Shine On, You Crazy Diamond – Part 1

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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18 thoughts on “Shine On, You Crazy Diamond – Part 1

  1. dear crazy diamond,

    your facets have such a mesmerising sparkle. must be that natural brilliance polished by a gritty life. ;D

    mat, that guinness stout bit is a new one on me. as serious as the topic is, the way you told it, i couldn’t help chuckling. :D

    btw, h & i were at a hotpot [steamboat in our msian parlance] party this w’end at an irish* friend’s place. i wish i had that guinness story to share.

    *you’re probably thinking how the heck does one square an irishman with a steamboat meal, well i can’t even begin to tell you of all the different fusions found in this crazy town. suffice to say our bud is a bamboo expert and visits asia a lot.

  2. i remember the time when i’d to travel to kl from kangar on weekly basis just to get a packet of heroin for my own stock during my 3-yrs at MIT Arau..what a waste of time but i got no choice. well, i still wonder how i could managed to secretly have my own quiet moments alone over the years.

    • Arau-KL… that’s quite a long way. And every week too. But I understand, in that I know what had driven it. The fear of `gian’ – yes, I know about that very much. It’s good that you are looking at this for what it was; and acknowledging the waste.

      There’s the joy I experienced when I stopped, and when the withdrawal was over. You’ll wake up in the morning, and then remember that you aren’t hooked anymore. And that means you don’t have to use and find the means to continue using anymore. Compare that to the FEAR when addicted – of waking up with the gian coming, and realising you don’t have any stock with you.

  3. Salam… Mat Cendana, I was at this time at Leng Kang around 1976 and 1977, actualy the two brother Am dan Kam was my peer, Am was died already and Kam, I was lost conctact already, but i heard he was nice guy rite now. Who are u Mat Cendana.

    • Sorry, I wasn’t aware of this comment until I checked the Dashboard. Sometimes, I don’t get notification of new comments from WordPress.

      Now this is a big surprise! It didn’t even cross my mind that you were from there too; and that you know Leng Kang. You should know what happened to her in 1978, right? I’m reserving that for the next post.

      Am – that must be `Am Cina’. Yes, I knew both of them. They were staying at Taman-something… Taman Habsah? Inallillah… When did Am pass away?

      Me? I’m just a plain `Mat’, although some called me `Che Mat’ there. Actually I look a lot like you!..just add `misai kucing’-type to your picture. People might think we were related:-)

      • I forgot to add about Kam – He was the older brother. And yes, he was a nice person even when he was addicted. That’s the thing about drug addicts – over the decades, I’ve known of many who were BETTER than `normal’ people in many ways. Many were more talented and with better potentials too.

        The drug rehabilitation centres and the money spent by the government for matters related to rehabilitation – you’d sometimes hear people complaining about “a waste”. I’ll write a new post about this in the future; either here or at the other blog. Or maybe to the “Letters to the Editor” section of newspapers when the matter crops up again. But essentially, it is this – How could it be regarded as `a waste’ when human potentials were being addressed and developed?

  4. howdy mat,

    ,,,what is the effect of pill kuda as compared to heroin ? coz. my crew still is on it !.
    ,,,when he is not on his horse ride, his attitude towards work is so negative but when high riding will work is guts out non stop like crazy. in fact, hyper creative too and i have to hold him back from his too many initiatives, half finish most times too, lacking in priorities and bloody mean as times in language with others !!
    ,,,vert taxing too for me to handle some of his changing moods but am a brutal guy so he knows when to stop being funny when my body language plus advise/comment reach a point too. The problem with meself is, 99% am cool but that 1% am totally bloody physical and its the ICU for some that had unfortunately crossed that line ! (sorry, am just being bloody honest yaa)..its my way during the 1% period, no mercy whatsoever and wheresoever and whosoever too. BUT it has produced positive results and failures. The change in mindset must come from within oneself, am just a helping hands..big brother kind off only. The 1% factor keeps command & control in place too. hehehe !!…. scary scary indeed but its for real and they bloody know it too b4 its too late for some !.

    cheers mate,

    Capt.

    • Actually you have already answered the question you had posed about pil kuda as compared to heroin! Pil kuda aka methamphetamine – it makes the user aggressive. Notice the “work his guts out”. It’s legal in some countries where you can buy it with a doctor’s prescription. Some lorry/bus drivers take it to remain alert.

      The `good’ thing about it is that it doesn’t result in physical addiction; in the sense that you will hurt during withdrawal. However, the mental addiction is powerful enough to make you lethargic and dispirited. If there’s a `choice’ here somewhere, I’d much prefer someone to be using it rather than heroin/morphine. Not that I’m saying it’s okay, but only as “the lesser evil”.

      Heroin (and morphine too, of course) – The effect is more subtle. It actually makes one at peace with anything and everything. Results in enthusiasm when doing something, like pil kuda too – minus the aggressiveness. But the withdrawal – I wouldn’t wish it on an enemy.

