The sum total of Choices

“What could I have been, and where might I be now had I not made some of the choices that I had in the past…”

These are questions that would come to mind – and quite often too in the pre-Pusat Serenti Gambang past … the “what if’s”; especially that of “What if I had not taken that first dose that had started the relapse in 1993 that brought about the spiraling of my life and those closest to me”. And each time I’d end up feeling so sorry for myself – and angry and bitter with myself.

Now you should know why I was struck by that internal turmoil upon reaching the final two paragraphs when writing that post of “God, why hath Thou forsaken me?” (Part 5). I had spent hours after that thinking about this matter – of “Why” I was feeling that way.

I think I know the answer: I had not properly dealt with it. And it will continue to come back to haunt and torment me again and again in the future until I do. This is what I had learned from the fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and they are spread over a number of specific Steps:

  • STEP FOUR – “We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves”
  • STEP FIVE – “We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs”
  • STEP SIX – “We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character”
  • STEP SEVEN – “We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings”
  • STEP EIGHT – “We made a list of all the persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all”
  • STEP NINE – “We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others”

NA100px-NaGroupLogo Caption: The original “Jimmy K” logo of N.A. The fellowship currently use a different logo, but the “NA” font at the centre remains. Who is this “Jimmy K”? I don’t know. However, it’s a tradition of NA not to focus on individuals. Instead, the fellowship emphasises “anonymity”. That’s one reason why I’m using “Cendana287”, “Ahmad Anon”, “Mart Anon” (and “Mat Cendana” at the other site); although quite a number of people here know my name. Wanting to be (and remain) anonymous was another reason why I was nervous and apprehensive on realising that Rocky’s Bru had started a post about this site, which was almost totally unknown except for a very few.

Those six Steps above – That’s a lot of work! Yes, and I get scared each time I read of them; and am frequently tempted with “It’s too tough … Let’s just forget about it … just live life the best that I can.” But I know that I’ll be cheating myself if I abandon these principles of NA. All of these steps (and the others) are mentioned in Islam; although not in exact such words, of course.

I’ll be very happy should someone come up to me and tell me “all that I need to do is to `taubat’ (repent), and everything will be okay again…”. But is `taubat’ merely “the uttering of words”?..and then joining dakwah-related groups and spend a lot of time inside mosques and suraus? By the way, I have nothing against anyone joining dakwah (missionary) groups, nor against those who spend a lot of time at religion-centric buildings (a lot better than those who spend their time under bridges and abandoned houses; on in pubs, nightclubs and restaurants).

But in my case and situation, I don’t think merely to utter taubat to all and sundry is anywhere near adequate. Which is why I feel “the N.A way” is possibly the only specific way to go when it comes to me and myself. By the way, should someone here have some doa (prayer) or `air tawar’ that, on the basis of using it alone will prevent me from a possible relapse, I’ll be more than happy to force myself to believe it:-)

Anyway, before we look back as to how I had suffered a relapse in 1993 – which a NA guy at at the Pusat Khidmat AADK in Kuantan had said was actually a “collapse” (It was Rahim; also the PENDAMAI secretary) it might be better to start even further than that – when and how I had started using drugs in the first place. It was in 1976, when I was in Form 5, at the age of 16 (was promoted to “express class” during primary school; hence the age `discrepancy’).

There’s one thing that I remember about that period – the authorities and the public were quite clueless about drugs and other matters relating to it (like treatment and rehabilitation). Many are still clueless about it right now, and coupled with the “bodoh sombong” (ignorant but with excessive pride) attitude of some, are making a mess of things. But I’ll leave this one for another time.

Yes, it was generally known that “drugs are dangerous” – there would be all those anti-drug slogans and posters in between television programmes (only two black-and-white channels then) that would remind of “Dadah membawa Padah” (Drugs lead to disaster – Which is very accurate, come to think of it; although the guy who had created it was probably only concerned that it rhymed).

But there were these curiosity and rebellious streaks that are found in many teenagers… “How bad is it?”; “Why do some people take it then?” And it was a time when rock stars were like demi-gods. Since many of them were said (rightly or wrongly) to be taking drugs – and they still became rich and famous – the feeling was that “it isn’t as bad as some people make it out to be” and “it should be okay if you control its usage and not to get addicted” (As if you can choose, as I was to find out the hard way!).

