In the Name of the Father

There’s one thing that’s almost certain if you are addicted to a hard drug like heroin and morphine – you’ll go places. Unfortunately, these aren’t destinations and venues that you’ll ever go to voluntarily… hospitals, police lockups, drug rehabilitation centres, prisons. Or the graveyard.

In a two-year spell from 1977, I was involved in four arrests, handcuffed twice and had seen the insides of the first four. And I was yet to turn 19. God knows how much I had disappointed and embarrassed my father, who was a much-respected figure in the community and who had high hopes of me.

By the way, the title is from a rousing film based on a true story about injustice. There’s a soundtrack by U2’s Bono of the same title which you could hear over and over (the lyrics are here): In the name of reason, In the name of hope, In the name of religion, In the name of dopeThis film has Daniel Day-Lewis, who is one of my favourite actors along with Robert De Niro and Kevin Spacey.

My propensity to add some film, song or story – sometimes it might not have much to do with the post; sometimes it does. It’s my way of easing into events that might result in remorse, regret and possible hurt, as reflections of these distant events sometimes do. This is the continuation of the post on Merdeka Day of Heroin Monkey on Your Back. It dates back to when I was a teenager, addicted to heroin, and confused. This, I hope, will be part of the process to look back at the past, to see things as they were… and then leave them. Only then could I move on to live in the Now, and not to continue carrying the burdens of the past.

My father – One of the things that I’m grateful for is in realising how wrong I had been over the decades, and the opportunity to let him know this. There was a period in my life that is now remembered mostly for the sense of hopelessness and torment when I was estranged with almost everybody. I had hurt my father’s feelings so much that he refused to have anything to do with me anymore from late 1999 onwards.

And I, in my addiction to morphine then, simply didn’t have the strength of character to overcome false pride, anger and resentment to unconditionally admit and acknowledge my wrongs and humbly seek forgiveness. Instead, I would focus on “their fault” to magnify his `insensitiveness and lack of understanding’, and grossly minimise or shrug off my misconducts and wrongdoings. But God’s Mercy, granted through the changing of situations and circumstances following the court-ordered stay in Gambang from 31st Oct 2005 to 18 Dec 2006, provided me with opportunities to set things right.

I was/am a father too, and during my time at Gambang, I would reflect and compare between my father and me. In all honesty and sincerity, I had achieved only 5%, at the most, of what my father had done in bringing up his children – me and my two sisters. He had been hardworking, responsible and selfless throughout his life – there was always his help when it comes to anything related to education and all the basic requirements of life. And with me, I obtained everything I had asked for. But I did not keep my end of the bargain.

Only at Gambang did I discover the power of honesty and humility; which brought clarity of thought and vision to acknowledge this – and more. It’s something that I had publicly told my friends and my counsellor. And most importantly to my father… that he would know that I, at last, see and acknowledge this. This arrogance in me – it had held me back and was the major factor to many of the pains and hardships that I had suffered from the time I was first addicted.

Education: This was supreme to my father – it was his most cherished wish that all three of us study hard, get excellent (not `good’) grades, enter foreign universities and be admitted to the exclusive and prestigious professions that would command high income and respect in society – doctor, engineer, accountant, architect, lawyer. Or a lecturer, at least. In my case, as the only son, there was an added hope – that I, after becoming a lawyer, would enter politics (Umno, of course)… and “appear on television”.

He was a religious teacher, but he knew that he would “have been a lot better” career-wise had my grandfather sent him to an English school like his cousins were. It was his ambition to achieve the best. He studied hard at the religious school (Maahad and Maktab Mahmud) where opportunities were few and far; aiming to be one of the top three nationwide who would be sent overseas to Al-Azhar University in Cairo. He was number five.

This must have thoroughly disappointed him, to just miss out. And he saw his younger cousins in English school all going overseas and returning to take up cushy positions as managers… He was determined that his children would go to English schools, and he would do his best to ensure that money would not be an obstacle.

