Because of your past, do you have more clout when connecting with drug addicts and at-risk youths?
Yes, my team and I are able to share stories with them that they can relate to. Not only that, we help them to realise why drugs are harmful. There is a difference between knowing and realising something. All of us know the laws of Singapore; we know that taking drugs is wrong, and that they bring hurt to our families. Yet, different people can read a poster with the messages “yes to sports, no to drugs” or “drugs kill; drugs destroy” and have different takeaways. We can be fed the same information, but because of our different belief systems, we interpret the messages differently. Addicts see drugs as an enjoyment, because they have tried them and know about the temporary pleasures drugs give them. As such, they don’t necessarily realise just how harmful drugs can be.
When I speak with youths who smoke, I often challenge them to cite one good thing about cigarettes. Just one. I tell them: ‘If you can list just one positive reason to smoke, then please continue to smoke’. And many would say, ‘It’s a stress reliever.’ But I would counter: ‘Even after smoking, you still have to face the stress! The stress does not actually go away. In fact, smoking is bad for health; passive smoking affects other people; you smell when you smoke.’ We help them come to this realisation.
Are there any success stories that you can share with us?
I met this young fellow who came from a well-to-do family. He shared that he was a gambling and a drug addict, and that his family had shunned him after many attempts to help him. I just sat and listened to him pour his heart out. When he was done, I shared with him my own journey of quitting drugs. He said that it would have been easier for me because I took drugs orally, and not via injection like he did. I then showed him my track marks, and he was surprised that I’d managed to quit drugs.
I told him about how God transformed my life, and he didn’t want to hear it as he was an atheist, so we left it at that. Three months later, he called and asked if he could come and see me. I said, ‘sure.’ But he did not turn up. Another call came one month later, and again he did not show up. Six months later, along with his guardian, he finally did and said that he was in need of help. I learnt that he had a girlfriend and a daughter, both of whom were estranged and in Korea. He was very worried about them, and I could tell he missed his own flesh and blood very much. And so I made an exception, and allowed him to make a phone call to the two of them. This was a weight on his shoulder that needed to be removed — any efforts to quit drugs would be futile if he was constantly worried about his family.
Eventually, the family flew his girlfriend and daughter to Singapore, and we spent a month making wedding arrangements. My wife and I were the wedding coordinators. He got married, and was reunited with his family. In the beginning he was rather resistant, and I had to reprogramme his thinking. His entire journey took two years, and I’m very heartened that he is today attending bible school.
What would you say to drug addicts who want to extricate from their predicaments?
There are three aspects you must change: your mindset; friends; and environment. Are you tired of your current life? If so, you alone have to make the decision to change it. And until you try new ways to quit drugs, you will just keep slipping back to your old habits. Secondly, friends. There is a saying: “Bad company corrupts good character”. Your friends influence your behaviour — if they take drugs, you too will take drugs. Find friends with whom you share a common passion. And finally, environment. I used to go parties and hit the clubs, and at every turn there was a smoker. It triggered my desire to smoke. If you want a breakthrough, you have to change all three aspects.