Then there were my peers who took it – they would boast of how “Best! Stim…”; describing how `uplifting’ a session would take them when consuming ganja (cannabis/marijuana) and fit (heroin – `the destroyer of worlds’ as described of Shiva aptly describes this and morphine). The “clean ones” like me would sit quietly listening; and be in awe of them. “If drugs were so bad, then why aren’t these guys all the worse for it?!” (Because, it was still their early days yet. The time to pay the piper will come – sooner rather than later).

sahc_front-half sahc_badge Caption: Sultan Abdul Hamid College, Alor Star. The classroom to the right of the office was, in 1976, my Form 5H. No, not as in “Hijau” but “Eighth”; the last class (This was a school for “the selected”, that also included Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad)…people with `some attitude’ (and “potential”, had they been fortunate to have received the guidance of others). The class to the left was where I had bombed out with heroin a number of times at night (some of us had obtained permission to use it at night for studying and discussion groups. It (the studying and not the heroin, of course) had played a big part in my having obtained very good MCE (GCE O-Level) results. Oh, I know what some of you might be thinking: “But I thought you are in Kelantan…” Yes, too. More will be revealed in its own good time.

But I held on; still not taking it because there were some worries inside me that held me back. For one thing, I had heard and read a lot about “drug addicts” – of how drugs had gripped them until they were obviously no longer in control. I had also heard  stories of older users doing some desperate thing or another to obtain money to buy drugs.

I remember one such guy, Azmi (about 20 then) who was working at my school’s canteen (the contractor was a Chinese guy named “John”, who had a BMW). One way of obtaining money to support his habit was to siphon some of the day’s collection. And I was one of his collaborators. I’d pay RM1 for a plate of rice – gave him a RM1 note, and he’d “return my change of RM4″. I’d later give him RM3 (minus my cut of RM1). I had also bought a pair of brown “Melbourne” jeans which were quite new from him. I can’t remember how much but it must have been “cheap enough”, for my father gave me the money when I asked. And I remember that he was quite desperate to sell it, telling me he was `gian’ (hard up/severe cravings, with physical withdrawal setting in)

[Footnote: Azmi died the following year. He had taken “Roche” (valium) pills when he couldn’t get heroin, in a desperate attempt to stave off the physical withdrawal pains (BTW valium, which was easily available and for free at government clinics then, doesn’t do much – unlike methadone or buprenorphine, which were not available at that time. But it’s better than nothing…) However, he must have taken a few too many for he became like someone heavily intoxicated with drink. Witnesses said he had walked onto a lorry’s path…]

It was stories like this that had held me back from trying any of these drugs. Until “an accident” happened…

[Will continue `later’ with another Post. In the meantime, have a look at this blog, kata kama. I had accidentally discovered it when I followed up on who had clicked from where to this site. It’s a personal site by a former journalist who is now in PR; which explains the smooth and elegant writing style]

*Thurs 2 Oct 10.46AM : Had just read a post at “My Journey to Recovery” (ArahMan7 in Kuala Kangsar). It is about Raya (and Puasa) – especially about what it was like when one was an active addict.

*Sun 5 Oct 11.22AM: I’m aware of a few people wondering and asking “Why am I not writing more often/more post?” The main reason is that, I don’t want to force myself – I want everything that comes out here “to be from inside… from my heart”. When the time is right, then “something will appear here”…

15 thoughts on “The sum total of Choices

  1. salam, got here from puteri kamaliah’s as well and that’s a picture of my school that you’ve got there – SAHC..but i bet you must be my junior? – yes, confirmed! By 1976 I was already at ITM. salam perkenalan and can I link you? kak teh.

  2. @kak teh
    You were there too?
    It must have been for your Form Six, because there weren’t any girls in the lower forms (except for one or two who would somehow be `sesat’ – and be the centre of attraction).

    You were probably from Sultanah Asma(?). If so, then you were in the Science Stream. If I remember correctly, SAS didn’t have this at HSC level. And maybe you didn’t even get to Upper Six – many of these newcomers would move on to ITM after a few months at SAHC.

