and total collapse, I had lost essentially everything – the house completed in 1990 with a government housing loan, a Proton Saga 1.3 Megavalve, shares of some public-listed companies (that included KL Kepong, UEM, New Straits Times Press etc.), money and whatever else of any value.
On Thursday, 11th. August 2005 – the day I was arrested – my total possession amounted to… all of RM1.00, which would have been the bus fare back from Pasir Mas town to my house. Four days later, I was sent from the police lockup to be remanded at the Pengkalan Chepa prison where I was to spend three horrible months - nobody had cared enough to put up the RM500 bail. That, perhaps, was the biggest and most bitter blow of all – the harsh reality and acceptance of my being all alone, had nothing, was nothing. It was an irrefutable reality, of my being a total zero in life. “How could things have ever gotten to be this way?!“
Looking back, I would often wonder how it was that I had managed to live all those years. There is nothing worse than to have to live a life where you had lost everything, are alone and without any glimmer of hope that things could ever improve. There was nothing to distinguish the different days, weeks and months – they just melded together into one endless period filled only with misery, boredom and loneliness, with no hope that this would ever be different in the near or even far future. There was nothing else to do, to look forward to or to hope for: with absolutely no resources and no one who cared, life was just an unending emptiness.
The only thing that made it tolerable were the occasions when I somehow managed to scrape just enough money – RM12 or so – for a shot of morphine. Strange as it may sound to those who have never been addicted, the continued use of morphine was the only thing that prevented me from having a mental breakdown, besides somehow giving me the will to “just live another day – things might be better tomorrow…”.
If that’s how it was with me, perhaps it could also help to explain why many addicts continue to use drugs; and of why many – even after seemingly having kicked the habit after being in lockups, prisons and rehabilitation centres, or simply by detoxing themselves – keep returning to drugs? It’s so very easy for many people in society to ride a high horse and dispense with this advice of “You must have willpower…”. And what’s to sustain this willpower? It might last a few weeks or months for most and perhaps a few years for some, but often this willpower would dissolve due to one basic factor – the situation, circumstances and environment remain the same. And I know I would have gone down the same route again after being discharged from Pusat Serenti Gambang had it not been for the Grace of God and His Mercy…
Monday, 18 December 2006 – 16 months after the arrest, and having been incarcerated in a lockup, prison and a government rehabilitation centre, the day finally arrived - the much vaunted and much talked about “freedom”. Bebas: Go to any lockup, prison or centre, do a simple survey or just listen and you’ll find that this is the most oft-repeated word. For most inmates, everything is centred around this; the day when “everything will be okay again.”
I was no different, of course. From the day of arrest, and especially on 31 October 2005 when I received the despairing order to undergo compulsory treatment and rehabilitation for two years, all I wanted was “freedom”… to go back to where I came from and do what I want. But things had gradually changed since then, and my concept and desire of this so-called freedom became different from most of my fellow inmates and friends.
This image from The Star of inmates from a centre going somewhere in an AADK (National Anti-Drugs Agency) lori ayam truck: I had been in one quite a number of times during my stay at Gambang and had worn all the four colours of red (newbie), yellow, green and white (senior)… plus the much-coveted and prestigious Pengawas (Prefect) uniform of white with blue collar t-shirt, blue and white cap, plus blue pants (as opposed to trackbottom) and canvas belt — and I had gone from despair to full of optimism and hope after 13 months at that glorious centre. That was one of the Glories bestowed by Allah – who could have imagined that something which I had previously dreaded, i.e. in being sent to pusat, would turn out to be one of the happiest and most meaningful periods of my life!
This ticket – where and what would it lead to? The novelty of “being free” wore off fast. So there I was, back at where I was in Pasir Mas before the arrest; in an environment, situation and circumstances that were practically the same as they were before. I had learned a lot of things, with a vastly different mindset and attitudes, and I had plans. But the atmosphere and situation were oppressing and I was worried that things would deteriorate sooner or later (They did). It doesn’t matter “whose fault” it was but the fact is that I simply couldn’t adapt to the people and environment there and the loneliness began to creep in again.
