Ticket to `Freedom’. Or Hell Again
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.