The sum total of Choices

September 29, 2008

“What could I have been, and where might I be now had I not made some of the choices that I had in the past…”

These are questions that would come to mind – and quite often too in the pre-Pusat Serenti Gambang past … the “what if’s”; especially that of “What if I had not taken that first dose that had started the relapse in 1993 that brought about the spiraling of my life and those closest to me”. And each time I’d end up feeling so sorry for myself – and angry and bitter with myself.

Now you should know why I was struck by that internal turmoil upon reaching the final two paragraphs when writing that post of “God, why hath Thou forsaken me?” (Part 5). I had spent hours after that thinking about this matter – of “Why” I was feeling that way.

I think I know the answer: I had not properly dealt with it. And it will continue to come back to haunt and torment me again and again in the future until I do. This is what I had learned from the fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and they are spread over a number of specific Steps:

  • STEP FOUR – “We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”
  • STEP FIVE – “We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs”
  • STEP SIX – “We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character”
  • STEP SEVEN – “We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings”
  • STEP EIGHT – “We made a list of all the persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all”
  • STEP NINE - “We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others”

NA100px-NaGroupLogo Caption: The original “Jimmy K” logo of N.A. The fellowship currently use a different logo, but the “NA” font at the centre remains. Who is this “Jimmy K”? I don’t know. However, it’s a tradition of NA not to focus on individuals. Instead, the fellowship emphasises “anonymity”. That’s one reason why I’m using “Cendana287″, “Ahmad Anon”, “Mart Anon” (and “Mat Cendana” at the other site); although quite a number of people here know my name. Wanting to be (and remain) anonymous was another reason why I was nervous and apprehensive on realising that Rocky’s Bru had started a post about this site, which was almost totally unknown except for a very few.

Those six Steps above – That’s a lot of work! Yes, and I get scared each time I read of them; and am frequently tempted with “It’s too tough … Let’s just forget about it … just live life the best that I can.” But I know that I’ll be cheating myself if I abandon these principles of NA. All of these steps (and the others) are mentioned in Islam; although not in exact such words, of course.

I’ll be very happy should someone come up to me and tell me “all that I need to do is to `taubat’ (repent), and everything will be okay again…”. But is `taubat’ merely “the uttering of words”?..and then joining dakwah-related groups and spend a lot of time inside mosques and suraus? By the way, I have nothing against anyone joining dakwah (missionary) groups, nor against those who spend a lot of time at religion-centric buildings (a lot better than those who spend their time under bridges and abandoned houses; on in pubs, nightclubs and restaurants).

But in my case and situation, I don’t think merely to utter taubat to all and sundry is anywhere near adequate. Which is why I feel “the N.A way” is possibly the only specific way to go when it comes to me and myself. By the way, should someone here have some doa (prayer) or `air tawar’ that, on the basis of using it alone will prevent me from a possible relapse, I’ll be more than happy to force myself to believe it:-)

Anyway, before we look back as to how I had suffered a relapse in 1993 – which a NA guy at at the Pusat Khidmat AADK in Kuantan had said was actually a “collapse” (It was Rahim; also the PENDAMAI secretary) - it might be better to start even further than that – when and how I had started using drugs in the first place. It was in 1976, when I was in Form 5, at the age of 16 (was promoted to “express class” during primary school; hence the age `discrepancy’).

There’s one thing that I remember about that period – the authorities and the public were quite clueless about drugs and other matters relating to it (like treatment and rehabilitation). Many are still clueless about it right now, and coupled with the “bodoh sombong” (ignorant but with excessive pride) attitude of some, are making a mess of things. But I’ll leave this one for another time.

Yes, it was generally known that “drugs are dangerous” – there would be all those anti-drug slogans and posters in between television programmes (only two black-and-white channels then) that would remind of “Dadah membawa Padah” (Drugs lead to disaster – Which is very accurate, come to think of it; although the guy who had created it was probably only concerned that it rhymed).

But there were these curiosity and rebellious streaks that are found in many teenagers… “How bad is it?”; “Why do some people take it then?” And it was a time when rock stars were like demi-gods. Since many of them were said (rightly or wrongly) to be taking drugs – and they still became rich and famous – the feeling was that “it isn’t as bad as some people make it out to be” and “it should be okay if you control its usage and not to get addicted” (As if you can choose, as I was to find out the hard way!).

