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.]

What a Wonderful World

January 6, 2011

A LOT of things have happened to me over the past five years – a combination of things and events that most people would never encounter even if they lived to be 100.

(1) In August 2005, my eldest son Matyin, then 20, left home without telling anyone. Over the past decade, it had turned into a place of confusion, sorrow and hardship — a condition brought about by my having done something that was the epitome of irresponsible behaviour and sheer stupidity.

(2) But a lot worse was the moral cowardice as shown by my failure to check the downward spiral by taking the necessary remedial actions to rectify the situation. They required courage and resilience to undertake and sustain…qualities I lacked. The knowledge that the innocents had suffered, and that I was responsible: this was the worst torment by far. The feeling of guilt and shame ate into me; with ever increasing hatred of my own self.

(3) A week later, another tragic event struck: I was detained by the police and was incarcerated in remand at a dreadfully abusive and violent prison. I was alone; essentially without family, relatives or friends – abandoned by everyone…

(4) This was followed by another 13½ months of separation from my family and children; coming about from a court order to undergo treatment and rehabilitation at a pusat serenti (one-stop rehabilitation centre). I remained there right until the end of 2006.

(5) Upon returning to Pasir Mas, Kelantan, there was the hassle of reporting to the police-station and the AADK (National Anti-Drugs Agency) once a month – plus attend activities organised by the latter, ending only at the end of 2008.

(6) After the December 2006 discharge and until March 2008, I was essentially idle for 15 months; with no work, no money, no opportunities, and without the most basic means to communicate with the world. I had nothing, and to many people, was nothing.

(7) If the above aren’t enough, in June 2008, my wife filed for a divorce. Despite the best of intentions and effort, including my attempts to make amends for all the wrongs that I had done in the pre-Gambang years, I was willing to sacrifice, to make painful changes – all that I asked was the opportunity to do so. But as the respondent, I failed to prevent the breaking up of the 24-year marriage.

(8) The frustration and dismay that followed was secondary as compared to the feeling of outrage after discovering the deceitful, and at times cowardly manner, in which a few third parties had undertaken to undermine my case.

“Witness”, “Arbitrator”, “Adjudicator” are among their official descriptions – they were involved not only a legal case where the universal concept of “truth and justice” are paramount. More importantly, it was a Syariah court, and therefore the religion of Islam was at the very forefront.

That being the situation, one would certainly expect everyone1 connected to be aware of and strictly adhere to basic Islamic principles which even kindergarten kids are able to understand and accept… the truth and justice above. And that lying, manipulating, covering facts or selective presentation that would distort, obscure or overly magnifying something is the way of syaitan and the munafik.

But that was what had happened.

Lebai

CAPTION: “Lebai-X Photo” WHO is Lebai-X?? Clue: Find him at the Mahkamah Syariah Pasir Mas.

And how ironic – the “pious, Islamic-image, salt of the kampung earth and pillars of the society” menganiaya and menzalimi a “bad, jahat, jahil bottom-rung ex-prison and pusat social outcast”!

1(Islam 101: “Wearing a kupiah, jubah and having a goatee does not exempt one from adhering to the above. Nor serve as `a shield’ from shouldering the dosa.)

Yes, I know that those who are close to and concerned about me might ask: “Why bring up this again, and now? Just leave it to Allah – HE Knows what to do with them and when if they had maliciously wronged you.”

Yes, I know; and I am leaving it to Allah. The reason why I’m mentioning is because it was one of the major things that had happened to me during the five-year period. And the other reason is this: I want to THANK them. Really. Sort of…

As it turned out, the divorce had then created and opened up “situations and circumstances that are definitely to my benefit albeit unplanned!” These `lebai kampung’, `oghe sohor’ (kampung, bandar, internet, blog – semua tempat oghe kenal and ikut… influential kelas giler, `Mark Zuckerberg Pasir Mas’ HAHA!)

So, to this illustrious local alumni – and I KNOW will read or hear this;-) – please receive my thanks: “Tok seko-seko deh… puok demo hakikatnya susoh-susoh (TER)jadi BARUAH FREE ko kawe! HAHA!