The only thing I had looked forward to were the monthly compulsory reporting and supervision at the AADK office, although for most of the other former inmates, it was a drag. For one thing, many feared a urine test and the possible consequences of turning in a positive result. But for me, it was the only place where I could find people that I could relate to – the former inmates and the AADK officers were my only connection to the world. “Home is where the heart is”, and my heart was in Pusat Serenti Gambang. If that was `freedom’, then give me back my incarceration, please!
I would have been happy had it been possible to just spend the rest of my life in Gambang. But God obviously had other plans for me, this one I was/am sure of. Things started to improve again for me, ever since my sister presented me with a much-needed laptop and access to the Internet in July 2008. But I wasn’t out of the woods yet, with various problems threatening to pull me down again. Deep in my heart, I knew that I had to leave my environment. But how do you pull out your roots, leaving a place where you had been for 25 years? There was the fear of the unknown, and where was I to go?
Then, a former fellow inmate at Gambang – Nasarudin – a young guy who later became one of my good friends when we were discharged, suffered a relapse, was arrested and spent another period in the prison while awaiting the court’s decision. I knew how that had come about: for him, and with so many of those whom I had known, it was due to the return to the same environment and situations. The results were somewhat predictable. If it could happen to them, what was so special about me? I had to move, but I simply couldn’t make the decision or take the action. And again, through the Grace of God, He made it very easy for me…
On 24 May 2010, the day I left Pasir Mas and made my way by train to Batang Kali, Selangor – months later, I learned that on the very same day, Nasarudin had received a court order to undergo yet another period of treatment and rehabilitation; this time at Pusat Serenti Muar. And he was there until July 2011. It’s something that made me sad and it’s easy for others to say “It’s his fault and he deserves it”. But do they know what he (and others) had faced after being discharged the first time (and second or third time for that matter)?… of the society and environment there, whose negativity had also played a major part in the whole thing? This is one aspect that I know very well – something that would have pulled me back in too had it not been for the timely intervention of Sherry Nor Jannah, Nazmi and, of course, my present wife, Dr. Aniza whose part in helping me has been huge. Had they not been there and not done what they did for me, there is the very real likelihood that I would have fallen by the wayside too.
As mentioned earlier, there’s a limit to this “willpower”. Even with this and the right attitudes, given the same environment, situation and circumstances – and the same mentality of society – the same results will happen again and again. And I doubt this will change. After all, it’s far easier to look at and find faults with others – with this society in general, it’s always other’s fault, never theirs.
I’m no better than the others who were with me but I was more fortunate – I had various people coming in at crucial times to encourage and help guide me towards better things. And for this I’m grateful. But most of the others didn’t. You can change the laws, enforcement and whatever else but the results will be the same. And it will repeat like an infinite loop… until the core variables change, as they did for me.
UPDATE 25/12/2012 6:57 PM – I forgot to also include this earlier — My parents – if it had not been for them, for their doa (prayers), I just know I wouldn’t have gotten what I have. When I was at Gambang, and when I saw how things were clicking for me (but not for some of my friends), I wondered why it was so – why was God giving me so many things?? The same happened later when I was discharged – somehow, even when they didn’t look like so when they happened, they would turn out to be to my great benefit. What was so special about me?? Maybe this: I’ve gotten these not because of my doings but because God was/is Granting what my parents have wished for.
January 17, 2012
Monday 31 October 2005 – a day before Deepavali and three days before Hari Raya Aidilfitri: this was easily the worst day of my life. It was the day when Life fully mangled, crushed and spat me out. It was a day of bitter disappointment, hopelessness and total despair; of feeling that God had abandoned me.
After three months at the harsh and abusive prison of Pengkalan Chepa, it turned out that my incarceration was far from over as I had fervently prayed for, each and every day, for no less than five times a day during that holy month of Ramadan. Unlike the four others who were with me on that day, I had also made the effort to fast the whole of that month. And, unlike them who were already planning to shoot up drugs again should they be released “just for the heck of it”, I had no such thoughts. I honestly and sincerely felt I had done “all the right things”, the best that I could. I only wanted to be released; to go home and see my children. Was that too much to ask from God??
But yet, while all the others were granted supervision and immediately released, I was issued the order to undergo compulsory treatment and rehabilitation for two years at a Pusat Serenti! I was shocked by `the injustice’ of it all: How could this be?! How could God have granted the others their immediate freedom while I – `the most deserving’ – have to undergo more of this ordeal?!