    [BTW you’d probably know my elder sister. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to tell you who she is – I have to protect the privacy of others.

    It’s okay if people want to pour scorn on me, belittle me, look lowly of me or whatever else, for I accept all the wrongs that I had done. But I don’t want these others to suffer anything at all, as far as I can help it – parents (yes, they are still around, Alhamdulillah!), siblings, children, wife, in-laws … a few loyal friends even.

    Actually, I had seen your nickname quite a number of times at other blogs (easy to remember). But I can’t remember where right now – Must be at those “English-writing sites”; like Sharon Bakar, Elviza…

    I’ll visit your blog later, now that we share the same school (am writing a nonsensical post for `that other’ site right now). I’ll put your link here under “Malaysians” (yes, how very uncreative of me; I know) if you don’t mind. Or maybe that should be “upgraded” to “writers”(?); as I have done for Puteri Kamaliah and Elviza.

    ** Update: The IP address shows Amsterdam. The blog is set to “UK”. You’re on a visit to Holland, I suppose. A quick look at the blog says, “I think I know you…” BTW I’m only `younger’ as per the IC – Physically, after the ravages and torments of the years, I look closer to 60 than 50. I “could have” looked like the Mat Cendana pix though… :-)

  3. Mat Cendana, Actually i was at the st. nicholas convent – went to SAHC for lower and upper six -arts stream – same class as Zulkifly abdullah, syes ismail syed azizan – zul was our head boy. No – am in UK , not amsterdam. Am nowhere near amsterdam as i am busy preparing for raya esok. just got th enews that esok raya – so kelam kabut lah!
    you must have seen my nick at elviza’s, puteri’s, mat bangkai – and rocky’s. ya – sharon’s too. – actually, i am Awang Goneng’s (kecek-kecek) other half.

    selamat hari raya to you!

  4. Firstly, I’d like to wish you and “Awang Goneng” a Selamat Hari Raya. “One day early” than the East, isn’t it?

    About the Amsterdam part first: I had clicked on the “Whois” link and your IP is within the range belonging to RIPE Network Coordination Centre. Its office is registered in Amsterdam; which shouldn’t mean that you are sending from there too. However, I was too fast in jumping to conclusions:-)

    St Nicholas Convent – you don’t know my elder sister then; which might be just as well. If it were SAS, then the chances would have been 95%, because she was academically excellent, plus a prime mover of her school society. She was at SAHC in Lower Six for a couple of months in 1976 (you had just left), before going overseas. No “Bumiputera quota” for her – she could beat anyone on merit, that’s my elder sister! My younger sister was at St Nicholas, but she’s WAY your junior (I was `your neighbour’ once – at Tunku Abdul Halim primary school)

    Those prefects – I seem to remember both of the names; but I can’t put faces to them (Zulkifly wore spectacles, right?) One headboy I do remember is Boonlert Soomchit in 1972. As you should well know, in those days, prefects were awesome figures in our eyes and minds. In schools like SAHC, MCKK, VI, Penang Free School etc; if you were selected as a prefect, then you were one of a special kind. And what more the headprefect!

    I had always dreamed of being selected as a prefect – since from primary school. But was never close to ever being considered (Kesian!). BUT this dream did come true later on in life – I was a prefect at Pusat Serenti Gambang in 2006! Yup, I’m damn proud of it:-) Might be laughable, even, to some. But in some future posts, you will see what being a pusat “Pengawas” or “Tok” is.

    And speaking of prefects: Do you remember these other guys – Syed Sobri and Hatta Tawab, the runners? (Hatta was the 100M and 110M Hurdles STATE champion) And Shahrom, also runner, and was from the police barracks near the stadium? I think they were from your batch, or maybe one year junior. I was in Sultan’s House, which was always the champion from when I was in Form One to Form Six! What was yours? Days or Kedah?…those losers HAHA!

    Anyway, most of the prefects would become “somebody”. But there was one prefect (your senior by three years, I think) who had made the same mistake as I had (he lived behind the Iskandar school). Ah, one of his younger brothers might have been your batch (he followed the straight route and should be a senior education ministry officer right now).

