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…

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