If anyone had asked who I loved most in this world, I would have said it was Iman, my youngest; born in November 1991. That was a time when I was still clean. However, that moment of stupidity was looming – the re-introduction to opiate which resulted in the horrendous relapse that later took away almost everything that I had; besides bringing distress and suffering to those near.
And they included Iman – the sweet, kind-hearted little boy; always trusting and uncomplaining… a Gift and a Trust from God whom I was blessed to have. The thought and knowledge that I had failed him with that irresponsible addiction, which fouled up my sense of priorities and had caused the frequent neglect of him and his siblings by not fulfilling my responsibilities a lot of the time – the feelings of guilt, worthlessness and self-hatred that accompanied these were the biggest torment of all.
SCREAM – This one from Pink Floyd “The Wall” is among the more accurate graphics to represent `tormented’
There was the confusion, the sense of hopelessness and the despair of the situation… “Hope” is what that keeps us moving on no matter what the circumstances. But in my situation then, it was almost all gone and nearing zero when it comes to hope. “Almost”, however, was the all-important adverb in that instance; because no matter how minuscule or minute it had remained, that was what had kept me from doing the irreversible in “the ultimate attempt to escape”. That thought of failing your children, the pure and innocent – the crushing weight it heaped upon you was the worst suffering I had ever felt.
I sometimes hear this kind of talk by others: “Drug addicts just don’t care about their families. If they do, they would have stopped their addiction immediately.”
I’m not really going to contradict and refute that. At the same time, and based on my own experiences, I certainly don’t agree with the above either. It’s not that simple: that part about “don’t care” – the Malay term is “tak ambil peduli”: I know that I did… despite the addiction.
Often, during my time of active addiction – and also when I was in prison and at Pusat Serenti Gambang especially, I’d wonder about what it was that had kept me addicted. Why did I continue despite knowing that things would only get worse if I “don’t do something about it”? I did discover one answer, which was shared by practically all of the inmates whom I had posed the question to: it was self-delusion; of comforting one’s self that “All will be fine, somehow”.
How attractive was the alternative; in giving up drugs? With the opiates of heroin and morphine, that means undergoing severe physical withdrawal; and the psychological/mental withdrawal that goes on for weeks. But I believe practically all addicts would gladly undergo these… if things were to magically revert to the time just before it all started. But that’s not how it works, of course.
And so I went on. In the years after 2000, there were times when I had actually “stopped”, in that I was no longer physically addicted. None of these were voluntary. They were either through the lack of money – which was often; or there was that dreaded “putus” or disruption with the supply. And at the first opportunity, I would get back at it.
[*Detoxifying:Treat for alcohol or drug dependence; Remove poison from; These are the dictionary definitions. It’s `easy’ to get yourself or someone off the physical addiction, regardless of how long you had used, how much and the average purity of the substance – get him to detoxify. How? Deny him the substances for a certain period of time. Here’s when the `fun’ starts – the misery of physical pain AND mental torment. I’ve gone through a few that were of “hellish” class, and many of “severe”. And lots of “mild”. I can truthfully state this: The `mild’ of opiate withdrawal is worse than almost all of my `normal’ fevers (non drugs-related, like what you all here suffer occasionally), and it’s for each and every second of the day. I hope this gives a better idea of what this withdrawal thing is.]
I later learned the main reason why – I was alone… alienated. There was not much point in continuing to be clean – that is one’s thinking when he is alone and seemingly without hope for the future. During the past couple of years, I’d sometimes do this “time-tunnel exercise” of trying to remember and feel what it was like during a period – early 2000 for example. The memories of those negative feelings and incidents would stream back. Various aspects of my life were so knotted up, so blurred and dark that I could not see how they could be better in the future (that’s now). With nothing to really strive for, and with the heavy stone carried by every person bearing the guilt of having failed those who depended on you, the natural response was to find relief.
