“Not alone anymore as in death…”
July 10, 2010
This is the ending sentence to “Our Creed”, as used by people following the Therapeutic Community (TC) drug rehabilitation programme.
TC, which has its roots in Daytop, New York, was first implemented in Malaysia from the mid-1970s at the now-defunct Pusat Pertolongan or Help Centre in Batu Gajah, Perak. At present, it is used at all the 29 government pusat serenti; plus at some centres run by NGO’s like PENGASIH.
We are here because there is no refuge, finally, from ourselves. Until we confront ourselves in the eyes and hearts of others, we are running. Until we suffer them to share our secrets, we have no safety from them. Afraid to be known, we can know neither ourselves or any other. We will be alone. Where else but in our common ground can we find such a mirror? Here, together, we can at last appear clearly to ourselves… not as the giant of our dreams, nor the dwarf of our fears; but as persons, part of the whole, with our share in the purpose. In this ground we can take root and grow; not alone anymore as in death, but alive to ourselves and to others.
But this post isn’t really about TC. It’s just that the sentence above had somehow come to my mind. Actually I had intended to write about the big move to Batang Kali, Selangor since a few people – including Tehsin and Zendra – had asked about this specifically. However, something else has moved me to write this post first… and now.
I don’t really know what I’m going to write about actually. But something inside me wouldn’t keep still since last Thursday after reading a status update at Facebook by Noor Azman Othman aka ArahMan7:
“Received a text message from my beloved Mum telling me a friend of mine during those ugly days has died of HIV. He’s still in his early twenties. I’m so sorry for his GrandMa coz his GrandMa used to see me and told me to make her Grandchild well again!”
“…during those ugly days…” – the phrase used by Noor Azman is extremely sharp and tightly fitting in its accuracy with absolutely no frills… about what `drug addiction’ is and the horrifying consequences of this torment.
As the regular readers here know, people like ArahMan7, Rahim Pendamai and I – besides being of the same age, more or less – share a lot of common experiences. The common thread came from our having made a dreadful choice based on a totally fallacious assumption: we had taken the fatal first step by introducing heroin and morphine to our bodies, thinking that we could control our usage. Over the years, it was proven time and again that this was something impossible. The simple reality is, it was the drugs that did the controlling.
To draw an analogy, it’s like us fighting former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson. Regardless of how rigorous our training is, the strategy and tactics we use, how focused our `positive thinking’ is or the strength of our willpower … we’ll get badly beaten up each and every time.
There’s only one way to handle drugs/Mike Tyson – Surrender or Run…the sooner the better. Unfortunately for the friend mentioned by Noor Azman, it’s too late. It’s cases like this that would make me contemplate – of how some died young (in their 20’s), like Noor Azman’s friend here and a number of others whom I had known over the years… while I live.
No, it’s not really because “he/they had HIV while I don’t”. I had consumed morphine through IV for quite some years, and `logically/statistically’ I “should have made the mistake of sharing needles a number of times… and they would be contaminated once or twice, which is enough to contract the virus.” But I didn’t. What does that say??
(BTW the other two `popular’ ways of contracting HIV can be totally ruled out in my case: 1. The `seks luar tabie’ as practised by the likes of Rock Hudson, Freddie Mercury etc. 2. The `seks rambang’ – Whatever my faults are, this just “isn’t me”. It’s not that I’m `good’ but maybe more of `I didn’t have the chance’. But then again, I didn’t have the chance because `I never looked for it’…)
The only explanation that I have is that, “God has saved me for a purpose; that I’m to be His tool for something…” This isn’t to say that “I’m special”, no. Only “This extension of life which many didn’t have isn’t given by God for free.” Like everyone here, who surely have something unique that most others don’t have, I have to find out what I can do with what I have – or could have, if I make an honest effort to obtain – to make things better for others. Or, is my “extended life” just a coincidence? I don’t think so.
