Johnny, could you describe your younger self and your family background?
My dad used to own a furniture business, and my mom was a housewife. I was not exactly the most obedient son growing up, but I was not involved in any mischief.
How did you get involved with gang activity and drugs then?
When I was thirteen years old, on the first day of my secondary-school life, a group of seniors approached me and asked if I wanted to be a part of their gang. Being in a new environment as well as wanting to belong to a group and have a sense of identity, I said ‘yes’. It was then I started playing truant, smoking and glue-sniffing. I would steal things from the mall — it wasn’t that I couldn’t afford them; my family was rather well to do, but there was a high that I got from it. I also got tattoos on my back.
Every Friday night, we would gather and loiter around the void deck where we drank and smoked. On Saturdays, we would sell newspapers — since it was lottery night, many needed the newspapers to check the winning numbers. That was how we earned our money. Then, we would pool together our earnings, book a hotel room and get high.
What was it like to be high on drugs?
With marijuana, you are still aware of what is going on. There’s a type of marijuana that induces paranoia. For example, when I was high on it, I didn’t dare to cross the street, even though there were no incoming cars or any signs of danger. I was seventeen the first time I had heroin. I hated the experience. I kept vomiting and perspiring, and I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t get hooked though. But three weeks later, when I didn’t have access to marijuana, it became my go-to fix.
I was one of the first to consume ecstasy when it reached Singapore circa 1996. Back then, a pill cost a hundred and twenty-five dollars. Two of my friends and I checked into a hotel, and tried it along with marijuana. After consuming it, one of my friends kept blow-drying his hair, another kept jumping on the bed. I couldn’t stop biting my nails. A week later, while at the karaoke pub, a lady taught us the proper way to do it, which is to blast techno music and shake your head.
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