Some found temporary relief in alcohol, some in gambling, or womanising; many with a combination of those, and still even more added music and dance and whatever else. With me, it was in moving deeper towards the cause of that predicament in the first place: armed with a Terumo syringe intended for diabetics to administer insulin, the `immediate solution’ which was to perpetuate the cycle was in shooting up even more morphine or heroin. Sometimes these were spiked with methamphetamine – the pil kuda.
But how different it is now, despite having undergone a divorce process! For this, I am grateful. The people who are here now – despite never having met many yet, the spiritual aspect of all the communicating helps to lift this stone… Sherry Nor Jannah & Nazmi, Shakirah, Elviza, Zara (so often), Distractor, Sheila, Brigitte… my great friend in Seoul (who prefer that I keep silent about his existence, and I will respect that), Mekyam, Fauziah, and everyone who have honestly and sincerely wished me well. I shudder to think about the time prior to Gambang – it’s a wonder that I managed to hold on for that long despite the immense weight that was pulling me down.
And one of the main factors that had helped to counterbalance the thoughts about “ending it all” was the person whom I often remember as the innocent little boy – one of those whom I had wronged by my choices and actions. And he never knew it. Even during those days of heavy addiction, I had the desire to make up for all my wrongs. And ending it all would have meant that I won’t – ever; besides tarnishing him with another stigma… as if what he had then wasn’t enough. Despite all the hopelessness and self-loathing, I had to go on.
Some of the readers might wonder about my mentioning him, and “not protecting his privacy”. Well, one of them is that; from what I see, Iman, despite being the youngest, is the one who has accepted me for what I was and am, and the addiction period for what it was. I don’t know what it is inside him, but there’s something special about it. And he being my son who was the most unsuccessful when it comes to academics; examination results. It was something of which my ex-wife had often scolded him for – and a source of friction with me, for I would always side with him.
It wasn’t for the sake of it, no. Even from very early on, there were characteristics that others somehow didn’t see – or they didn’t say so. This was a boy who would never lie to escape punishment. In whatever situation, when asked whether he did something, it was always a “Yes”. And bullying by taking advantage of his age and size when with younger kids – that wasn’t him. His sense of fairness, fair play – they were there in him from very early on.
He couldn’t believe or accept that there were others who weren’t like him. He was so kind as to allow the younger kids to bully him; not knowing how to retaliate… because he felt it was wrong! One kid younger than him did take advantage of this when he was about five. When he came home crying and telling me about it, I had to set things right. And since this particular kid was too young to listen to reason, there was only one way – I taught Iman how to retaliate. That put an immediate end to the younger kid’s actions, of course.
His character – that was what I saw in him. Unfortunately, this wasn’t shared by my wife, who had placed “academic results” as the priority. That, incidentally, was what my own father had emphasised on too decades ago. Neither her nor my wife “were wrong”. However, based on my own experience, I felt I knew better. I’ve held on to this from early on and right until now: One’s character is the most important… not in getting 12A’s, not in doing a degree in law at Oxford. Of course, having and getting both would have been ideal. But I can say with all honesty now that I’m extremely happy with what he is – examination results be damned. Iman is a good person, and that’s all that mattered to me.
Despite his poor results from Standard One and onwards, I saw that it wasn’t `stupidity’. In his case, it was the lack of motivation or interest. I knew that he had enough intelligence based on how he had handled the PC – a Pentium MMX 166MHz with 32MB RAM and 3GB HDD bought at the end on 1998 when he was in Standard One. I had bought it (or, it was with my father’s money actually) with the aim of doing something then to create a job for myself and a source of income. It wasn’t very successful. But interestingly, when I was in Gambang and with a few months left, kept coming back to this idea again. And remarkably, exactly 10 years later, I was/am doing what I had planned and intended in 1998!
On Wed 10 Aug 2005, Iman – then in Form Two – was at this house in the afternoon. That was his daily routine after school… I was sure to hear the stepping of dry leaves outside; of him coming over to here. Its “his time” playing games at the computer while I lie down and read a book. It sure broke my feeling of loneliness with him here.
But I didn’t see him the following day. The next time I was to see him was a good 16 months later…