    He had studied Law at UM circa 1974-76. Being selected to study law at UM then should be an indication of his academic excellence and potential. But as I had mentioned – and it isn’t overly too dramatic – heroin is as destroyer of worlds…

    He didn’t complete it. But he then was accepted to ITM around 78-79. Diploma this time, but it’s still something tough. He couldn’t stay clean, unfortunately. Now this guy seemed to have everything – intelligent, tall, very good-looking…

    I hope he’s okay now (been years since I was last in Alor Star) He’s surely regretting all those missed chances – as I am. Which is why dealing with the past is very important – without doing so, we can’t let go; and will be carrying an awesome burden. Only then could we move on.

    I’m trying to…

  5. Aisey, I wasn’t aware earlier that you had sent this – sibuk dengan dok set adverts `kat situ’.

    THANKS for the greetings. I have to say that you and Nazmi have been two very special people for me lately. There is this warmth that I get…

    And yes, I’m hoping for that sinar. Actually, have to search for it. Well, it’s going to be a busy day for you and Nazmi today, with your families and colleagues and all.

    As for me, I’ll have to force myself to be more social this time – don’t want to be “like pre-2006” … Raya tak Raya, duduk sorang-sorang, buat tak kisah. People like you and Nazmi make me feel “a bit like a normal human and citizen”…

  6. Michelle, Thanks.
    BTW I’ve not forgotten about my part in the “award”. Things keep coming up, and I keep putting it off. “The other site” has taken a huge chunk of my time and “self”. Besides that one, Elviza has tagged me for “an assignment” too. And I’d sure hate to disappoint someone who also wears a Kelantan Blogger badge:-)

  7. Hi Mat Anon,

    Just stopping by to pay you my respects. You do have a lot to say. I cannot wait to get to know you more personally after you have decided you don’t need to wear your mantle of anonimity any more! As you know, I’m quite open about myself at my blog or elsewhere. I know Pasir Mas reasonably well. Dr Nik Azam who has a clinic in Pasir Mas was my classmate at MCKK.
    Hope to hear more of your comments at my blog. One thing though, I notice you reserve your best English for writing up your own blog, haha! Wassalam.

  8. Mat,
    Salam.
    Yesterday Elviza was asking me for your number which I don’t have. I wonder whether she did manage to get intouch with you.
    Kalu tadok kijo sms saya buleh tubik minum kopi semakok dua.
    0199125647

  9. Oh I’m so glad Gabey got to you. I gave her your blog address to explore it further. I think your story is worth its weight in gold.

    Mat, Selamat Hari Raya maaf zahir batin to you. May God bless you always.

  10. @Puteri Kamaliah

    Thanks for telling me this. I had been wondering since yesterday how she had known of this site. I’m really a bit stunned – not by MM wanting to feature that blog – but by your comment here.

    I don’t see you as someone who makes it a habit to exaggerate in his/her stories (it’s MY habit at the “Blues” site though).

    So, when you mention something like this about its purported value… that’s where I got stunned; not knowing how to feel, whether it’s okay to feel flattered, to feel pride, satisfaction… there’s a bit of “fear” too. Yes, fear that maybe many people won’t think so; among other things.

    Anyway, I had responded to her comment and request just now – after asking a couple of my trusted friends on what to do. You see, there’s this Narcotics Anonymous reminder and advice not to put one’s self in the spotlight, if that can be helped.

    For recovering addicts, there is always this danger of “starting to get a bit big-headed”, maybe; starting to feel “I’m better than most others”… things like this.

    Oh, these “trusted friends” aren’t recovering addicts but REGULAR PEOPLE – Special People in fact, for even wanting to get close to me, and treating me “like a person”, “like they’d treat everyone else” … not as “a recovering addict”, much less “addict”. It’s hard to explain here, but I’ve not met too many people yet who are like this. And I thank God for knowing this extraordinary couple.

  11. Salaam, Mat

    Don’t worry, I fully understand your situation.

    All the same, I feel it would be great if more people know of ths site of yours and read your thoughts & experiences.

    On my part, I will continue to ‘promote’ (for want of a better word) this site to people I know because I personally think we all can gain something from reading it.

    Keep writing. And I shall keep reading.

    Wassalam.

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