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”:-)

I was idling away happily enough just now – reading those excellent posts at SAKMONGKOL AK47 (hoping I’ll be able to write like him one day) and thinking about whom to pour scorn on at “the other site”. Then came Elviza’s comment at the previous post. I have to “layan” her – she’s `a fellow Kelantan Blogger‘ and a lawyer … might help get me out of trouble later on, who knows?:-)

There’s so much to write about and I don’t really know where to start. But I’ll try the chronological approach and just write what comes to mind. Heck, nobody should complain, for this isn’t “paid writing” targeted for a newspaper:-)

If you have not ever had your freedom taken away from, it’s hard to imagine what it’s like (Arep couldn’t imagine it). But then, you can let your imagination try

Trying imagining this: having already spent three months at a harsh and abusive prison that is Pengkalan Chepa “for something non-violent” (although I do acknowledge I had hurt not only myself but also those closest mentally) – a period that also includes Hari Merdeka on 31 August 2005, and most of the fasting month (with Raya three days away) – the magistrate prolongs your ordeal with a two-year court order to undergo “Treatment & Rehabilitation” at a Pusat.handcuffed_behind

I felt that I had done “everything possible” during the fasting month to “try and please God”. But yet…

At the Pengkalan Chepa prison, on the eve of the fasting month, I had made a decision: I will no longer neglect the compulsory five-times-a-day prayers AND will also adhere to fasting for the whole month … “wanting to get on God’s good side”; the main wish being “to Will the magistrate into setting me free”.

Oh, I had prayed before being arrested – when I had felt like it. However, during the first two months in prison, I didn’t. It was a case of “merajuk”; of childish tantrum – a stupid, self-defeating `rebellion’ against God for the fate that I was in. I had felt that “I’m not that bad … I don’t deserve this kind of thing … God is wrong, doing this to me…” Astagfirullah.

I remember those fasting weeks in Bilik 8 (“Room” – about the size of a classroom, with 40-55 inside) at Block D: It was the start of a spiritual awakening … something like a seed that starts to grow and blossom over the coming days, weeks and months (I hope I’m not being “Riak” [showing off] with this. Unfortunately, right now I’m not at that level).

After each prayer (usually `berjemaah’ with around 20 others who prayed), I had felt `a certain power’ in the “doa”. That was especially so during the times that I would get up at 2-3am or 5am (“Sahur” in prison was at 3am) and performed a “Sembahyang Tahajud” , “Istigfar” (meditation?) and “Zikir” … remembering the wrongs that I had done to my family and loved ones; the disappointments and hurts that I had caused… And, among other things, I would ask for God to set me free on 31 Oct 2005.

But there was always this nagging worry: “What if God has decreed for me to be sent to Pusat, regardless of what I do or `doa’?” And it was real too – most of those who were not bailed out by their family were sent to Pusat (the magistrates would conveniently translate this – sometimes true – as “no one cares about him, so let him try pick up his bearings at Pusat first”). But there were many who were released to be supervised too, so “there was hope”. Anyway, I felt that I had done everything that was possible when it came to the mandatory religious commitments.

As for the secular side, I had prepared a representation/mitigation – what I was going to plead for at the court. I had written it, and those who read it at Bilik 8 said it was “very good”. In fact, I became sort of a “petition writer” after that – a few chaps would come over and ask me for ideas on what to say in court.

[Part 2 - Last day in Pengkalan Chepa]

On 30 Oct – a day before the decision at the magistrate’s court – I was sent to spend the night at the police lockup. Due to the time consumed in administrative affairs at the prison before one gets out of it (easy to get in though), and transportation & escorting matters;  those with dates at courts other than Kota Bharu are taken out a day earlier by the “Court and Escort” departments of their respective district police.

It would be a long wait. I (with around 15 people from Block D were taken to the prison’s registration office (RO) at 7.30 before the daily muster. The Kota Bharu police would come soon enough with their handcuffs and assorted paperwork for the handover. For those in other districts, we’d have to wait in one of the three small cells (maybe 15 x 15 feet?) at the RO until after noon at least – sometimes until around 3 PM. (One was for female, and the other for the “jatuh hukum” convicts). That’s because the Black Maria aka “Lori Ayam” (Chicken-coop Lorry) from the respective districts work on a “deliver-and-collect” system – they’d send new remand prisoners to Pengkalan Chepa AND collect those from there on the return trip.