  5. Thanks Mat,

    ,,,you gave me the feedback that reconfirmed my take too on subject matter with regards to the lesser devil, for my advise to this guy is, if he ever get back to heroin then its the marching order to walk the plank as far as am concerned. Period !
    ,,,what about their inner urge to steal ?. Since most of them have had some experience in taking things without permission in-order to get the money to support their addiction !.
    ,,,in this case, he is well paid for the job on the island and everything else are being cater for. In fact, money is the least of an issue and I make sure that its catered for accordingly with bonus for term breaks/holidays. The only issue is that once he is back on the main land, he will finish off all his hard earned cash within one or max. 3 x days !. That is beyond my control but very stupid of him-lah.
    ,,,my concern is does his ‘stealing’ mindset still very strongly ingrained because of his pill kuda habits ?. Can we trust him from engaging in such activities again ?. How would he promised yet lie about it !?. How much trust can we have on such matters, indeed its a personal issue but lets look/view at it in general from an drug addict angle/perspective-lah.
    ,,,tell me more about the ‘mindset’ of such individuals from your close experience with such characters. So that I can have even more appreciation of subject matter too.

    regards,

    Capt.

    • This is a very difficult comment to reply. I had been thinking about the questions since almost two days ago. However, I can’t give answers that I’m confident of, in that I’m “very sure”. So, these are the next best: “reasonably sure”.

      Their “inner urge to steal” – I’m sure you can attest from your own experiences that it’s not limited to addicts. I’ve known people who weren’t addicted to anything – in fact, they are `normal’, respectable – who’d steal “when the object is desirable enough AND WHEN THERE’S A CHANCE” to commit it and get away undetected. In the end, it boils down to each individual’s level of honesty, which is decided by how high (or low) his spirituality is.

      That said, if he’s addicted, then the chances are “he most likely will”. It might be another matter if he’s no more addicted.

      However, even if that’s the case, he might still do it due to another factor – habit… especially when “the chance is there”. Previously, he might do so actively, in that he seeks the opportunities. Now, it might be “passive” – he isn’t looking to do it, but since the chance is there… So, in your situation, make sure of covering this; don’t present him with chances that will test his temptation.

  6. thanks again Matey,

    ,,,indeed ‘if the chance is there’, would be the key factor for this case in time.
    ,,,puts me in a tight spot cos the lifestyle and living on the island is based on one’s freedom with oneself and nature. Morality and honesty is also within the individual which I can’t control on anyone’s behalf.
    ,,,our malaysian hospitality is what makes my houseguests appreciate and value their stay at Capt’s Longhouse on Kapas Island plus indeed the beautiful island itself.
    ,,,but stealing is a crime, and its very hard to tolerate or forgive, which is the main issue with some of my ex-crew members and now having to be extra extra careful!. Its the ‘criminal mindset’ ingrained in some that is again up to them to want to change themselves for the better. Similarly as to their daily battle against drug addiction habits less the withdrawal, I guess !. But they should do it at the ATM from their monthly salary-lah. Plus in this particular case, he is very well paid too.
    ,,,So no good reason to ‘kebas’ anything from anybody indeed.
    ,,,

  7. elviza,

    ,,,indeed,Mat’s writing skill is a gift from God Almighty !. Loves the way he puts it together=lah and its a joy reading his reply too !. So natural yet bloody interesting, every single word like diamond dropping from the sky yaa ! Waaduh hai !! tersangat terror Mat Oii !! keep on writing….(if only I could write like you…hehehe )

    cheers Mat !…congratulation too…salute to you hihihi !

    Capt. (am back on the island for the new season)

  8. Salam sejahtera, Cikgu

    Banyak persamaan jika kita bercerita tentang isu penagihan serta kepulihan. cuma berbeza tempat, masa dan orang. apa pun ikhlas, saya ucapkan tahniah, awak antara yang dipilih oleh Allah, kerana usaha dan kesedaran awak untuk berubah.sayalah manusia yang paling gembira kerana bertambah seorang lagi sahabat yang memahami, dalam perjuangan sepanjang hayat ini, dimana kita tahu tiada jaminan kita boleh kekal bersih.
    Saya mengingatkan diri saya untuk tidak jemu melakukan perubahan & walau pun apa yang akan terjadi,kepulihan adalah keutamaan hidup. Tanpanya siapalah saya.Saya amat bersyukur kepada ALLAH dimana, saya telah diberikan kesedaran untuk berubah walau pun saya telah mengingkari segala suruhannya.sesungguhnya ALLAH itu maha pengampun, maha menyayangi.

    Sahabatku, membaca apa yang awak kongsikan menginsafi diri ini dan membuat saya sedar dari mana saya datang, siapa saya.Terima kasih kerana sudi berkongsi pengalaman walau pun sukar untuk melakukannya.
    …………………………………………….
    1.the way to remain a productive, responsible member of society is to put our recovery first.
    2.I want to live and enjoy life. To do that, I will put my recovery first.’
    …………………………………………….
    ikhlas

    arar

    • Thank you for visiting.
      I’ll try my best to complete the new post about PKAADK Kuantan today. I haven’t closed Windows Live Writer with the ongoing post since yesterday. But right now I have to complete the “cari makan” work first.

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