My grandfather (Tok Wan, as grandfathers are called in the north) was the mukim’s (hamlet’s) Imam, and he was well-known and much respected in the Kubang Pasu district in Kedah. He had wanted this tradition to continue with me – the son of the elder son – that I would be a religious scholar (By the way, it was no coincidence that my IC name was of a medieval Persian Imam).

But my father was firm in imposing his right – I was to go to an English school. I had rebelled and there was resentment, for I had wanted to stay in the village. That would have meant attending the Malay-Medium Sekolah Kebangsaan Binjai. Instead, we lived at my mother’s house in Alor Star. I later learned that it was a source of friction between my father and grandfather (who died when I was in Standard One in 1967). My father was in a dilemma for he was a respectful and obedient son. In fact, he had wavered once, and I was elated to hear I might be staying at the kampung… only to be bitterly disappointed later on. Over the years, I thank God my father had decided on the English school and didn’t yield to my tantrums.

Things would have been a lot different had I just continued to study and not been involved with drugs. His hopes were all achievable, and my sisters did enter universities overseas to become a doctor and accountant respectively. It was me who was the underachiever, despite the resources available and the potential. Over the years, he would repeat this to my sisters – who both agreed – and to his grandchildren… my own children and nephews and nieces: “Academically, it was your brother/father/uncle who was the best. If only…”  

If only I had chosen otherwise.

In Lower Six, I simply could not concentrate on my studies due to the addiction. Every morning, it was the same routine of missing classes as I loitered at the canteen with a few junior students who were also addicted. It was a new experience; of knowing what “addiction to heroin” was. There was the lethargy, with the goosebumps, sneezings and yawns, with the body aching and getting worse all the time. So, by hook or by crook, we had to pool RM5 (with RM1 for fuel) at least to obtain a sachet of heroin. This was the routine and it was unsustainable…

My parents knew that something was wrong; and they even suspected what it was. Some idiot had told them – a close relative a bit older than I was. He had heard from others that I was addicted. One day he became sore at me for not lending him my motorcycle. Actually I had done so a few times, but on the last occasion, he only returned it towards dusk after saying it was “only for a while”.

So on that morning, when he woke me up very early asking for the key – in a manner as if he had a right to the motorcycle – I told him off. A few days later, my parents asked me about “what someone had told them”. I denied it of course, and told them that relative had done so out of jealousy and spite (which was true actually). I had confronted him about this – of why he did it. He insisted it was “to help me”, which was met with harsh words and obscenities. He was older, better built than my skinny frame, but he knew better than to antagonise me further by retaliating.

Then one night, towards the last quarter of 1977, I went out at night to find some stuff. It was at the junction of the wet market and Jalan Seberang Perak – there was a night market that day, which resulted in a lot of people. A pusher saw me, and when we were making the exchange, suddenly muttered obscenities and ran. Someone darted past and collared him, while another held my hand… which was grasping a sachet of heroin. He showed me a badge which had a crest and said “Polis”… “Give it to me…” My throat went dry.

All around, people had gathered to watch; fascinated to see “a crime scene in front of their eyes”. We were handcuffed and taken to the district police station nearby – just 500 metres away. A check on the pusher showed he had five other sachets inside a cigarette box. The detectives took him to a room for questioning. Then they turned to me – I had caught glimpses of people inside the lockup previously, and had heard of how dirty and uncomfortable it was. I silently cursed `my mistake of not being cautious enough’, which had led to this. I knew I was in big trouble.

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22 thoughts on “In the Name of the Father

  1. Abg Mat.. Another powerfull entry from you. I am so touched by how much you are willing to share it and look at it through different perspective..

    • Ija, there is no other way. As I had said to your sister, it’s a risk each time I write. To tell the truth, I do worry about letting others know what kind of an idiot and a jerk I was.

      At the same time, these are the “burdens and baggage” that I still carry into the present, which affect my responses towards situations and relationships.

      Why am I carrying them? It’s because there are things from the past that I’ve not really dealt with… things that have been shoved aside and not looked at, in the hope that they’ll go away. THEY DON’T. Not until I bring up the courage to look at them for what they were. One of the reasons why I had relapsed big time in the mid-1990’s when I was supposed to be “mature” was because of this.

