Raise your hand if you think about drug addicts when you hear the word rehab!
Back in September 2017, we took a visit to a rehab in Petaling Jaya that houses 50 or so recovering addicts. We got a chance to talk to the main coordinator of the centre, Pastor Samual Krishnan (who used to be an addict himself!) and got to know a few people who were going through the recovery programme, a process which takes 2 years! :O
We expected to speak to people who were recovering from drug addiction, because what else do you go to rehab for, right? But we got to talk to a couple of people who, surprisingly, were in rehab for other reasons…
1. The 17-year old video game addict who lived in cyber cafes
John’s (not his real name) parents only wanted what was best for him when they got his brother and him a brand new computer. They thought their kids would use it to study and get their homework done. That they did, but boys being boys, they’d also play a few computer games.
John’s brother always knew when to stop playing computer games, though. John didn’t.
“Both of us will always game together after school. But I don’t understand how come he always can stop. Me, I will always game- I won’t even sleep. I spoiled my biological clock. I didn’t know how to stop.” – John
When he wasn’t gaming on his computer at home, John would go to cyber cafes to play computer games after school, pulling late nights. At school, he was sleeping in his classes– probably something every DOTA player has done at least once, but John’s story doesn’t stop there.
After some time, John started skipping school to hang out at cyber cafes alone, only coming home to sleep and eat. His grandmother, who lives with him, cannot tahan until she chased him out of the house for two days! In that period, he stayed at cyber cafes until he eventually begged his mother to let him back into the house.
John didn’t realise it, but he was starting to show signs of computer game addiction, which is a real thing (!!!) with physical symptoms like restlessness and migraines. People have literally died playing video games! (Spoiler: John is still alive and well, don’t worry)
As John’s problems grew, his parents began to grow more and more concerned. So they resorted to reporting him to the police because they couldn’t tahan him skipping school so much, and spending so much time playing video games :O
Even though skipping school isn’t illegal, running away from home (to go to the cyber cafe) can constitute a missing’s person report, which is how the police got involved. He got caught, and the cops then decided that rehab was the way to go.
“My parents asked [the rehab staff] to ‘kidnap’ me. One day, six guys came to my house while I was watching anime and took me to the centre. I had withdrawals for two weeks and two days, I still remember.” – John
John went from gaming every day to living in a rehab centre where there were no computers in sight. At first, he would stare into space a lot, or talk to other inpatients about games. It’s been over a year now since John first checked in, and he’s doing a lot better.
“At first, I always talked to [some of the other boys] about games, I missed playing games a lot. But now I don’t miss games as much anymore, I don’t even think about games. I don’t think I will go back to playing games.” – John
2. The chain smoker who almost killed his sekolah menengah teacher
Henry (not his real name) watched his father smoke a lot. At 13, curiousity got the better of him, so he got a hold of one of his dad’s cigarette boxes and sneaked a stick out. When he took his first puff, he joined the third of all Malaysian boys aged 13-15 who have smoked before.
In school, he knew friends who smoked too, so he started hanging out with them more and more. Together with his newfound friends, he would smoke after school, sometimes even skipping school to smoke and play computer games at the nearby cyber cafes. He discovered a whole new life through cigarettes, and now he couldn’t stop.
Of course, skipping school = getting into trouble with guru disiplin, which revealed another side to him- anger. Cigarettes were the only thing that could curb Henry’s anger, and yet ironically, the more he smoked, the worse his anger got. But what mattered was that he needed cigarettes, if not he’d become… someone else.
“I used to get very angry. In school, I will throw chairs and tables to people I don’t like. One time I took a pencil and almost stabbed it into my teacher’s neck– people had to hold me so I wouldn’t do it. I wanted to kill her, I was so angry.” – Henry
It came to a point where Henry needed more money to finance his habit, so he decided to work at a flower shop. But because of his anger, he would fight a lot with the people there- not small fights, but fights with fists and knives!
Eventually, his step-mother noticed that he just couldn’t control his anger without the help of cigarettes, so she decided to send him to rehab. Pastor Samuel Krishnan, the rehab’s coordinator, mentioned that cigarettes are usually what’s called a gateway drug, which will usually lead a person to want a drug that is stronger and more powerful.
This is why Henry, who is now 16, plans to stay in rehab until he turns 18 because he still feels like he needs cigarettes some days.
“First I tried to run away from the centre because I missed cigarettes… but now not so much. Some days I feel like I want to go [leave the programme], but I know I’m not better yet. Smoking will not make my life better, it will only make me miserable. I don’t want to go back to the pit again.” – Henry
3. The teenager who was addicted to… being in a gang?
All high-schoolers have a #squad- a group of friends you always lepak with. But for 17-year-old Michael (not his real name), his group of friends were a lot more than just lepak kakis- they were a legit gang! They would offer people ‘protection’ in exchange for money.