So it was to be a six-hour wait in a small room. We were ordered to face the wall behind because a few of the warders in the office were uncomfortable with people staring at them. And especially so with the female warders. Can’t really blame this, exasperating and heavy-handed though it was, for guess what most men in such a situation and condition would think of when looking at them? And some people just could not hide their leery looks and grins that reflect exactly what they were thinking of…

It was a very dull time whiling away the hours, for we were not allowed to talk (but we did anyway – until a warder would cut in when it started to hum and buzz, with a threat to whack everyone). One of the more memorable incidents was the police from Besut, Terengganu (Pengkalan Chepa being nearer than Marang) sending in a kid of about 13 years old charged with theft. Due to some complications, his family could not immediately post bail on that day. And there he was, in a Boy Scout uniform…

When the police finally came for their delivery and collection routine, there was a feeling of relief inside – of leaving that horrendous place. If I had dared to, while walking (handcuffed to another guy) to the truck, I would have loved to turn back and spit in its direction … a statement of how I feel about Penjara Pengkalan Chepa and towards many of its warders and senior officers…prison_penang_gate CAPTION: Penang Prison (top). Had been inside here too once (I’ll write about this another time … unless Elviza wants`to sponsor’ – “Ditaja oleh…”:-) By the way, I couldn’t find a decent pix of Pengkalan Chepa – one that shows how intimidating it is, with two cannons and big, heavy wooden gates at the front. This one here of it below makes it look so benign. This is just the normal entrance from the main road (Jalan Maktab, near the Education Ministry’s Pusat Sumber. Had stayed here before too. “Huh? How? Why?” Ah, I’m a bit mysterious, eh? But some of you here know a bit about me … Arep, The Gossip Lounge, Dr F, Sherry etc. Another time, folks)prison_pchepa_front

[Part 3 - At the lockup]

At the Pasir Mas lockup that day (Monday), I was in Cell 1. Received news from two guys in Cell 3 that they had been ordered to Pusat: Cendana286 “Mat Tiger”, 31, to Gambang and “Lan Pok-embar” from Wakaf Bharu, Tumpat (Mat Tiger, a guy who did construction-related jobs and was with HIV, was later to become one of my most important friends whom I’m heavily in debt to. More about him later.

In court, once the magistrate decides what to do with you, the district AADK would recommend that “first timers” be sent to Gambang while “others” to elsewhere. Lan Pokembar, 21, from Wakaf Bharu, Tumpat – a quite `predatory’ and unpopular type – had already been to an underaged Pusat before. He was sent to Jerantut. They were told to be ready “very early” for they’ll be transported the following morning.

With me were three others: “Awang Tumpat”, 35(?), (a figure very well-known and a quite respected figure in prison); Rahim aka “Plug”, 55 – someone from Penang on a two-year banishment under Prevention of Crime laws; and a guy of around 27 whom I can’t remember.

Awang was arrested with Lan Pok-embar in Pasir Mas on the same day as I and Rahim were; although in different places. They went to Pasir Mas together on a bike to “find stock” – using a kampung road. However, they were stopped by detectives because the number plate behind was missing. A check turned up a syringe, so they were taken to the Narcotics branch for a urine test. Which turned up a “positive” result, of course (else they would have been released).

The interesting thing about Awang was; prior to this, he had previously already spent three months in remand for a similar case under the Drug Dependants Act – Treatment & Rehabilitation Act 1983 (is this correct, Elviza?). He had already been in Pusat once. “Luckily” for him, on 11 Aug 05, the magistrate in Tumpat had given him a two-year supervision order, and he was freed. But “unluckily” for him, he was arrested again on 13 Aug … just two days after that order!

And “Plug”… Now this “Otai” (old-timer) and Penang “Mamak” (NOT being condescending or anything here with this term) had been in prison 12 times for various crimes, and was on a two-year banishment under some Prevention of Crime law (had three months left). He’s a musician who could sing, so he was quite popular and “in demand” with many of the prisoners in remand.

He’s also a loud-mouth braggart and inveterate liar; with tall tales and such that attempted to elevate others’ opinion towards him – something that I dislike tremendously. He might have been `popular’ with some of the younger ones, but I felt unfortunate to be in the same room as him at Pengkalan Chepa. Now this was someone who’s always desperate to be the centre of attraction, sometimes to my embarrassment.