This post is meandering, and some readers might have gotten confused; wondering “What has this to do with Noor Azman’s update?” As mentioned earlier, I’m just writing whatever comes to mind. And the next thing in my mind is the hope expressed by the grandmother of his deceased friend: (QUOTE)
“I’m so sorry for his GrandMa coz his GrandMa used to see me and told me to make her Grandchild well again!”
One thing that I hope is that the grandmother isn’t laying the blame on Noor Azman. This is something that I’ve seen recurring over the years – of parents/family pinpointing someone as being responsible for their loved one being addicted. Usually, it’s a friend, relative or even sibling, whom they blame.
Generally, with parents, it’s “the other person who had influenced/is responsible; with their offspring’s part in this being grossly minimised. I became even more aware of this at Gambang. Despite my age and dubious record, my father expressed worry that I might be influenced into relapsing by these new friends upon release! I’d bet their parents were worried about me being the bad influence:-)
In the “from Kelantan group” that averaged around 15-50 inmates (out of a total of 130-250), there were only two who were older than my then 45 years (unlike the KL/Selangor group, which had quite a few above 50). And both were `only’ cannabis/ganja/marijuana users. By the way, in pusat – or at least at Gambang – the inmates generally don’t take cannabis users seriously. So, with my record of morphine, heroin, methamphetamine and opium, plus the `prestige’ of being “an intravenous user but non-HIV”, “with education” and “hardworking, with discipline” (by Gambang standards, which was low), I had the honour of being `the Kelantanese Otai’.
CAPTION: A long way from Pasir Mas… But so like Asrama Cendana, Gambang — This is my working area at this place in Batang Kali. Minus the two laptops, it’s just like the Prefect’s table and chair at Asrama Cendana.
This was an unofficial group of various otais (oldtimers/veterans) that were the inmates elders… Indian Otai, Chinese Otai, Various Pusats Otai, Various Prisons Otai, Religious Otai, Musician Otai, Sports Otai, Samseng Otai… Significant actions were only undertaken after the otais had voiced their opinions. Often, even the officers would ask some of us first about something. [I KNOW that I’m meandering…]
Anyway, that’s just it with parents – despite my having “been there, done that” when it comes to drugs, my father asked that I not have any contact with the Gambang Kelantanese inmates when I returned to Pasir Mas. However, I politely told him that it was something that I couldn’t/wouldn’t do. Yes, I won’t have any contact with “those that were using drugs”, BUT the Gambang inmates will always be my friends. These were people who had shared the same experiences, good or bad, and I felt a certain bond with them (I still do, 4 years after). It’s fortunate that my father didn’t press it.
Back to this grandmother that Noor Azman mentioned: It’s sad to read this… of her asking Noor Azman to make her grandson “well again”. This is someone in despair and in desperation. I don’t know who he was, but I can guess he had been in and also created a lot of trouble. And the grandmother must have seen how the efforts to make him better over the years had all been in vain.
I’m guessing again – she must have known that Noor Azman was once like her grandson too (and you can include me and Rahim Pendamai also… and we were most likely a lot worse than the grandson). However, she was also aware of the remarkable change that had happened to Noor Azman. It all began when he surrendered; which was also the start to putting an end to “the ugly life”.
That wasn’t something commonplace… all the addicts that she knew most probably had remained so until they died. Or, they had disappeared. But here was someone who actually “became well again”! He had become larger than life. In her desperation, the grandmother wanted to believe that Noor Azman had found “some hidden secret” about the mechanics of drug addiction. It was a plea from the woman, for Noor Azman “to use his secret and special powers” to create a change in her grandson.
I believe Noor Azman did try something, which was the very best and the most that he could do (I hope he can confirm this here). Unfortunately, these weren’t visible to those who were `looking for magic’… of the equivalence to the silver bullet that would immediately end addiction with just minimal effort.
I’m almost sure Noor Azman had spoken about undergoing withdrawal and detoxification… about dealing with the psychological addiction and the ongoing process of re-integrating with society by participating in Therapeutic Community programmes or/and the fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous… about keeping away from old friends who were still using, and instead be in the company of those in the process of recovery.
