Here’s a bit of fact about drug addiction, whose lesson was paid for by blood (yes, really), sweat and tears: If you want to help a loved one overcome physical addiction, do what’s necessary.
If you’re thinking about seeking help from a bomoh (medium), that means you’re looking for the proverbial “magic bullet” – quick, clean, silent without others’ knowing… and then everything goes back to normal; to the time before the addiction nightmare which brought along all those unpleasant and ugly events and incidents. All of these hopes are understandable. However, you might as well come to visit me instead.
“But is your treatment effective?”, you might ask. No, it isn’t. But then, neither is the bomoh’s. Sorry to crush your hopes of what’s possibly the easiest way out. Believe me; I, too, wish the bomoh does have the magic bullet. But he doesn’t… although he’ll still take your money. Based on what I had heard from other addicts and their families, it could be from RM20 to a few hundred to a few thousands… for one bomoh’s treatment or course of treatment. If you come to me, at least I’ll tell you the truth and dash your hopes straight away. This way, you’ll start doing something potentially positive instead of fooling yourself with false hopes.
I don’t really have anything personal against bomohs per se. But I do despise those who cheat. And they know they’ve got an easy target when someone is desperate. What could be more desperate than parents saddened and pained by their children’s addiction; of which they see his/her life spiralling down while “others’ children” go up and up?
And don’t be swayed by the seeming `humility’ some bomohs might display – of openly proclaiming “we can only make an effort… but it is God who Decides whether this will be successful or otherwise”. This is true, of course. However, can this be regarded as really `honest and sincere’ when they know full well that addiction is something beyond their scope?..that the effort made through chants isn’t near enough and in accordance with the usaha or effort to have God Grant the desired results?
CAPTION: Temple Of The King from Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, which played music termed as “Dragon Rock”, was a favourite song around 1977/78. The songs like Sixteen Century Greensleves, Man On The Silver Mountain, Catch The Rainbow and the killer Stargazer had kings, wizards, kidnapped women in dungeons..of the European medieval age. Perhaps the avatar (of a broad sword-wielding, helmeted knight) that I use at Facebook is influenced by this(?)
So, what’s “the correct effort/s” then? If you’d ask me now, I’d say “drug substitution therapy treatment” – mention a bit about this and then direct you to the National Anti Drugs Agency (AADK) for more information; or straight to the accredited doctors nearest to you.
Or, if you feel you’re strong enough (and it’s the addict who should be making the decision here, NOT others; no matter how well meaning the latter are), you can choose to suffer and sweat it out for a week or two without taking any medication.. Except maybe anti-diarrhoea pills, which might help a bit. Or they might not. But if you’re moderately addicted to opiates, you’ll be making frequent visits to the toilet, pills or no pills.
“And what’s the problem with that?”, you might ask? Well, the trips themselves – during withdrawal, you’ll feel a certain kind of tiredness; something like immediately after a cross-country run. And there’s nothing more exasperating than having to lift yourself up to go at 3AM… when you’ve already gone there at 2.30AM!
But it’s not something impossible – you can detox at home, without any sort of medication. This I can attest to for I’ve done it dozens of times, including during medium-heavy withdrawal. The fact that I’m typing this proves you won’t die, although you’ll feel you might. I’ll write a specific post or two about all these another time.
Anyway, back to my aborted attempt to detox at the mental ward in the middle of 1977 – During that time, this drug substitution therapy wasn’t around. There were only two choices: either put up with the excruciating withdrawal – and you’ll feel like dying due to the potency of the drugs then (purer, plus a lot cheaper than now). OR, continue taking drugs. Guess what an addict who is hurting all over, with severe diarrhoea, vomiting and who can’t sleep for two days despite wanting to so badly, would choose? I’d be filled with resentment then, thinking about the neo-conservatives with the power to decide, who refused to allow methadone and buprenorphine treatment in Malaysia…
In early 1978, I was in Upper Six, and would be taking the HSC (A-Levels) [the last year it was in English language in peninsular Malaysia]. Besides the five `usual’ subjects, I had decided to attempt English. It was already “a relic of another era” – even a top school that Sultan Abdul Hamid College was/is, it didn’t have a real teacher for this subject! But 10 students out of around 100 decided to take it… initially. However, when the person assigned to teach it was actually discouraging us from doing so, only three remained in early 1978. I was one of them – I was dumping Geography.