If it was not by singing and drumming with a pail and “gayung” (water scoop), it was through slapstick “lawak bodoh”. And I mean they were really “bodoh”. Just imagine this scene: He’d pull down his pants and walk around showing off “his crown jewels”; evoking laughs from some of the prisoners. Seems to live off this – that he was the centre of attraction and focus; scanning everyone’s face for the response.

But he’d always be disappointed (and offended) by me – I’d never laugh or smile with this type of unbecoming behaviour – something from a 55-year-old. Instead, I’d just “be normal” and maybe even shake my head (which he’d be quick to pretend not to have noticed – and bearing a grudge, no doubt). Sometimes, when it’s obvious that people do not believe some of his stories, he’d have regrets – and be quick to try find faults with others … just so to focus that “this other guy is a liar!”

He tried that once with me, with something that I had said; attempting to humiliate me in front of others. But I had always spoken the truth there – often understating things so as not to stand out as `anyone special’ (or I’d just keep quiet). And this is something that I’m proud of. His attempt with that one failed, and I must admit to feeling joyful inside when he attempted to extract his foot from his mouth and make light of it all:-)

“On the outside”, he was also a masseur – a skill much valued in prison and Pusat by officers and inmates alike. He was also helping out at a restaurant in Kampung Dangar, Pasir Mas (quite near to where I was detained) – at “Kedai Mek Na”. (Mohd Zawi of Pasir Mas: The Land of the Golden Sandmust surely know of her) Now this Mek Na (in her early 40’s?) is perhaps one of the most attractive and sexiest woman I had ever seen .. should try ask Mohd Zawi for a picture of her to show here:-)

Anyway, Plug also had another project: He was also selling pil kuda (methamphetamine). That was why the police had raided his area that day (with me already detained and taken along in a Proton Satria). Three others were arrested with Plug, but they were later bailed out after four days. As an aside, we heard that they then “paid something” to have the case settled. Needless to say, all their urine test later came out as “Negative”. Hmm… (One of them was arrested again early last year – and got a two-year supervision order circa Aug 07). Well, to make a long story short (or “shorter”), I’ll go back to my own troubles…

I was the only guy still fasting (and praying) in that cell. The others had either not fasted at all, or broke it when they had access to some tobacco inside the lockup (MUCH easier here than in prison where you’d be lucky to get two puffs every other day if you’re “a nobody”). I was extremely tempted ( there might not be any more supply at dusk) but I held on; remembering not to anger God during such a critical time. But I was in luck – Awang Tumpat had reserved a bit of tobacco specially for me to break fast with – as respect “for those who fasted and prayed” , requesting that “I’d pray that each of us will be released tomorrow”. This I did – mentioning everyone’s names in my “doa” during all the prayers until Subuh (dawn) the following morning.

But something bad happened that night.

You see, there are video cameras that focus on each cell, and the policemen on duty would observe them from time to time to see what was going on. So, when you want to smoke, it was in the toilet at the end, with each taking turns (the wall prevents you from being caught if you squat). That night, at around 11 PM, a particularly mean and much-hated lance-corporal, “Mail Kerbau” (Ismail the Buffalo – due to his looks) saw someone in Cell 3 sitting down with his back turned “and looking downwards” (He was rolling a cigarette with newspaper. We in Cell 1 had run out of the stuff after dusk).

He opened the main door (the clanging  always alerted the prisoners), walked down the corridor and told the occupants to surrender whatever tobacco and lighters they had. They surrendered a bit of it, plus an empty lighter (BTW it’s still useful – you can use the sparks to light up cotton thread taken from jeans). He wasn’t satisfied.