“The reason, fool, is because He Wants to give you more than the pathetic crumbs that you had asked for – A LOT MORE!”
That was one of my misconceptions then, which came about through ignorance and stubbornness: I had inadvertently led myself to ask from God what I specifically wanted instead of what God Knows is best for me. And the things that I had asked for at that time were indeed crumbs: “To be granted supervision” by the magistrate, and `freedom’… being able to walk out from the court’s lockup, to go home and being able to smoke freely whenever I wanted to; to have enough to eat and drink, to have some privacy and to read. These are the simple-minded and unambitious wishes and desires of those who find themselves in lockups and prisons. And what then?
I have often wondered how things would have turned out for me had I actually gotten what I had specifically wished for – being released on 31 Oct 2005 instead of being sent to that glorious place of Pusat Serenti Gambang. There would have been elation, relief and excitement, that’s for sure. And I saw it on the faces of the other `lucky four’. But these would have been for an extremely short time. At least for me. In reality, there was practically nothing left for me then and this much-vaunted and desired `freedom’ was limited to just all those desires mentioned above.
My life, situation and circumstances then – they were pathetic, dreary and dreadful. On 31 October 2005, all I had at that time was all of RM1 (would have been enough to pay the 70 sen bus fare `home’). From having relatively good and secure jobs and with some status in society, I was unemployed, shunned and scorned. Although I had a wife, the marriage had essentially crumbled some years before and all that remained was anger, resentment and bitterness. I was also estranged and cut off from my elderly parents and sisters. I was all alone; abandoned, unwanted… But worst of all was the feeling inside – the self-loathing and hatred of having failed my children; of them suffering through no fault of theirs. This was something that had deeply tormented me.
What would have that `freedom’ led to? “I will slowly and patiently claw my way up again, make amends for all the wrongs that I had done and create a better future…” That’s the hope and dream of every addict including me. Often, it’s a short-lived fantasy, as had happened to me and so many others. How could it be otherwise when all or most of the factors and ingredients were the same? And especially when one isn’t much different from that of previously, as I also was (or wasn’t)? Faced with these, the previously determined addict – in facing the various obstacles, the unchanged environment, and negative situations which include unsupportive families and toxic members of society – would inevitably be frustrated and discouraged. “To hell with it all!”, and the vicious cycle starts all over again.
Only God, as always, can change this. AND MORE. With me, it was in Allah Mercifully Granting me a whole lot more than what I had asked for: the freedom that He Gave came in the outwardly form of `incarceration.’ It was during that journey while handcuffed in a police van, and the generative stay at Gambang that had started and brought it all. Everything had started from there…
And Allah had also granted to me “the gift of people” – of those who had come into my life and given me so much in various ways. At Gambang, I managed to reconcile with my parents, and then my sisters. This one is critical; the blessings and support of your parents especially. Then there was David, whose contributions and support when I was at Gambang and after have been enormous (I can write a few posts specifically on him alone – and I do wish to. However, I have to respect his request for privacy) …
…The various people who appeared at crucial moments, like Rahim Pendamai who had given a talk at Gambang during my very early days there, which encouraged and gave me hope that “Perhaps, there might be some future for me…” — ArahMan7: can we dismiss as `coincidence’ that I should find his blog on the very same day I started mine; and whose own often similar accounts and experiences have heartened and encouraged me as Rahim Pendamai did? … Rocky Bru: whose post about this blog during its infancy, besides encouraging me further, had also resulted in me getting to know many of the readers here.
Sheila Rahman: People who work/had worked in the media will definitely know her. Sheila gave me the chance to write again, and with it came the confidence (and some useful money) that I could make a real living out of writing. No less important, she was not just someone whom I worked with but who had also given me the hope and courage to start again with my children. Elviza: The popular, multi-lingual writer and columnist – her encouragement and help were priceless. And her visit during Raya Aidilfitri at my previous wife’s house in Pasir Mas plus gifts – she elevated my stature among the people there. (Some might be confused with all of this, but please just bear with it).
And Sherry Nor Jannah: the person who had started it all for me, directly and indirectly, in so many important things; and her wonderful husband, Nazmi for his trust and support. Although I have mentioned it a number of times previously, I simply can’t say enough about them. It was through their help, encouragement and guidance that I made that critical move; of finding the desire and confidence to re-enter society and to try claw my way back again. Many of my colleagues at Gambang had gone down the road again, going back to the vicious cycle and undergoing that dreary existence yet again – did they have people like Sherry and Nazmi to guide and encourage them?…How Allah had Blessed me!
