A friend of mine once told me “Everybody fights a battle that no one else knows”. In that, the greatest struggle, is the one we fight within ourselves. I could think of countless reasons why I chose the path I took, growing up a lonely child in a broken but well-to-do upper middle-class family; but none of that truly matters now.

Sure I felt different from the other kids who were into sports, football, cars, girls and all the regular stuff. I had much going for me but I felt like I was scraping the bottom of the barrel in some bored and listless postal code with none of the opportunities I wanted. It doesn’t change the fact that I chose to get high on drugs .

At 13, I started with cigarettes and alcohol. Too young for clubs or bars filled with stuck-up yuppies, I got my kicks getting smashed on cheap liquor with the kids in the ghettos. I learnt then that getting wasted was a good substitute for having to contend with the dull and gruelling realities of life. So when asked to swallow 6 purple pills, I knocked them back without a thought. 20 minutes later I was lying on the ceiling. Not long after, I started smoking marijuana while getting smacked out on street pharmaceuticals every day for almost 2 years after high school. I had no interest in any kind of life or future that the world had to offer and I’d rather have been damned than have anything to do with responsibility.

In spite of my world view, my grades were good enough to get me into college and for reasons I can’t explain, I did surprisingly well. I figured as long as I stayed in school, I would still get pocket money for drugs and other things. After a couple of years, I dropped out due to sheer lack of interest; much to the dismay of my estranged parents. But as fate would have it, I played well enough to get myself into a music school. Since it was one thing I could do well without too much effort, I became serious enough to slow down on the drugs enough to excel at it. Three years later, I graduated with a music degree, got married, had a kid and decided to take a shot at making a life for myself.

So there I was in KL, establishing myself in the music scene; teaching, performing and making enough to pay rent and put food on the table. I always kept a stash of weed to smoke at home. My past experiences led me to believe that I could handle any drug that came through the door. When weed was in short supply, I got into crystal meth-amphetamine, which I had tried briefly once or twice before. Unlike other drugs which put me in a drowsy state of euphoria, it got me cranked. Meth made everything I did seem intensely fun, super smart and spot on. The more I took, the more I liked it. I thought it was amazing until one day I collapsed from lack of sleep after an extended run. I thought this too would pass like it always did, but after 4 days in bed and staggering around, I realised the hook was in.

For the first time in 16 years of recreational drug use, I felt the pain of withdrawals. I could no longer think or even walk straight without it. I needed it constantly just to feel normal. Eventually I let everything go downhill; I quit my jobs, my wife left with the kids, I gradually lost everything until there was nothing left but me and the drug. Within months I became a recluse, living alone while my mind spiralled down into the bottomless chasm of druginduced paranoia. I started hearing voices and had delusions of people trying to break into my apartment. Without any means to carry on, I left KL and returned home to Kuching where I thought I could gradually kick this affliction on my own. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

In a bid to be gradually weaned off of my withdrawal symptoms, I thought I could manage my usage to gradually reduce my dosage. This never transpired as my tolerance grew to the point where I started injecting. For the most part, I kept my addiction hidden from all but a few people, including my estranged family who exhausted their resources in trying to help me. I started getting violent, smashing things in my home to discourage anyone against trying to intervene. Fighting a losing battle, I became convinced I was going to die an addict. One day my wife came and asked me to consider seeking treatment. By some miracle of fate, I was ready to surrender after 8 years of chronic meth use. I was finally sick and tired of being sick and tired.

On March 2014, I checked into the Solace in KK Sabah, a private rehab with a 12-step recovery program, led by a dream team of counsellors and addiction experts, most of whom were ex-addicts in recovery. On my first day, they shared with me their story of how addiction took them to the same hell hole I was all too familiar with. They showed me how the program helped them to regain their sanity. This time it didn’t take much to convince me; the evidence was sitting right in front of me. Here were people once caught in the grip of addiction who were now clean and well. With the same willingness that led me to my first drug, I turned cold turkey and underwent treatment for the next 5 months. Through their guidance and wisdom, I learned more about myself than I had searched for through my years of using.

With my sanity restored, I reflected on the life I had been taking for granted and realized how much I had to be grateful for, and yet I had spent most of my life in self-pity grovelling over things I didn’t have. At that moment, I realised that everything I went through had served its purpose. My suffering was finally over and I could start living my life. I made my peace with God and came to the conclusion that if life was fair, I should be dead. Yet, here I am, grateful to be alive; I have reconciled with my wife and family; I have people in my life who love and care for me; I have reclaimed the life I lost and so much more; I’m playing music again, better than ever. Most of all I wake up each day with no compulsion to use any drug. I’ve a new found hope and gratitude that life is truly a journey worth living.

Alexander Ang Sze Chay is Kuching born and 35 years of age. Profession: Drummer/Musician/ Band Leader of Sumthn’ Like Dat Passions: Music, Herpetology, Herptoculture, Toxicology, Evolutionary Biology Hobbies/Interest: Collector of Snakes, Reptiles, Scorpions, Tarantulas and Arachnids

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