Mail Kerbau then opened the door and ordered everyone to strip one-by-one. A patch of tobacco (of about RM3 worth) was found on one of them – a guy who was in remand in Sungai Buluh under section 39(B) of the Dangerous Drugs Act (mandatory hanging), who also had another earlier case in Pasir Mas where he was bailed. The guy was given a very hard slap, with Mail Kerbau adding insult to injury with an arrogant (translated from dialect): “Do you think I’m scared of you, just because you’re a 39B? I gave you that slap just to remind you, for your cockiness” (I later learned from Mat Tiger that the guy had not done or said anything that was `cocky’)

Then – and for a long time whenever I think about it – there was hatred in my heart and feeling of vengeance towards Mail Kerbau, even if his actions were not directly towards me. I had wished for awful things to happen to him, I’m ashamed to say and may God forgive me – that he gets beaten up badly by someone, involved in an accident, arrested by the Anti-Corruption Agency or by the police themselves; lose his job, be hurt or/and humiliated – things like this. But it’s better to leave such things to God, for He knows best on what to bring about…

Anyway, at 6am the next morning, the police escort branch came to take Mat Tiger and Lan Pok-embar to their destinations (to Jerantut first, via Gua Musang). And the four of us (plus a few others brought for mention) were taken to court at 8am. I remember that it was rather cool that day … Monday, 31 October 2005 - The Day of Reckoning for the four of us.

[Part 4 - At the magistrate's court]

Our fates (from a secular viewpoint) depended on three things since we had all elected to not contest but instead acknowledged the doctor’s certification that we were drug addicts/dependants/users according to the definition in the DDA (1983):

(1) What the district Anti-Drugs Agency (AADK) officer recommended; which the court was obliged to listen to (but not having to agree to);

(2) How you represented yourself in pleading your case (99.9% would naturally plead to be granted supervision instead of being sent to Pusat first)

(3) The magistrate’s psyche, mentality and inclinations; which decide how his mind (and `self’)  interprets it all. Number Three is the most important of all, of course.

While waiting for proceedings to start, the guys rolled a cigarette – none were fasting that day. Except me. Again, I was tempted to have a smoke, but I kept reminding myself that “this is definitely NOT the time to antagonise God”. All the time, I was silently offering “Zikir” (chants) of “Lailla-hailullah” (There is no other God but Allah) and “Allahuakbar” (God is Great) and reading a few Surahs.

Awang Tumpat was rather confident. At that period, there was some confusion as to the interpretation of the DDA section when it comes to those who were under supervision and were arrested again during the period. Yes, they could be charged with “langgar syarat pengawasan” (flouting the clauses of supervision), which carries with it a prison sentence AND whipping (three years, two rotan if I’m not mistaken. Elviza?)

But there was confusion as to whether they could be sent to Pusat, or/and given another supervision order. And so the AADK (then) would withdraw the latest case and set him free. The previous day, another guy who was also still under a supervision order (also named Rahim from Belukar, Pasir Mas) was freed. So Awang was pretty confident that it’ll be the same with him for there was a precedence (this confusion has since been clarified by the Attorney-General)

A friendly kopral came to the cell inside the court and revealed something to us. He said he had seen the district chief AADK officer’s (it was/is Puan Rahimah Awang Lah) recommendation: “From the four of you, only one will be sent to Pusat. The rest will be recommended supervision (PS) and will be able to `Raya’ at home!”

[Pn Rahimah had already taken leave for Raya, and her recommendation was to be read by another senior AADK officer, En Junid. At Pusat, I was sore with both for over a year. But that has long since changed, and it's mutual respect now, unbelievably:-) ]

GREAT odds here, and quite unusual! Even 50-50 would have been `good enough’. So who would be “The Unlucky One”??… each hoping that he’ll be in “Lucky and Blessed” category. And convincing himself on why “he’s deserving”. (Now obvious and no suspense for you folks, of course. I’m just trying to describe the atmosphere and hopes then)

Awang had thought I was in the second category too. He told me that he didn’t have any money for fare to go home (more than 15 miles away), and whether I could borrow RM10 from anyone in town and give it to him. BTW I had all of RM1 then – had spent the rest to buy tobacco from “nice and obliging policemen” at inflated prices when I was first detained. A 70 sen pack cost RM10. And when my father-in-law and (estranged) wife’s nephew had visited me at Pengkalan Chepa and offered to give me some money (to buy cigarettes in the prison – they just didn’t know the situation), I had declined; feeling happy enough that they had visited me and not wanting to burden them any further.