(i) By the way, this particular post is written not by “Cendana287” but the incarnation who writes at the Mat Cendana: HACK WRITER blog. “They are in the same physical body, so what’s the difference? …” The former is `the Gambang self’… amicable, obliging, peaceable, tends to turn the other cheek and strives to improve.

Mat Cendana: the hybrid of the above and that of the pre-Gambang self known as `A.S’ who had strived to improve the venom, acidity and laser-sharpness of his self and words. This is said not with egoistic pride, vainness or conceit but with some shame and regret about not being more forgiving. Try asking those from “back then” who knew this A.S (here at WordPress, Blogger or Facebook)… like Mekyam (the best writer without her own blog), Sheri Din, Faten Rafei, Rehman Rashid (YES, the A Malaysian Journey author). Okay, enough name-dropping for this week:-)

(ii) I’m very well aware of the lurkers at the Recovery blog – `locals’ as in `people who live where I had or not far away, OR/AND people who had known me.’ And they have their own reasons to WANT TO KNOW about me! That’s flattering:-)

[Yes, I know some/many people are probably puzzled by this “odd/bizarre/`macam mental sikit’” post. Don’t worry – a few parts are “for a specific audience” .

By the way, about my eldest son, Matyin above: I’m pleased to tell all of you that he is… HERE! Yes, with me at this very moment at Dr Aniza’s treatment centre at Desa Jaya Commercial Centre, Kepong, 52100 Kuala Lumpur.]

NEXT POST: My Best Friend’s Wedding (A continuation of this post – AND MORE)

 

.

 

During the process of this matter especially, I was dismayed and incensed by the words and actions of some people; especially since they were also Malaysian, Malay by race and, I presumed, followed the religion of Islam. I had also presumed and through the malicious and deceitful words and actions of some people, I was exposed to these facts: i) fore

It’s four years since I was discharged on Decor two years 18, 2006.

God has brought some very important people into my life. Indebted to them. I want to repay…

This is the ending sentence to “Our Creed”, as used by people following the Therapeutic Community (TC) drug rehabilitation programme.

Daytop logo

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.

OUR CREED 

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.

ArahMan7-Facebook

 

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’.

Kepong005

 

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…

Quite a few things on my mind right now besides writing this post and satisfy Tehsin; who, among others, are understandably annoyed with my leaving things hanging (again) with the last post.

benjy-llpk There’s also the matter of the South Korean ship; Bob Geldof’s daughter, Peaches; and the detention of actress Azean Irdawaty’s son. The last two involved drugs, which have a connection with this blog.

CAPTION: After two weeks in detention for the possession case, Benjy was charged in court. After his mother posted bail, he was rearrested. Pix from The Malay Mail

And the Korean matter – yes, I’m concerned with the developments there…because of the presence of someone who is very important to me and my family. I can only hope that it doesn’t get out of hand.

But let’s leave the present for the time being and continue with what the previous post was about.

kiapregio The last time I saw Abdulrahim Abdul Rahman was at 1.30 PM on Monday 18 December 2006, as a spanking-new AADK Kia Pregio took us from the Pusat Khidmat AADK Kuantan at Jalan Gambut to the Terminal Makmur a short distance away.

It was a very special day for me and nine others. That was the much talked about, speculated and awaited – the day of the Bebas. The AADK wasn’t going to just give us our watikah and let us loose, no – they insisted on holding a ceremony… We, the group of selected inmates from the centres in Pahang, who had spent our last three months undergoing a special programme. And Rahim; he was a Pembimbing Rakan Sebaya (PRS – Peer Group Guide) – an elite group of people with a very crucial role in drug rehabilitation.

Now, it’s a fact that no matter how honest and sincere an anti-drugs or rehabilitation officer is, there’s a limit as to his ability to reach the recovering addict. There are certain aspects of addiction that `outsiders’ could never fully realise and understand. Only someone “who had been there”, who had seen it and who had felt the corrosive effects of addiction on himself and his life, could have the same level of empathy with the addicts.

I had first known Rahim 10 months before that; when I was a red-shirted, Phase One Botak (Baldie..Newbie) at the end of November 2005. He was there with another PRS, Abang Man, and they were representing PENDAMAI.