“If the person got problem -got people kacau them la- then first we will have a table talk– our gang will go and talk to their gang. If still cannot settle, then we will find a day and go and fight them.” – Michael
After joining the gang, Michael kept getting into trouble with his teachers because of all the fights that kept breaking out. He would get suspended from school for all the fights, and then ironically, skip school- which would get him suspended from school even more! Eventually, a huge brawl at school got him expelled.
“There was a big fight that my school’s CCTV caught. I was throwing a bench at someone from another gang. At first, the CCTV didn’t catch my face, but my teachers went through my Facebook messages and found out that I was involved.” – Michael
Now fresh outta school, he was clubbing, gambling and smoking his gang money away #livingitup. What he didn’t realise that he was spending money that he didn’t have, and ended up owning money to a lot of people- and when you owe gang money, it doesn’t always end well.
With his wild lifestyle causing him to go downhill, his parents decided to send him to rehab, and went the extra mile (literally) to send him to one that was away from his home state of Penang so that he wouldn’t run into his old gang mates.
“If I go back, sure got people will see me one. If people see me [in Penang], sure I will go back to the gang… one you spend time with the wrong friends, you will do what they do.” – Michael
Michael is now studying for his IGCSE examinations in a homeschooling centre (not in Penang, of course!) and is staying at the rehab centre until the two-year recovery programme is up. Michael is worlds away from his old life, and doesn’t plan on returning to it anytime soon.
I like it [in KL] better. All my school friends are good, not like the people in my gang. I can also learn a lot at the centre. I’ve never learnt so much in my life.” – Michael
4. And the 38-year-old social drinker who turned into a 46-year-old binge drinker, losing everything
At 38 years old, Nathan (not his real name) was living the dream. He was married with two kids and just got a new house, along with a shiny car upgrade. The icing on the cake? He had just started a new job… but little did he know, ada udang di sebalik batu, and the job wasn’t all it seemed to be.
“The job I was working, my cousin was like my boss la. So after they asked me to work for them, they cheated me. They paid me only half the salary that they promised to give me during the interview. They also treated me very badly. So I left that job and fell into depression.” – Nathan
Nathan got a new job after that, but he picked up a nasty habit in between. To self-medicate, he’d started binge drinking, going to quiet bars alone after work to drink. Soon, his boss started to notice that he was coming into the office smelling like booze, and told him to resign.
“He told me, I don’t want to fire you, so just resign, go and get clean, and then come back to work. But once I resigned from my work, I just went back into drinking. I couldn’t function without drinking.” – Nathan
Since he was mostly drinking alone, his habit didn’t quite affect anyone… until his wife and kids found out the reason behind his resignation.
“Once my wife found out that I was so bad, she took our kids and left me. I couldn’t take it, so I started drinking, I didn’t stop for a few days. I went hypo (hypoglycemic, where your blood sugar drops below normal levels) and ended up in the hospital for a week.” – Nathan
After stabilising his blood sugar levels, Nathan’s doctors figured that he needed psychiatric help. A few assessments later, it was final- he had to go to rehab. He was so reluctant to go that the night before he went, he still had a few final drinks before having to stop cold turkey during rehab.
“I’ve been here for almost two years. That means I haven’t drank for almost two years also lah. It’s been tough, but being here is teaching me the discipline to stay away from alcohol.” – Nathan
With the recovery programme lasting for two years, Nathan is close to getting out of rehab. He says that it’s his goal to be reunited with his wife and kids, who he’s had no contact with since they left him that fateful day 🙁
“It’s been more than four years since I saw my family. I don’t know where they are, how to contact them, whether they’re even still alive… I haven’t planned much [of what I want to do after I get out], but my main goal is to be reconciled to my family. I want to go back to living a more useful life.” – Nathan
Wah… you can really get addicted to aaaanything!!
If you haven’t watched it before, there’s this show on TLC called My Strange Addiction where people are addicted from everything from eating plastic bags to eating mattresses (yes, the kind that you sleep on). Here’s a video of this one guy who is in love with his inflatable toys.
Crazy, right? What’s crazier is that these people live relatively normal (normal being a subjective term) lives just like anyone else- at least the ones featured on the show. But some people, like the ones we talked to, have addictions that need more help, and have to resort to going to rehab to go through the difficult process of recovery.
From all these stories, we see that addiction AND recovery is tough tough work, with 40-60% of addicts relapsing– BUT what matters is that an addict gets help, because getting help isn’t a bad thing! The rehab’s coordinator, Pastor Sam, encourages people who are caught in addiction to seek help, even if that means going to rehab.
“Getting help is important, even if it means staying in rehab. In the West, rehab is seen as acceptable; going to rehab is a good thing. Here, people don’t wanna talk about it- it’s, like, shameful. It would be good if people here saw going into rehab and getting your life together as a good thing, because that’s what rehab is all about. ” – Pastor Sam