      That means I have to look at the 24-year marriage that ended in divorce one day. I certainly don’t have the courage right now if you were to ask me to write about that.

      But I know I must – if I intend to re-marry and not have the baggage brought along. That wouldn’t be fair to the new wife, whoever she might be. There might be juicy bits, so stay tuned:-)

  2. **NOTE: These comments are from this post which is also published in Facebook. Comments are important for they add to the original post; and that’s why I’m copying them to here.

    Has Hanie Bahari
    …and I applaud u one more time for coming out brilliantly with this. I’m so very proud of u my friend. :)

    Noor Azman Othman
    I can still remember what had happened like it was yesterday. Reading your post make it even clearer. I’ve failed so many people and I hope what’s left of my life I could do at least something (nothing grand which I’m sure impossible) to redeem all the mistakes I made especially to my family. Without their TLC, I know I wouldn’t be here today. Thank you Bro, for the reminder.

    Idrus Abu Bakar
    Ahmad, you should write a book about your experiences in the world of Drug. It would surely benefit one way of the other in getting the inside story of one like you. Surely there are knowledge to learn from your experiences.

    Tehsin Begum
    whatever happened was also a test for your family as well as you. not just about you, really. it was also for them.

    it’s not all about failing anyone and spending your lives redeeming yourselves.

    it was a matter of bad choices made in foolish youth that everyone makes…a learning process, very painful and hard that turned you guys into much better people…. See More

    without adversity/mistakes/wrong choices, we dont learn anything abt ourselves, the people around us, nor do we reflect and appreciate the life and purpose God has given us.

    what you went through was a journey in self discovery. I really think you would not have been who you are today without it.

    success, position etc…i have seen many who have it. but they have no soul, no appreciation for those close to them/what they have and no sense of purpose except to obtain more and more. Experiencing pain, fear, loss, sorrow, discontentment, making/learning from mistakes opens up paths to the truth.

    • *Tehsin – That’s very philosophical, and I’m not surprised something deep like this would come from you.

      The last part especially: it got me thinking about what might have happened had I gone through things “like everyone else”: gone to the UK or wherever, came back with a law degree, arrogant as hell, never satisfied with anything – what you mentioned looked like me too.

      *Pak Idrus – Insyaallah. Now I feel even more sure that I must do that. I’ve realised that there are some things that I had assumed “everyone already knows”, since I do. I was surprised when people said they had learned about something after reading about it here. Helping people understand drug addiction so that some of them would then take the knowledge to another level – maybe that’s one of the reasons why God has given me this tenure on earth?

      *Noor Azman – you of all people would know how it all went. Between one person and another, the variations are only in the timing of when they happened – things like denying the addiction, of when it’s no longer possible to do so, the embarrassment members of the family had felt…

      I’ve just remembered something (this is one reason why some … See Morethings need to be written – it helps to crystalise the thoughts) – “Self-centred, selfishness, not thinking nor caring much for others’ feelings” – these were the traits that had contributed to some of my negative acts.

      *Hanie – Applaud for… being an arrogant, selfish twerp?:-) Thank you for the encouragement. It makes it easier to have the courage to see things as they were and not to whitewash them away and denying their ever happening.

  3. Mat, what says you if this man..Apparently, his wife knew his activity as an addict (more to social user)and she also believe his cutting mission..or should i say it was his 3rd time trying to ‘cut forever’!! The different is now he wanted to make this time to be a successful attempt..wot’s your advise to this man to help him…

    • @chulalongkorn – If you ask others, they might have a different view and opinion. This is *mine*, for what it’s worth.

      This matter of “3rd time” trying to stop – Don’t feel discouraged (if this is your own effort), or look down on another (if he had ` failed’ previously). It might be 3rd, 30th or 300th… NEVER MIND! Just look at the *present*; the latest attempt..Just carry one as if the previous ones didn’t happen. And anyway, even if it’s the 3rd time, why look at the previous two as ” failure”? The EFFORT taken, and THE CLEAN TIME -these are to be applauded. My stance and view is this – What a person is DOING NOW is the most important of all, not ” the past”.