By the way, in pusat culture, including and especially at psg-tshirtGambang, the botaks are the lowest in the pecking order and the food chain – sometimes literally (if there’s not enough of something, the botaks have to `voluntarily’ sacrifice their share). They also `volunteer’ for the toughest, dirtiest, most dreary work. Everyone starts as a botak.

CAPTION: The antithesis of the botak – the white-shirted, Phase 4 & Pre-Release Abang (Big Brother – Senior). Not everyone will be one – (i) those who had run away. (ii) obtained an early release due to “humanitarian reasons” (HIV, chronic illness, mental – real or imagined) (iii) those with pending criminal cases – they went to court..and never came back

Their visit and talk left a big impression on me. Here were people who had gone through the same things as we had. But there’s a big difference – they were respectable members of society while we were inmates of an institution. The one variable that had decided our lot in life at that time was… they no longer took drugs; they worked on their rehabilitation.

They gave me hope and courage to imagine and work for a better future. I was determined to follow what they had mentioned and not to “follow the crowd”. This included “to see our stay, court-ordered that it was, as an opportunity to create better things”. And also “not to engage in nonsense”.

That’s one of the main reasons why I did not take a single drop of home-brewed samsu (there were LOTS of opportunities for this, especially when I became a Pengawas in June 2006); or drugs or whatever substances. It wasn’t easy at times where I’d resent “missing out on a lot of fun”.

But it was these denials and keeping to the straight path – they build your inner strength and give real happiness. I was a slow learner of this fundamental principle of Life, as amplified in the School of Tots blog: “Life is About Choices”.I choose to not drink.. I choose to pray… I choose not to allow anger consume me and influence my decision…” And I saw my self and my life improving as a result.

I was looking for the chance to get into contact with Rahim, Abang Man and the Pendamai people. Through pamphlets lying around in the hostel, I learned that its office was at the PKAADK. In August, there came word that the PKAADK would hold a three-month programme for qualified pusat inmates.

I didn’t really want to leave Gambang. Things were quite comfortable and time flew by quite fast in an environment like that. However, there were advantages in going to PKAADK – firstly, I would no longer be shouldering the responsibility of handling the Cendana hostel, and especially the inmates’ welfare. I had held a few posts during my non-addiction days, including in a political party, but being the prefect of Cendana  is the one that I am proudest of.

I also would not have to put up with a certain type of melancholy that was becoming more frequent – separating from people I’ve shared so many happy memories with. The 15th and 30th of each month were the days when inmates are released, and I remember the sadness of the past few… 15 June – 056/05 `Az’, the charismatic 42-year-old prefect from Setapak, KL I took over from. His boisterous laughter was a part of the hostel – often, we would hear it from a distance when returning from the mosque.

And now it was quiet – I’d pass by his bed, remember him, and immediately become melancholic. This went on for days. I was going to suffer around six more release dates before my number comes up.

The third reason was no less important – I must get out of my comfort zone and prepare myself for the future. That means moving to Kuantan. The three months spent here were filled with various activities.

Rahim had handled a lot of them – his presence was the most important factor in my deciding to stay there. And we learned about “rehabilitation”… about what to expect when we re-enter society. The sharing of experiences was very important – he had been clean since around 1994, and had rebuilt his life bit by bit. It wasn’t smooth sailing all the way since, for he had to face various problems. But the most important thing is that, no matter how bad the situation appeared, “we never have to use drugs again”.

That day finally came – of completing the circle that had started at 9.00 AM on Thursday 11 August 2005 — a one-hour trip to get a RM10 tube of morphine “to help cope with self-hatred from a meaningless life tangled with hopeless situations”. Instead, it took 16 months and one week… and without the morphine.

And it wasn’t the same sad, defeated and humiliated person who was sent to Gambang in handcuffs in a police van on 8 November 2005. The person who boarded the 3PM TransNasional Kuantan-Kota Bharu bus: it was someone who, despite some anxiety concerning marital matters, was bubbling with hope, who had the courage to look at and acknowledge his mistakes, and who had the desire to make amends.Just For Today Book

Just for today my thoughts will be on my recovery, living and enjoying life without the use of drugs.

Just for today I will have faith in someone in NA who believes in me and wants to help me in my recovery.