And the person who took me to another level – in fact to levels I had not ever been before… not even “during my prime”. God Bless the day of 1 April 2010 when Dr Aniza Zain Ahmed was curious enough to investigate one weirdo whose comments at Rocky’s Bru had intrigued her (and whose pen-name also coincides with one of her products) … my best friend who is now my wife and the best step-mother anyone could ever hope for. But don’t take my word for it – ask my children:-)
Actually, it is because of her that this post came about. After so many months of this blog being dormant, I simply have to write today, jumbled as the contents are. I have been busy with quite a number of things during this period but today I’m faced with something that was once the norm – loneliness. I had sent Aniza to KLIA for her flight to London yesterday morning, and it didn’t take long – that feeling came even before I had reached the Sepang toll booth. It was so odd going out to a restaurant near her house in Kota Damansara; this being alone. A lot of things came to my mind, and I simply have to write something to try and get my bearings again.
I had thought I “was okay with being alone, for I had been so for YEARS.” I was wrong. Yes, maybe I was used to it once. But that was before I came to Batang Kali on 25 May 2010… “Before Aniza”. How massive this wonderful woman has been for me and my children! And to my friends too (Sherry, Elviza and Faten have met her).
All these jumbled thoughts in my mind the whole day! But they are connected and intertwined – that day of Monday 31 October 2005 and Monday 16 January 2012. Five years have passed but so many things have changed – for the better. The people, things, situations, circumstances… Ya Allah: Syukur for giving someone who was crushed and defeated what he has right now.
[My wife and her sister arrived safely at Heathrow at around midnight Malaysian time to join another sister there - one reason why I was staying up. Hoping they will have a good time there for they deserve everything that is good in life. And I'm not saying this just because she's my wife and they are my sisters-in-law. It's just that... they have been great to me. Syukur for yet another blessing from Allah.]
July 28, 2011
The homeless and the people living on the streets, and many off them: much as the thought might create discomfort and uneasiness among many of us, we have to face it – they exist. And here in Malaysia, in KL too; in the land of plenty.
We would catch glimpses of them here and there as we go about our daily lives and they are the stereotypes in our minds when we come across the terms of `homeless’ and `street people’: dirty, unkempt and smelly; begging, sitting on pavements with a vacant look in their eyes, walking with a sack and on the lookout for discarded aluminium cans. Occasionally, we might come across one sleeping on the pavement; his pillow being a dirty bag that contains all his worldly possessions. And we’d wonder how it was that they had gotten there.
“Addicts, drunkards, gamblers and former prostitutes who had lost everything through their own misdeeds”, many of us might conclude, and dismissing further thoughts of them. And we would be right too, for some of them are or were and that’s how they had eventually gotten there. But many aren’t… and yet they too are there on the streets! How could this be?!
There are a lot of misconceptions about them, and a general lack of interest among us to know more; much less to do something about. And that included me. Previously, like many people, I had thought that “there are some who are homeless: beggars, addicts, drunkards, Myanmar… the usual suspects.”
If I had to make a guess as to how many there were in the centre of KL, I would have ventured “maybe something like 30 or 40.” An outing at night around the heart of KL with an organisation called REACH OUT earlier this year (two days before I married) showed that I was way, way off with this estimate. And there were many women and children among them too… Malaysians.
Reach Out organises an activity called “street feeding” on Saturday night, usually from around 11PM to 2AM. Volunteers would gather at Jalan Pudu and from there would drive around various places to distribute freshly cooked food packed in styrofoam boxes and also bottled water to the street people. At some locations, these people would be waiting to collect the food. The volunteers would also leave the food packets beside those sleeping on pavements along the way. Many weren’t visible from the road: only by walking and exploring the various nooks and crannies would you find them. And these volunteers were dedicated enough to do so.
That outing was an eye-opener. I was disturbed by what I saw: there were so many of the homeless in Malaysia. And those whom I did see that night were most likely only a fraction of the total, whatever that might be! And something inside kept reminding me: if not for the Grace of God, I too would easily have been one of them… easily.