Despite being shocked in discovering what “abridged” was – and our textbooks weren’t this but `the real thing’ (candidates can refer to them during the exam; which indicates how tough the Literature paper is) – I felt I had a fighting chance with it compared to Geography. This was the subject I had dropped during the MCE (and risking a `must pass’ for History; which I aced) – I had no interest in things like glaciers, the tundra or where exactly in North America wheat is grown.
As things were, the best result I could have managed was, maybe 1 principle (History) and 4 subsidiary passes… at best. But my studies were getting worse, in parallel with the heroin addiction. There’s the real possibility I would get 0 principle, 1 subsidiary (General Paper) and 4 failures. As with all the Malay students, I had automatically obtained a federal scholarship. But unlike most of them, who had used the bulk of the money on “things related to education”, I had spent the few hundred ringgit on “things related to addiction”; with the pusher Leng Kang getting the bulk. The remainder was spent at the pinball machines at the B.B Amusement Park near the Rex Cinema in Jalan Putera.
But a small portion was spent to good use, which left an impact even until NOW – buying Time and Newsweek magazines – and firmly deciding to become a journalist (at 17, I already understood a lot about the US electoral process – like why winning Texas was more important for a presidential candidate than Kansas, Kentucky, Wyoming, North and South Dakota combined).
According to my father’s assessment, I’d most likely do horribly in the HSC; besides getting into more trouble with a worsening drug problem. Later, when I became more mature, I realise it must have been a shattering decision for him to make – a person who had spent his whole life as a parent until then focused on the main desire to see his children (it later became `grandchildren’) study uninterrupted, do very well in exams, enter universities overseas (or, at worse, University Malaya) and hold respectable jobs as professionals (the kind that requires certification by a specific body).
My elder sister was already overseas studying medicine and my younger sister was doing very well in lower secondary and was expected to follow suit in a few years time (she did). But what alternative did he have when I would only set off to school at 9.30AM practically every day (which started at 7.30AM)… and be back home at noon (last bell was at 1.30PM)?
The class monitor would automatically mark me as “Present”; with “Late” once a week (when it was everyday), just to make the register believable. He had a good reason not to antagonise me. I was with the rowdiest students, all in Form 5 (a few of them were addicted too) – and we had stopped the head prefect once for some subtle intimidation (we were smiling most of the time, “so it wasn’t a threat”). My father most likely had known about these too since he had connections at that school. As a footnote, this head prefect died in a drowning accident a few months later at the crossing in Pumpong.
My father had already tried bomohs – Actually, I’d have been happy to oblige going to a bomoh every week, if he had wanted that. But he had seen how ineffective the `treatment’ was. And the Welfare Ministry refused to accept me again after I had run away (would have been great if the AADK had also done the same.. NO, that would have meant not being sent to Gambang – something I’d have paid for later if asked).
There was only one alternative left – sending me to a private rehabilitation centre. At that time, there was only one of note – Pusat Pertolongan or Help Centre, Batu Gajah, Perak. So, on Friday, 10 Feb 1978, my father and mother enlisted the help of his second cousin to drive us there from Alor Star in his Mazda Capella 1.6 (See pixs below. It was the same colour too). I didn’t really object – for one thing, I was underaged and your parents hold full power over you. Plus I was also getting tired of the routine of slavery that comes with addiction – there’s no `holiday’ when you’re one. Either you go through the hassle of finding money to buy the stuff, and sometimes plus the hassle of waiting for hours when there’s disruption in supply… or you suffer. At the same time, I was apprehensive about what I’d find at Pusat Pertolongan Batu Gajah…
NOTE: If you are impatient to wait for the story on Batu Gajah, read this account by Alan AtKisson from Sweden – a non-addict of my age who was an officer there – titled Return to Pusat Pertolongan.