Just for today I will have a program. I will try to follow it to the best of my ability.

Just for today through NA I will try to get a better perspective on my life.

Just for today I will be unafraid, my thoughts will be on my new associations, people who are not using and who have found a new way of life. So long as I follow that way, I have nothing to fear.

Early this month, I received  an email notification from Facebook about someone named Abdulrahim Hj Abdul Rahman wanting to add me as a Friend. Whenever the name of `Rahim’ is mentioned over the years, these people would flash into my mind:

1) Rahim Razali – The US-trained architect who turned into one of the most well-known household names in Malaysia through his involvement in television. Besides countless TV  dramas and films, Rahim Razali is the local prototype of what a sports commentator is. By the way, I’m mentioning this for the benefit of David – if you are Malaysian and you don’t know Rahim Razali, please migrate soonest. [With this kind of rudeness, it’s apparent that Mat Cendana is writing this post and not Cendana287]

mmail njahmad2

2) Tan Sri Rahim Noor of  “Black Eyed Peas”; similar to this Malay Mail report. By the way, there’s a strong possibility that the report’s writer might resurface in the near future.

 

3) Arwah Rahim  of Muar – a Roche (valium) addict who was also an inmate at Pusat Pertolongan Batu Gajah in 1978. He was around 25 then. A few years later, I was shocked to read a news report about a policeman in Muar being charged after a theft suspect died at the police-station’s lockup. There was the addition of the uncommon “Kutty” in the name.

And then there was someone whom I had known during that very important period in my life when I was at Pusat Serenti Gambang. The link led to his Facebook profile; and the photo immediately confirmed it — RahimPendamai-n100000773560616_1491– yes, it is “Rahim Pendamai/Rahim PRS” in Kuantan!

NOTE: This is probably just a quarter of what I want to write. However, I’m too tired to continue. But instead of saving this post and to continue tomorrow, I’m posting this incomplete version right now. The main reason is that there are quite a few people who are expecting a new post today (Wednesday 24/3). They will be disappointed when they see there’s none, and I’ll feel bad about this.

And I might not be able to immediately continue writing this when I wake up because there are other things that I must also do. The most urgent are three articles to edit, plus to write a 700-word article for the educational publication I’ve been working with since Dec 2008.

Then there’s a new project – “media, technology, internet-related” – that I’m pursuing and has almost officially landed.  And that matter in the Update above…?something that Elviza is making sure that I’ll make a serious and honest effort towards making into a reality.  [Will continue `soon’]

Why didn’t I put my foot down and stop the madness of drug addiction right there and then? Even during the time of my first addiction phase when I was in my late teenage years, I was aware of the horror stories. Instead, I just went on and on despite seeing my life deteriorating.

The answer is, perhaps, I’m in that group of people who just have to learn things the hard way; that I had to suffer first. And suffer I did.

My parents had already suspected that I might be on drugs.  Besides the relative with a grudge (after I refused to lend him my motorcycle), a distant cousin had also gotten me into trouble. She was on her way to work at a supermarket one afternoon when she saw me in the company of a notorious character, Ali Afro (due to his hair), who was two years older than me. It was also very near `a wrong place’ – Leng Kang.

This was the name of the Chinese woman with the most potent heroin in Alor Star; situated between the canal behind Cathay cinema and Hotel Mahawangsa. However, she didn’t sell it to just about anyone. That means we had to get it through someone who could `score’. Ali was one, and it was quite unfortunate that this distant cousin saw me handing money to him.

1977 was.. Saturday Night Fever year

When asked, I had refuted the allegations, of course; insisting that Ali was borrowing money from me. However, this time it was impossible to deny anymore – not when I was arrested with a RM5 sachet of heroin in my hand. This was the middle of 1977 when I was 17, and the very first time that I was arrested.

Actually, you have to be quite unlucky and/or careless to be arrested during this time. It was before the enactment of the Drug Dependants Act in 1983 — the only way the police could take action was to catch an addict when he was in possession of an illegal substance. If you weren’t carrying anything, the police had to let you go.