      One very important attitude/viewpoint – Why put unnecessary pressure and make things so very difficult by “trying to cut FOREVER” – How long is this?..a million years?..or two days?:-) There is merit to what the good folks at Narcotics Anonymous practise with their One day at a time philosophy: Just cut/stop FOR ONE DAY, TODAY and not having to think about tomorrow, next year and next decade. “JUST FOR TODAY I will focus only on my recovery… I’ll deal with TOMORROW when tomorrow comes”.

      • thank you Mat. i’ll do this 3rd mission onnce and for all.i had enough and i really want to end this madness!!
        What do you think of ‘Methadone’? i used it to accomplish my mission. i have my own supply in my fridge which i take it everyday. Because i couldn’t cut if i don’t have that..although i knew, we can also ‘cut’ if we devoted ourselves to Allah..that’s true..i’m not deny it. it’s just, know my ‘iman’ was not strong enough to ‘cut’ without ‘Methadone’

  4. See?..this is one aspect that we often confuse ourselves – with terms and categories, which takes our addiction away from the spotlight and make it less important.

    I fully understand it when you mentioned “social user”, which is different from “street user”. This was where I came from, although I didn’t hang out on the streets, unless forced know, like waiting for some pusher to turn up, or waiting for some acquaintance to find the stuff, which may take HOURS. Sometimes it would have been “weeks” if you had waited – the guy had just `kencing’ (ripped off) you.

    Bro, consider this – “social user”, which implies “not as heavy and regular use as a street addict”. But still having to take methadone…:-) Which means “addicted”, plain and simple, right?

    From my experience, it doesn’t really have to do with the quantity consumed, although more will mean a harsher withdrawal, of course. Someone on `only’ a straw tube a day need not be better than one on the equivalent of 10 tubes.

    Why? Because the latter could still afford it better than the former on only one – heck, he had to strive all day long to get this one tube!

    “Maybe he did it on purpose..he was controlling his usage?” HAHAHA! You know about this `control’ thing, right? YOU CAN’T, period. Maybe for a few days, yes. But no more. The only reason why he takes a tube is because… he can’t get more.

    As for my opinion about methadone. Some people will say, “It’s an opiod – synthetic product that emulates opiates. So it’s a drug too”. They are right. But then, Panadol is a drug too:-) They are the conservatives who insist that no substitute is used for a person coming off heroin/morphine..Even if it’s monitored by a doctor.

    Yes, there’s merit to coming off drugs cold-turkey. And I’ve done it DOZENS of times (yes, that many)..and I didn’t die! BUT not once did I do that voluntarily – it’s solely because I didn’t have methadone or anything. So I’d just lie down to wait out the days..And suffer. Fortunately, most of those withdrawals weren’t too severe, as in “I think I’m going to die!” (don’t want people to wrongly think it “was okay”. It wasn’t okay, believe me).

    This matter about methadone – let me just say this: Firstly, I’m happy the government has allowed methadone to be used for the treatment of addiction. BUT that doesn’t mean I support it. My belief is this – Let each individual decide.…Because it’s HIS life.

    At the same time, we must educate ourselves on pros and cons – we owe it to ourselves to decide the best for us, in everything.

    In 1998, I was using morphine heavily. And IV (injection) too. How heavy? One lork, which is the cylindrical plastic container often with a yellow cap with morphine weighing about 2 grams, lasted only three days. It was RM120 then (now I think it’s RM600 or so – something that was only RM60 in 1993 when I had relapsed).

    At that rate, I was sure to hurt really bad during withdrawal. I had tried to stop several times – I knew that if I could make it past three days when it peaked, then I would be able to go all the way. It’d still be with pain and aches and the mental torment for a week or so after that. But it’s downhill from here onwards.

    For those who’ve never been addicted to opiates – and remember to give thanks to God for this – three days doesn’t seen like much. And many have been very sick with cold and fever before for a week, and you’d remember the agony.