I tried to, but it’s very hard to imagine their lives and what they have to put up with. The only experience I had that came closest was in 1999, when I had spent a few nights sleeping under the porch of “show house” at Tampoi Indah in Johor Baru. That was with the permission and invitation of the guard whom I had befriended a few hours earlier (someone from Pengkalan Chepa, Kelantan. There’s an unwritten code of conduct that says: when outside the state, the Kelantanese is obliged to help each other).
But I knew it would be temporary; just until I obtained a rented room at Taman Perling nearby (Again it was through a Kelantanese’s help). Even then I could remember the discomfort and inconveniences – the hard floor, the mosquitoes… and the toilet was a guard post at the entrance to a few blocks of apartments 200 metres away (the guards there were… you guessed it – from Kelantan). But those people on the streets – what they have to put up with are a few magnitudes worse than those few nights in Johor Baru.
It might be tempting – and very easy – for us to conclude that “they are used to it”. Used to living on the street, eating and sleeping there?? I don’t think so… unless if they had been born and brought up from there. And even if that were so, is it something that they’d choose if given the choice?
What is it like, to see other people – US - passing by (and with us averting eye contact; not wanting to know that there are other humans living such wretched lives)… seeing others seemingly so happy and “having everything”; especially the fact that our presence there is only temporary, for we all have some place to go back to to eat, relax and sleep? And where will they go to?
What is it like to not have a place where you can ease yourself, to wash your clothes, to have a refreshing bath when you feel like it?…and especially when you NEED to? “There are restaurants, mosques, suraus…”, we might helpfully suggest. Yes, there are. Trouble is, you aren’t allowed to at many of these places – not when you’re dirty, unkept and smelly. Ironically, that’s exactly when you really need access to these facilities! You have to be clean and tidy first before you can; forever dooming these unfortunates from being so.
And what is it like, not being able to go down to the kitchen to have a quick bite when you’re hungry, to have a cold drink when you’re thirsty? “You can easily have these from the many restaurants and 7-Elevens. Surely there are many around the centre of KL?!” Yes, there are many of these outlets in each and every direction. The main problem is, you need something called “money” to get them; and the homeless can’t simply go to the nearest ATM to withdraw some.
“Why don’t they get a job? That should solve everything!…able to rent a room, buy food, pay for public transport, get new clothes. And if they are thrifty, they’ll be able to get a motorcycle too soon enough!” YES, that’s so very right! But there’s one problem: potential employers are reluctant to take people who don’t have an address; a place to stay. And therein is another rut and a vicious cycle: to be able to pay rent, you need a job. But to get that, you need a place to stay first. And guess how many landlords there are, who are willing to give someone a room without paying rent upfront and possibly a deposit also?
So what are we going to do about it? One option is to throw up our hands, shrug and lament: “It’s something too big… not something that I can help with. I have my own problems – the house’s payments, the car, groceries, children’s education…” and pointing to others by way of washing it off our hands: “The government, the authorities – it’s their responsibility.”
But we know we must do something; that we can do something. BUT WHAT? I don’t really know myself – however, besides REACH OUT I do know of another organisation that was formed recently to try and do something about it: Program Agihan Makanan Kpd Gelandangan @ Masjid Jamek KL. The Facebook page is here and you can learn more about the people involved and the activities planned.
Briefly, the group meets at Masjid Jamek from 9.30 PM every Thursday night – which is tonight. Instead of just handing out food, the volunteers also organise other activities for the street people, including a short religious ceramah (by the way, despite it being held in the vicinity of the mosque, everyone is welcomed to attend).
Sceptics and armchair critics might doubt the effectiveness of the program, like “How would it help to solve the homelessness problem? Doing the activities mentioned would hardly make a dent.” To this I say: What do you suggest? And, more importantly, when are YOU going TO DO IT?
There might be much better ideas, no doubt. But let’s talk about NOW. Yes, it might “look small” but you have to start somewhere. And this group at Masjid Jamek has started… Many would be at the Shah Alam Stadium tonight or glued to the television set, watching the Malaysia-Singapore football match. But that’s okay – there are those other Thursday nights ahead, if you’d like to see what’s going on and what you might be able to do to help. In the meantime, it would be great if you folks could just have a look at the Facebook page and see what’s going on. Having more people there would help to encourage the organisers, at the very least.