It was a source of frustration for the police, of course. So,` to even things up a bit’, they might detain you for a few days under pretext of investigating some crime or other. In my case, there was more than enough evidence to be charged under Section 12 (2) of the Dangerous Drugs Act:

“Any person who contravenes the provisions of subsection (2) of this section shall be guilty of an offence against this Act and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding twenty  thousand  ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or both”

I had read about such cases before – fillers of a couple of paragraphs in the newspapers; and the common sentence seemed to be… 18 months in prison. I knew of one distant cousin three years older who was also addicted. He was serving a two-year sentence due for handbag-snatching.

However, there were a couple of factors that were in my favour that night of my arrest – my age and the fact I was still in school. The police were going to give me another chance – they won’t file a report! However, they were going to take me home and inform my parents. So, two detectives went – one riding pillion on my motorcycle and the other on his Vespa scooter [for some reason, many policemen and soldiers at that time favoured this].

My father was angry. But he wasn’t too surprised. He said he had had a premonition about this; of “someone – a stranger – coming to this house to tell of your being arrested”. It was the start to the stress that I was to impose on him from the worry, embarrassment and disappointment that I was to cause over the coming years due to my addiction. My elder sister was studying medicine then, and it was his great hope that I would be studying law at University Malaya a couple of years from that [By the way, had things gone according to plan, I would have been course mates with lawyer-economist De Minimis].

Lucky Strike cigarettes

Image via Wikipedia

That incident, and the lucky break granted by the police, should have given me enough reason to pause and do something about the matter. At least that’s what any sane and normal person would have done. But addiction to heroin takes away one’s sanity – less than 30 minutes after the detectives left, I was back in town looking for the substance.

With that particular pusher in the lockup, and with my body hurting from the withdrawal, I went to Leng Kang. There was a first time to everything, and she agreed to deal with me. Hurriedly, I rode off. After stopping to buy two sticks of Lucky Strike (10 sen each) and syrup drink (20 sen), it was  to the Sultan Abdul Hamid College canteen. It was almost 11PM, but there were a few people studying there.

It was a relief to smoke the cigarette spiked with heroin; with the syrup water moistening the paper to slow down the burn rate. The immediate and drastic change from drug withdrawal to the bliss of heroin high was too much for the body. Nine times out of 10, I would vomit; and that night was no exception. And after that, all the pains and aches and anxieties were miraculously lifted, and the self was in a heroin-induced state where “everything was alright”.

It is the desire of wanting to recapture this feeling again that pulls someone who might have been clean for a few years to relapse… For one who is physically addicted, there is no choice though – either take heroin or suffer from the pain and torment.

My parents saw my worsening condition, and it must have been a sorrowful period for them. They tried everything possible. Firstly, it was to a bomoh (medium) – I was “to be treated by him for a few nights to rid my body of the addiction”. This was during a time when there was no AADK, and a time when people – including addicts – didn’t really know how to deal with the addiction.

So the bomoh, with his chants and all, also provided a cigar, which was spiked with “substances to get rid of the addiction”. I was to vomit “and bring it all out”. I don’t know how much my father had paid, but needless to say, it was totally ineffective. Then my father heard about one addict who stopped by taking Guinness stout. Despite his religious upbringing, and despite my grandmother’s objections, he bought a dozen bottles of it to help me through the withdrawal. To him, it was a case of “the lesser evil”. I ended up being high on heroin and alcohol.

The hospital wasn’t of much help either. It was a time before methadone and buprenorphine (Subuxone/Subutex) made it to our shores; no thanks to the hardline, conservative stance of the government then. There was nothing a doctor could do, except to dish out valium and sleeping pills. Now these were better than nothing but were way inadequate.

My grades in school had gotten worse, and it didn’t look like I was going to get rid of the addiction. In fact, my usage had increased. I was granted a federal scholarship, and had spent almost all of it on heroin. My father, in desperation, knew that drastic measures were called for – I was to be sent to a government drug rehabilitation centre.

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Noor Azman Othman

Noor Azman Othman

A routine status update at Facebook earlier this morning had led me to a new idea that could help myself and my two sons financially. It was from the person above whom I had written a post about when I first started this blog in August 2008… a “fellow traveller on this journey towards recovery”.