    But the agony from drug withdrawal – although it does share similarities – is different in these crucial aspects:

    i. The mental torment, which isn’t present in fevers. This psychological factor is so powerful. Someone with a fever knows that he’ll just have to sit it out even if his treatment costs RM10,000. But the addict in withdrawal knows that if he takes a morphine injection, all the pain and aches and torment will be magically gone in less than 10 seconds! BTW with me, just the thought of this was enough to make me vomit – the choking type of vomit where you feel your guts would come out.

    ii. It’s 24/7 of agony – time is measured in SECONDS, and I’m not exaggerating here.No matter how bad a fever, you’ll always manage a few hours of respite in sleep. Not with withdrawal – at the most, it’s for only a few minutes. You’ll wake up with a jolt; either feeling so cold or so hot… which would then become the opposite! You might even cry out of self pity..and because of the real pain and torment. A RM10 short straw of stuff will immediately `cure’ it. So what’s your call? Brave it or give up? Oh, it’s just the FIRST day, and things will get worse…

    It was during the 1998 World Cup. After yet another failure, having suffered one-and-a-half days, I rushed out to obtain the stuff.. and obtained an immediate relief.

    That day I was in tears after that. I really wanted to stop, and I knew that if I had some methadone, FOR SURE I’d have managed it. It was exasperating, sad, feeling alienated by the society/the government that wanted me to suffer by not permitting methadone. I finally stopped near the middle of 1999. I ran out of money..bone dry, didn’t know where to find even RM10 per day.. with a broken spirit, not wanting to live or to try whatever – I just laid down and not care…

    So, this is my very long opinion to the very simple question about methadone:-)

    • yeah..long explanation indeed. true enough to fix my problems in many sense, really appreciate it worst fear of ‘gian’ is when you couldn’t swallow your own ‘air liur’.

      Thanks again Mat…

      • Mat, i’d like to take an opportunity to wish you Happy Nnew Year 2010. May the year bring you lots of good moments and happiness. As for me, i wish to live my life in a healthy lifestyle with my wife & three kids after living in hell then..and by the way, i’m also proudly revealed that i’m from Kelantan, Kok Lanas to be exact location of my ‘kampung’.

      • That’s quite unexpected – you being from Kelantan too. Anyway, it’s great that you acknowledge the pains brought about by addiction, which aren’t limited to the addict alone but will affect those closest… the innocents.

        One of the things that addicts tend to do is to minimise their usage – always fooling themselves that they “are still okay…”. To `prove’ this, they’d compare themselves with addicts who are in worse shape than they are. Now this will be an unending situation, for no matter how bad your situation is, there is bound to be someone worse.

  5. Mat.. I d reached the 56 marked,a very old man for anything at all.I started heroin in 1973/form six n remained addicted for another 30 over yrs.I lost everything except my family who remained faithful n believing that I could be normal again one day. True enough Mat that one day do really appeared n remained until now. I do not know what to say to others for this going in n coming out is just too personal one has got different story to be told.TQ n CU

    • @nancob – Thank you for your comment. I had seen this on Saturday night, and I had spent quite some time thinking about it. In fact, I had started a new post to continue with this one for I was struck with your last line on each one “has got a different story to be told.” And your story of being addicted for 30-over years, must be a fascinating one indeed.

  6. Mat,

    ,,,Selamat Tahun Baru…in a few more days !! haha.

    ,,,you can change our life and only you can heal yourself too.
    ,,,I always believe that incurable means “curable from within oneself”
    ..just focus on good health, very simple..not a big secret yaa !!



  7. Dear Sir,

    I am currently working in a local University and would like to organise a drugs awareness seminar for our students, sometime around March 2010. A representative from the Royal Malaysian Police Force – Bukit Aman will be coming to speak on the aspects of drugs laws and penalties. I would also like to include the angle and perspective of someone who has experienced what it is like to be dependent on drugs and be willing to share this experience with others.

    Are you representing any organisation at the moment? Please get in contact with me.

    • I thought I had replied but the email apparently didn’t get through.
      Anyway, no; I’m not in any organization right now – at least not actively. There is one organization that I’m familiar with and hold in high regards – PENDAMAI. It is an AADK alumni, and the link can be obtained from the National Drug Agency’s website at

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