(BTW, as an aside, this 34-year-old construction-contractor nephew (Azam) was so stone-broke during that period that he had to borrow RM50 from me a couple of months before my arrest. He’s a guy “with exceptional spiritualism and character”. When he was down and out while I was in Pusat, God opened up “His Bounty” – Azam is now a millionaire, with two BMW 5-Series and a big bungalow in Kota Bharu that he had paid for in cash! [Just came back two days ago from a two-week Umrah to Mecca with his mother - once so VERY poor.] More about him another time, just to show that one need not “be nasty” to be rich)

Awang’s mind was also focused on drugs. Plug mentioned that he had “some pil kuda” stashed away inside his rented house and was willing to give us at least one each to celebrate – should we be released. Awang was excited. In fact, they had been talking about this since the previous night. But I didn’t involve myself – I didn’t take part in that kind of conversation from the time I was first detained. I was determined “not to repeat the same mistakes”, and it was sort of “proving myself to God that I’m now honest and sincere with this matter, and deserving to be freed”.

Everyone kept thinking it would be “that young guy” who would be sent to Pusat. Or maybe Plus, for he “had a lengthy criminal record”, was a “PCO” and his urine was positive for methamphetamine and cannabis (mine was for morphine, BTW). So, the general thinking: Awang will go free, then me. It’s a tie between plug Plug and the young guy to get the short end of the straw; or so we thought.

All of us were brought out together into court. For some strange reason, the magistrate does not allow “open access” to outsiders – no spectators. You have to be directly related to someone, or a bailor to get in. I overheard Junid the AADK officer showing a list and saying to the prosecuting officer (PO) – “This guy; case withdrawn…”. Must have been Awang he was referring to.

The first one was Plug. The AADK officer’s recommendation was: Should be given supervision! That means it’ll be a tie between me and the young guy. Things have suddenly moved unfavourably for me! For Plug, now it was time to convince the magistrate that “the AADK is right”. When pleading, he bullshited something like “it’s not often that I take drugs” (a lie – he takes cannabis almost every day. and kuda too).

When asked how the urine could have returned a positive result for cannabis, he said “he was talked and challenged into trying it by some young fellows during a kenduri (feast) two nights before he was arrested … and he wanted to be a good sport”. “What about the methamphetamine?” “I don’t know, really,” he said. “Someone must have spiked my drink with it for as a gag that same night, for I later felt dizzy and went back to sleep”. (Folks, you don’t get dizzy with pil kuda, but “hyped-up and stimulated”. You certainly won’t sleep!)

But the magistrate swallowed it whole (the same magistrate – Azman-something – now involved in the “Nik Sapae” case in Kota Bharu – the guy who had sprayed gas at Dr Mahathir. I’m still a bit sore with him, but I try not to think about it nowadays). And fortunately for Plug, the PO didn’t mention his previous records. The decision: Two-year supervision for Plug.… he gets to “Raya” after all. And polish off or sell the pil kuda he had stashed.

It was my turn next. To my horror, the AADK “noted that I’m a first-timer, and had never received a planned treatment and rehabilitation programme before. As such, it is recommended that he be given the chance to undergo this first before being supervised for two year.”

Oh my gosh! That’s like recommending a death sentence for me, in that time and state! It now depends on me to talk my way out, trying to convince the magistrate why it would be a bad idea to send me to Pusat. I was far more eloquent than the AADK had been, with a lot more points. Good ones too. Even the officer, the PO and the translator kept looking at me. Not to brag here, folks, but I “had experience in speaking and forwarding my points of view, and could move a crowd” (again, `another time’ about this one).

The magistrate required three pages to write down what I had stated. He commented that “morphine is a hard and nasty drug” (which is true) and also asked me how often I had taken them. I replied, which was truthful at that time, that “one a week, or twice at the most” (at that time, Yes; although previously it was a lot heavier). He found that hard to believe, for morphine addicts have to take it every day. And sometimes a number of times every day. He must have concluded that “I was lying; which devalues everything else that I had said”. The decision was: “…to undergo treatment and rehabilitation at Pusat Serenti Gambang for two year; to be followed by a two-year supervision, that requires reporting to the Tok Uban police-station on the 1st of each month, and to attend activities as asked by the AADK.”

I couldn’t believe it! And I felt dizzy, with my head spinning, as I was led back to court’s lockup. Plug was still there (there was some paperwork to be filled before he could be released. The young guy was given supervision too. So, it was me who got the short straw, it had seemed at that time). And then Awang came – his case was withdrawn. He was around for only a few minutes – all happy and excited, naturally. There was not much paperwork required for him, and he was freed; telling Plug that “I’ll wait for you outside” … to the methamphetamine promised.