Noor Azman or ArahMan7 is believed to be Malaysia’s first recovery blogger, with his site at My Journey to Recovery. It was a very important blog to me… because it gave me the confidence to start this one. It’s quite remarkable that I had discovered it on my very first day as a blogger. I had known quite a bit about ArahMan7 over the past year – and vice versa. And I must say that I’m grateful for having known him.

This is a very important part in the recovery process that people like us go through – knowing of someone else who had faced the same destructive power that was drug addiction and someone who is adapting to and living life on life’s terms. There is this empathy that can only exist between people with shared experiences – people who know what it was like to see your life spiraling down, with material possessions slipping away, personal relationships becoming brittle and often broken.

They also know about that obsession and compulsion to still continue with drugs despite seeing our lives declining to a deplorable level. They also know the guilt and torment, and the shame of bringing about hardship, stress and tension to those closest to us. And they also know of how some members of society view and treat those with a drug record.chimp-office

CAPTION: Respectable member of society who feels he’s a few levels better than drug addicts, active or recovering. This kind emits signals of expecting you to hold him in awe; always nodding your head and agree with everything that he says.

With ArahMan, I’m fortunate to have someone who is genuinely interested to help. And I do know that he is genuinely happy when he hears of good things happening to me. Previously, I had had this thing nagging me: Would he somehow `feel threatened’ by the existence of “a newcomer”  who might usurp his position and standing in Blogosphere?howler

baboonCAPTIONS: (Left) Kampung loud-mouthed, expert-in-everything including religion. (Right) Expert when it comes to… Everything. Including on drugs, treatment and rehabilitation. Also possess ability to know whether someone is on drugs or not. Craves being at the centre of attention. Both were last spotted at the Pasir Mas Mahkamah Syariah on March 25

No ArahMan didn’t -  In fact he told me about his admiration of my seeming nonchalance and ease in moving in and out of the local SoPo Blogosphere; and that I dared to leave comments on various issues at the top sites that include Rocky’s Bru and Raja Petra Kamarudin’s Malaysia Today.

I had wanted to be involved in the same projects that he has experience in. And ArahMan is the type of guy who isn’t “kedekut ilmu” (secretive and selfish with what he knows). Over a few emails and SMS messages, he had given me an idea about the online business entities at his blog like BuyBlogReviews etc. The first thing to do was to get a PayPal account.

I’m still stuck in the rut I was in since ArahMan had told me to get that account. Immediately after that, I was, by the Grace of God, deluged with work – I had given all of my time to “Writing for the papers & Sub-editing job”. Have to ensure regular income first, and ArahMan understands…

Then I saw this new website by him that I was not aware of: Blog Beginners. Excellent name! I had Bookmarked and also put it at the sidebar of my two blogs… besides sending a tweet at Twitter.

I’m happy to see all those business-related links on the right. I think ArahMan has gotten it right – SPOT ON – with this one. I can see and feel things clicking from the inter-connectedness and synergies of the posts and online business paraphernalia…

When (note it’s not `If’) he strikes the first or half million ringgit, many of us will be spurred to better our own situations and try to get a bit of the online wealth.

BTW I have vested interest in the smooth running and success of this. Now that things are more stabilised, I’m going to continue with my original plans – plus additions. I’ve just been struck with this idea – getting my two sons involved in this too.

The eldest (24) has been jobless since two months ago. And he’s one who doesn’t want to continue with higher education Sigh… He’s thin like me, and it breaks my heart to think about the tough and tiring jobs that he had done. But what qualifications and skills does he have?

Iman and Mat Yin July 5

Iman and Mat Yin July 5

And Iman: getting a diploma in Multimedia is the priority. He’s quite savvy with online entertainment stuff, and knows about Paypal. Well, I’d love to introduce him to ArahMan’s site here. That’s what I’m dreaming of now – Me and my two boys working together developing ours… following the path you as the trailblazer had opened for Malaysians and “people like me”

[BTW it came to my attention that the two simians above had gone around telling those who cared to listen that "Mat's children... none of them gives him any thought or care... they just ignore Mat"]

Whatever ArahMan’s success, I can honestly and sincerely say that I’m happy. And I know that it’s the same with him should I land the jackpot. Yes, folks: Knowing Noor Azman Othman 11 months ago has been a big positive in my life.

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