Then there were my peers who took it – they would boast of how “Best! Stim…”; describing how `uplifting’ a session would take them when consuming ganja (cannabis/marijuana) and fit (heroin – `the destroyer of worlds’ as described of Shiva aptly describes this and morphine). The “clean ones” like me would sit quietly listening; and be in awe of them. “If drugs were so bad, then why aren’t these guys all the worse for it?!” (Because, it was still their early days yet. The time to pay the piper will come – sooner rather than later).

sahc_front-half sahc_badge Caption: Sultan Abdul Hamid College, Alor Star. The classroom to the right of the office was, in 1976, my Form 5H. No, not as in “Hijau” but “Eighth”; the last class (This was a school for “the selected”, that also included Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad)…people with `some attitude’ (and “potential”, had they been fortunate to have received the guidance of others). The class to the left was where I had bombed out with heroin a number of times at night (some of us had obtained permission to use it at night for studying and discussion groups. It (the studying and not the heroin, of course) had played a big part in my having obtained very good MCE (GCE O-Level) results. Oh, I know what some of you might be thinking: “But I thought you are in Kelantan…” Yes, too. More will be revealed in its own good time.

But I held on; still not taking it because there were some worries inside me that held me back. For one thing, I had heard and read a lot about “drug addicts” – of how drugs had gripped them until they were obviously no longer in control. I had also heard  stories of older users doing some desperate thing or another to obtain money to buy drugs.

I remember one such guy, Azmi (about 20 then) who was working at my school’s canteen (the contractor was a Chinese guy named “John”, who had a BMW). One way of obtaining money to support his habit was to siphon some of the day’s collection. And I was one of his collaborators. I’d pay RM1 for a plate of rice – gave him a RM1 note, and he’d “return my change of RM4″. I’d later give him RM3 (minus my cut of RM1). I had also bought a pair of brown “Melbourne” jeans which were quite new from him. I can’t remember how much but it must have been “cheap enough”, for my father gave me the money when I asked. And I remember that he was quite desperate to sell it, telling me he was `gian’ (hard up/severe cravings, with physical withdrawal setting in)

[Footnote: Azmi died the following year. He had taken "Roche" (valium) pills when he couldn't get heroin, in a desperate attempt to stave off the physical withdrawal pains (BTW valium, which was easily available and for free at government clinics then, doesn't do much - unlike methadone or buprenorphine, which were not available at that time. But it's better than nothing...) However, he must have taken a few too many for he became like someone heavily intoxicated with drink. Witnesses said he had walked onto a lorry's path...]

It was stories like this that had held me back from trying any of these drugs. Until “an accident” happened…

[Will continue `later' with another Post. In the meantime, have a look at this blog, kata kama. I had accidentally discovered it when I followed up on who had clicked from where to this site. It's a personal site by a former journalist who is now in PR; which explains the smooth and elegant writing style]

*Thurs 2 Oct 10.46AM : Had just read a post at “My Journey to Recovery” (ArahMan7 in Kuala Kangsar). It is about Raya (and Puasa) – especially about what it was like when one was an active addict.

*Sun 5 Oct 11.22AM: I’m aware of a few people wondering and asking “Why am I not writing more often/more post?” The main reason is that, I don’t want to force myself – I want everything that comes out here “to be from inside… from my heart”. When the time is right, then “something will appear here”…

I hope to make this a continuation of the last two paragraphs of  the previous post where I got bogged down and was in some mental turmoil.

This will come about whenever we remember regrettable things and actions that we have not fully come to terms with. With me in that one, it is memory of the first dose in 1993 after 12 years that resulted in fullblown relapse. And the natural sequence of that would inevitably be the disasters that were to follow over the years … of damaging, losing and destroying various persons, places and things.

This is the imagery about I that I had written in an e-mail message yesterday: – saat mula relapse, yang kemudian s-a-t-u  d-e-m-i  s-a-t-u  benda-benda yang penting dalam hidup saya mula hilang dan hancur… I saw it all again being replayed…

Try imagining it; drug addiction “like a bowling ball” in slow-slow motion approaching the pins – not knocking down all of them at once, but hitting just one pin at the side near the gutter, which symbolise any one aspect of life. The bowling ball is no longer there, but the pin, which flies and flips in slow-slow motion, and  in dropping down still flipping, now hits and launches another pin which does the same. And so it goes…

Over the years, whether in active addiction or some phase of either treatment, rehabilitaion or recovery, I would emotionally beat myself again and again – feeling something like “I need to be punished” … of self-hatred or scorn for that crucial DECISION and CHOICE despite already knowing about the risks and possibilities from personal  experience of addiction during teenage years. And the condition and fate of contemporaries who had made that choice earlier.

There would always be “what if I had not?” moments; which the regret, remorse and anger created further adding to the gloom, depression and hopelessness … making continuing with it “more tolerable” than quitting, which did not seem like a viable nor sustainable choice . Dismay; zero confidence to think about this attempt to “Rebuild a self and a life destroyed”, much less to try it.

