I am Chinese by birth but grew up in Singapore. My earliest memory at the age of three, was of my parents divorcing. It had a profound effect, leaving me with a deep sense of abandonment and loss, and very low self esteem. But I didn’t realise this until many years later.
Growing up in a tough environment, drugs were prevalent in my community. When people were happy they took drugs and drank, and when they were sad or disappointed they took drugs and drank. I was given my first drink of Guinness at the age of five; and was drinking steadily by the age of twelve. By 16, I was taking soft drugs. The drugs felt like comfort.
“When I first came to New Life I was very close to an emotional breakdown”
Around 36 years old I started to dabble with crystal meth, stemming from my father’s death from kidney failure. However I was still a highly functioning person; I always had a responsible job and I had an apartment. Throughout my drug taking days I’d always had supportive, loving partners but in the end my addiction became too much for them to handle. One of my saving graces was that I was very into physical fitness and working out, so I made several attempts to quit drugs and focus all my energy on fitness. But this obsession with looking fit was also motivated by low self esteem and feeling vulnerable, so in the end the drugs always pulled me back because it numbed the pain.
I first came to New Life in 2011 for four weeks. I was very close to an emotional breakdown. I finally started researching rehab centres; and in the back of my mind I’d remembered watching a documentary about Thambrabok monastery in Thailand, which linked to the New Life Foundation.
“I was completely unprepared for how accepting, non-judgemental and supportive everyone at New Life was”
This first visit helped me to really acknowledge that I had a problem and needed help. It also helped me to be honest about my addiction with friends and family. Being a addict has a big social stigma in Singapore. But with New Life’s help I have been able to come to terms with it and not be ashamed. In fact, I was completely unprepared for how accepting, non-judgemental and supportive everyone at New Life was. It felt like ‘coming home’ but not in the sense that I had been used to.
However, four weeks wasn’t really enough time to delve deeply into my problems and six months after returning home I relapsed. In 2012, I managed to get six weeks off work, and despite the relapse was welcomed with back to New Life with open arms. I got clean again, but I remember my life coach saying that piecemeal efforts, i.e. a few weeks here and few weeks there – may not be enough time to unpack 40 years of dysfunction and low self esteem. But he believed in my ability to change and no-one had ever believed in me before.
“I was 40 years old but hadn’t really developed as a person since I was 18”
Eight months later, back at home, I relapsed again when a close friend of mine, a fellow addict, committed suicide. This, coupled with the fact that I hadn’t been able to fully grieve my father’s death, hit me like a ton of bricks. I wasn’t able to really feel anything deeply, walling myself up and alienating all around me. Sometimes you have to hit the bottom to be able to climb out of the hole, and this time I knew I had to take drastic measures. I was 40 years old but hadn’t really developed as a person since I was 18. So In 2013, I quit my job, rented out my apartment and returned to New Life with the commitment to stay as long as it took to address my issues.
The structure and discipline at New Life is an essential framework for me when the recovery process gets challenging. I used to be a huge procrastinator; I never believed I had the fortitude to stick with recovery. But I realised that it takes just as much discipline to mess up your life as it does to straighten it out.
” I learned that mindfulness is about accessing the ‘heart-mind'”
I had no experience of mindfulness before New Life. I learned that mindfulness is not simply about learning to concentrate. It’s about accessing the ‘heart-mind’. In fact, I looked into the Chinese etymology of the word mindfulness, and all words that contain mind or cognition in Chinese include the character for ‘heart’. I feel that the ancient scribes were reminding us that the mind cannot exist without the heart.
The hardest part was having to face myself and all the harm I had caused to family and loved ones. But as with the AA recovery steps, it is absolutely vital to take this kind of moral inventory in order to move forward, as long as it’s done with compassion towards the self.
“The best decision I ever made was to come to New Life”
I’ve now been clean and sober for two years and four months, and I’ve realised that a quiet, even mundane sort of life is a great thing! Life doesn’t have to be a soap opera. I’m not afraid of being bored anymore, not afraid of being with myself.
I decided to stay at New Life as a long term volunteer because I feel very productive here. I also know that I’m still a work in progress, and as such, I couldn’t be in a better place to continue to strengthen all the practices that have been so transformational. I’m very happy living here and supporting the community behind the scenes as a volunteer.
My advice for addicts is this “when you found yourself in a deep hole, stop digging!” The best decision I ever made was to come to New Life, no other experience has been so transformative in terms of my body, mind and soul.
As a non-profit foundation, we are reliant on the support of paying volunteers and the generosity of our donors and supporters. Last year we were able to offer 28 scholarships thanks to your valued contributions. We need 900,000 baht ($25,000) in order to offer 3 full scholarships per month, with the average length of scholarship being approx. 3 months. Please help us to maintain the scholarship program for 2016 by sponsoring a resident.
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