But these required a lot of work and effort; things he did not want to undertake. It had felt a lot easier to just continue to slide. He had hoped… but he didn’t do. And when he was diagnosed with having HIV, the grandmother, in her sorrow and confusion, just didn’t know what to do.
All I can say about this episode with the grandmother is this – No one but one’s own self can really do anything about halting the ugly days and life…and to reverse the course .
[Update 10/7/2010 2:05PM] – The original paragraphs that followed have been edited/replaced; which is the first time I’ve done so at this blog. The reason? One editor/critic, Dr Aniza in Kota Damansara, Kuala Lumpur, wasn’t satisfied with it. “But why should I care?…the posts here aren’t paid writings!” But with certain people, I do care… because their opinions matter. With this particular critic, she’s also someone who possibly had saved me from wasting away due to the illness that had bogged me down from Feb/March to May. So, I’ve re-written it.]
This doesn’t mean that the efforts by others are totally useless! Members of the family, relatives and friends who really care, can and do make significant contributions. However, these must be in the form of spurring the addict to honestly see the situation, and to think about the downward spiral of his life which will, without exception, inevitable result in one disaster after another.
QUESTION: So, how do they go about this one? The grandmother above (or anyone else) – how could she have moved the addict into taking stock of things, take the right action (stopping the addiction) and also ensure that he then remains on the right path… the journey towards recovery?
For those holding their breath, all eager to discover the million-dollar answer, I know I’m going to disappoint or even annoy you with this: I don’t really know. This sounds like loyar buruk, but please note the purpose of the question above – I’m also asking it!… Which means I’m hoping someone would help in answering; either in full or partially.
Folks, if you are observant, you’ll realise that people like me, Noor Azman, Rahim Pendamai etc only share our experiences, and try to spread the message about drug addiction. However, after some time, readers might tend to think I/we have all the answers! If I have the short and accurate answers to the questions above, you folks should petition for me to become the new AADK Director-General:-)
BUT, there is the next best thing that I can do – share experiences, in the hope that there will be better understanding of the matter. Perhaps, someone might pursue something here, expand it and create a solution to something related to drug addiction, treatment and rehabilitation.
For now, I can only share about what had happened to me in 2005/06, which addresses this particular matter: “…spurring the addict to honestly see the situation, and to think about the downward spiral of his life which will, without exception, inevitable result in one disaster after another.”
This is from my own experience, and from what I had learned through reading various resources, and from those frank and honest chats with the inmates at Gambang and the Pengkalan Chepa prison. With me back then, it came about because of one thing – I had hit rock bottom… and I knew it. All the time before that, I had failed to acknowledge that my life was truly down in the drain. That’s different from “going down the drain”; which gave the false hope that I “could make it yet if…” – and not really doing anything.
But it’s different when I knew I was in the drain – the self-defeating excuses, procrastination, blaming others and lying to one’s own self were seen for what they really were. How could I still insist that “I’m still okay” when there were handcuffs on me?… when no one came to post bail for me, which was just a miserable RM500… when I had to spend time in the horrifying Quarantine block in Pengkalan Chepa where one almost literally swim in his own sweat…when the district anti-drugs officer and magistrate both agree that it’s to everyone’s benefit that I were to spend two years at a pusat serenti… when I was forcibly separated from my children… I WAS in the drain!
And it was here, when I was at rock bottom, that the changes happened. My `intelligence’, my `best thinking and actions’ had gotten me there. I wasn’t going “to be clever” with various schemes again. When I was at rock bottom and in the drain, I decided that was it – I SURRENDERED… to God’s Will. I developed the new trait of being honest with everything, regardless of the immediate consequences… I decided to accept that there were others smarter and more knowledgeable than I was; and I was going to follow whatever they say (they include Rahim Pendamai, who gave a talk during my third week at Gambang, and whose words I hang on to). And then good things started to happen…