[Folks, perhaps that one might help explain why addicts seem to be caught in an endless loop ... perhaps explaining the question of "Why don't they do something about their addiction?... ngapa takder self-motivation langsung diorang ni." ]

When at the end of the road we find that we can no longer
function as a human being, either with or without drugs, we all
face the same dilemma. What is there left to do? There seems
to be this alternative: either go on as best we can to the bitter
ends–jails, institutions or death–or find a new way to live. In
years gone by, very few addicts ever had this last choice.

na_blue_cover [From: Narcotics Anonymous ISBN 1-55776-025-X; 286 pages. I was given a copy of this one by Mark E, an English recovering addict married to an American and living in Brooklyn, New York in 2000. I consider this as one of the very most important books that I have]

In my case, in that previous post – What exactly was I facing? What did I do? Did I reach that state above?

*UPDATE 25 Sept 3.30PM: Being kept busy at the other `cari makan’ site. This site is more important actually, for it concerns “Life, and what I want to be” … which is why I don’t want to rush with things by writing Posts just to increase the content here. They have to come from the inside…

* 10:40PM: Had added a link to Connie Madson ( “Who’s she?”) under “Self-Improvement”. Someone from the US had visited this site, and had given me the link: From ethics to glamorized investing to humanitarian optimism, to wanting to work with the Russian Prime Minister, Connie Madson is a fish swimming against the tide of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s modern day Jazz Age

Tempoh selepas Mahkamah Majistret Pasir Mas mengeluarkan perintah supaya aku di hantar ke Pusat Serenti Gambang selama DUA TAHUN, adalah waktu yang paling perit dan menyakitkan dalam hidup ku. Aku telah buat usaha yang terbaik sejak bulan Ramadan bermula, telah tanam niat, rancangan dan keazaman yang aku yakin adalah jujur dan ikhlas.


Sebaliknya, Tuhan telah kurniakan kebebasan ini kepada “mereka-mereka yang secara terang dan jelas telah menyatakan bahawa mereka akan kembali ke jalan yang tidak elok ini, sebaik saja dapat peluang melalui kebebasan ini”. Apakah MAKNA ini semua?!…makna Kehidupan ini sendiri?!

[CATATAN Kepada saudara-saudari yang dari "Kelantan Bloggers"  dan  "Blog Kelate" khususnya, serta yang lain: Walaupun Post ini ( atau post-post lain) banyak menggunakan Bahasa Inggeris, saya rasa ramai yang boleh faham, sebenarnya. Saya ingin nyatakan bahawa saya amat berharap saudara-saudari tidak akan rasa segan, kekok atau malu jika hendak buat Comment dalam Melayu. Untuk pengetahuan semua, KAWAE PUN MAKAE BUDU JUGOK, kawe pahae gapo demo rhoyak, dan kawae serta oghe lain tak pernah/tidak akae plekeh sapa-sapa yae nok Comment kok Melayu, Kelate atau campur-campur dengan oghe putih. Kawe sendiri dok nulis kok oghe putih ni sebab (1) Kalu kawe tak guna, sut-sut akae jadi lupo (2) Ramai hok baca blog ni yae tak brapa rethi bahasa Melayu. Tu saja. SELAMAT DATANG, kalau ni kali pertama - Cendana287] 

“Depths of despair” – I had read this phrase many times in fiction and biographies. Yes, there were moments in my life where the word “despair” was accurate and relevant enough without overly exaggerating the situation encountered. But many had involved things, events and incidents that, in retrospect, were rather petty; “important” they might have seemed then. Events like … the 1979 FA Cup final where (my favourite) Manchester United lost 3-2 to Arsenal after conceding a goal in the last seconds of injury-time; after they had clawed back from 0-2 to level the score at 2-2 in the last minute of normal play. “Petty”, yes; but “despair” was the correct-enough word to describe that feeling.

But it was only when I had relapsed into drug addiction again from 1993 that “despair” occurred with more frequency – at the supposedly “mature and safe” age of 33, having been 100% clean for 12 years, and holding a decent and respectable-enough job plus a family to boot.

[21/9 12:47 AM Bogged in “certain memories”. Need to `re-balance’ spirit and self first. Will continue soonest. Sorry. ***[UPDATE: 1:30 PM – “The power of God”… Briefly (for now), I’m happy to state here that I had been a recipient of “a minor miracle that happened in slow motion” that dissolved the internal turmoil that was hinted of in that midnight update. A couple of seemingly minor and unrelated routine events between then and around 9.30am today somehow helped my self to undergo that hoped-for `re-balancing’. I’ll write a post about it later. The Comments from 2am onwards might be of interest should you have the time, inclination and mental patience to audit and analyse traces of “spiritual stardust”:-)


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