All of them were then released. Those attending mention were taken back to the prison, and to return another day. As for me, it was back to the police-station lockup; to wait for that transportation to Gambang. I would not be going home yet, despite having already spent three months in an abusive and harsh prison. The following day (Tuesday) was Deepavali; Wednesday was a working day (I could be sent to Gambang on that day). And Thursday, 3 November 2005 … was Hari Raya! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME, YA ALLAH!?!

[6:44 AM 19 Sept: Okay, tutup kedai dulu. Will continue this already-too-long post with “Part 5 – A not-so-Selamat Hari Raya in a dank lockup” same place here later. *Update 20 Sept: Had started it as a new Post instead.

I don’t know whether to apologise or what to the readers here for my “writing style/system” – I don’t really know what “the best way” is when it comes to how often I should start a post, the length, content, etc etc. This one “is far too long for a blog’s post”. And “in the raw”/unedited too. Yes, seems so, maybe, not really; I don’t know. I’m a bit confused about this. Ni Elviza punya pasal la, instigating me like that!:-)

Oh, sorry; Tarik Balik – must always remember and keep reminding myself that “Life is about choices” – I/We had chosen to do something, anything … we made the decision.

Anyway, to my loyal readers here – people who are actually interested to read and know about all this – I hope you’ll just bear with whatever idiosyncrasies and irregularities here. I had first intended something like the late 90’s-early 2000 websites at Tripod, that also had “Readers Comments”. I had wanted this to be a journal (that’s why posts tend to be long) … a record for people to read and refer to after I die … children, family, friends – should they want to know “why”, “how”, “what”; of my regrets, shame, hopes… just so they’ll know that “I tried”.

CREDIT: Am using this excellent “Windows Live Writer” after reading a short review of it by Borneo Blues Mat Salo

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I keep remembering my stay at Pusat Serenti Gambang (PSG) (government one-stop drug rehabilitation centre) with a lot of fondness and sentimentality. “How could that be so?!”, many might ask. After all, it was “court-ordered” … “incarceration”. Nobody in their right mind would want to go there willingly.

You would be right about that one – I didn’t go willingly. After a dreary three-month at the horrendous Pengkalan Chepa prison, I had fought like hell at the magistrate’s court to be given a two-year supervision. But it was fated. And there’s nothing one could do about it if that was so. And it was just two days before Hari Raya too! Only God knows how I had felt then, spending Deepavali and Raya at a dank police lockup in Pasir Mas (31 Oct-6 Nov `05) while waiting to be sent to Gambang… (See this earlier account if you had missed it and click on the newspaper links)psg_addict Caption: A newcomer to a pusat. Put glasses on them, slighly thinner hair and gaunt face, and that would be a picture of me:-)

But the strange thing was, by the Will of God; plus my attitude, and plus the morale help of those inside and outside the `pusat’, it became among the most memorable and pleasant period of my life! The magic given by God, when we redha (accept)! And I keep remembering and longing for that place even until now…

I’ll surely write more about PSG in the future, but today I’m just going to tell about a few things. First, if you are wondering what “cendana” and “287” mean, it is this: Cendana (“Sandalwood”) was my hostel, and 287 my Registration Number – 287/05 actually, with “05” being the year, of course.

So, who was “cendana286″?  Mat Daud aka “Mat Tiger”, also from Pasir Mas. And “cendana288″? No one – that number belongs to Nik Haizuddin of Kuala Terengganu, but it would be “damar288″.

All `pusats’ follow this system of registration. At PSG, your RN will decide which hostel you go to – after a two-week stay in detox and 3-4 months at the “Orientasi” (either “A” or “B” hostel) when you are a `botak’ (baldie/newcomer) in red t-shirt. Numbers ending in 0-1 go to Meranti; 2-3 Jati; 4-5 Seraya; 6-7 Cendana; 8-9 Damar. And boy, were we competitive and `taksub’ when it comes to loyalty to our hostel and “brothers”!

psj_lambung Caption: A runaway from Pusat Serenti Jerantut this year. See the colour of his shirt. At PS Gambang during my time, 95% of runaways/escapees were the red-shirted Phase 1 trainee/inmate – people who could not/would not accept the court order. These guys risk getting a few whips of the rotan (three, if I’m not mistaken) and a few years in prison. I hope that guy had faked his IC…

Incidentally, out of these ten from 280-299; 281, 282 & 289 all ran away. 285 was transferred to Jerantut (disciplinary). 286 was released early for health reasons.

(Will be continued after `Buka Puasa’. Or `later’)

I found PSG in Google Maps despite my slow connection! Fascinating, and I’m getting all misty-eyed! It’s here: Will try to learn more and put a pin on Cendana.

For what it’s worth, I’ve added the pins. Don’t know how to add the link to it here, but I’ve made it public under my profile of (the account that I use for “the other site”). The altitude/longitude (or should that be the other way?) is: 3.747056,103.14953 [18 Sept 2.15 AM Update: I’ve found out how. Here’s the map, plus the pins. It’ll help readers here understand and `feel’ the stories of Gambang. Try enlarging the image to two/three bars below the maximum.

Politics is often a dirty business – why is why I don’t ever want to mention anything about it here. From experience, it’s something that might pollute and contaminate this blog, which is themed on “Recovery” and which I intend to focus on the spiritual side of things besides being “inclusive” – welcoming and including everyone regardless of nationality, religion, race and political affiliations and beliefs.

At the same time, socio-political matters and issues are things that I’m extremely interested in. And if you are a Malaysian, politics has become something unavoidable; which is why I have started another blog Cendana Blues: Addicted to Politics.

There isn’t much material there yet for it’s still under construction. I had intended to work on it for at least another two weeks before announcing it. However, recent events have spurred me to do so sooner; especially concerning “16 September”, the Internal Security Act (ISA) arrests and the apparent “Abdullah Badawi v Najib v Muhyiddin” that appears to be formenting.

Be warned that the other site is rather “advertisement-heavy” (read why at the sort-of FAQ near the bottom). And that I could get nasty and sarcastic when it comes to some issues – which is one of the main reasons why I had started that site in the first place. So, if you don’t have much stomach for nastiness and such that are a staple when it comes to politics, just give it a miss.

What about this site? Why, it’ll continue as usual, Insyaallah – personal development is the most important thing, in my opinion, not “who gets to rule what”.


September 12, 2008

“Akmal mninggal 5.45″

This is the SMS that I had received from my younger sister in Johor at 6.12 PM. Akmal, 11, one of her children, passed away at 5.45 PM today in Johor.

He was sent to the ICU yesterday due to fluids in the lungs. My parents, however, were not informed of the severity of the condition, for my younger sister did not want them to worry too much. My elder sister and my brother-in-law (both doctors), who live near Johor and who understood in detail about the possibilities, were there from yesterday.

His condition took a turn for the worse. At 11.31 AM today, she had sent me this SMS:

“Getting worse,one lung not fnctiong, oxygen supply very low.Doctors fear multple organ failure.Ysterday heartbeat stopped for 15 minutes.Kak came twice”

There was no hiding it anymore from my parents. Only then were they told. Before that, at 10.55 AM, my father had sent me an SMS to inform me about “Akmal being in a critical condition” (not realising that I already knew about it much earlier).

Kepada Allah kita kembali … To Allah we return.

*Sat 13 Sept 1.30AM: THANKS to everyone for their condolences; either here or by e-mail … Arep, DavidR (in Korea), F, Conspiracy Theorist, Sherry … 4.10PM: Thanks HishamAR, blogkelate, love-n-hate, Lady M.

***Added 13 Sept 4.15PM: I won’t ever know how a mother feels when it happens to her – a child that you had carried inside you for nine months … and in my sister’s case, were with you for another 11 years. And then he is … gone. It is times like this that we need God’s help; to have that inner strength to cope. It’s encouraging to receive this SMS from her 10 minutes ago. Among other things, she said:

“Alhmdulillah I’m coping though it’s not easy. I thnk we can nver ever be ready 2 let a child go, u being a parent should undrstand d feeling.”

Incidentally, there’s one thing that I should mention here: I’m still on a two-year “Pengawasan” (supervision) after being released from the pusat. Among other things, I’m not allowed to go outside my district without permission. Nope, not even to the neighbouring districts of Kota Bharu, Tumpat or Tanah Merah; if this regulation is followed strictly. This will end at the end of this year.


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