Former drug abuser in S'pore shares how a misstep at a party led to a five-year battle with drugs

The former drug abuser said that having been through the vicious circle of drug addiction, he wanted to share his story to motivate others.
The former drug abuser said that having been through the vicious circle of drug addiction, he wanted to share his story to motivate others.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - It took Remy (not his real name) just one puff of cannabis to get sucked into the world of drugs.

By the time he was 24, he had already been abusing drugs for three years, and he was caught - for the second time - on his 24th birthday as he was on his way to score more drugs.

"I felt that was God's way of giving me a birthday 'present', telling me to rethink my life and lead a better life," said Remy, now 26, recounting his drug journey to The Sunday Times.

The former addict, who has been clean for about a year, wrote to Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam last week to share his experiences, after reading the minister's response to a United Nations commission's move to reclassify cannabis, also known as marijuana and weed, as a less dangerous drug.

Mr Shanmugam on Thursday (Dec 10) shared Remy's email on his Facebook page.

Remy said he wanted to share his story to motivate others, having been through the "vicious cycle" of drug addiction.

His friends and then-girlfriend had introduced him to cannabis at a party.

"I thought to myself, OK if my girlfriend can do it, why can't I... I could not 'lose out' to her," said Remy.

The next time he was offered drugs, he had no more inhibitions.

"Since I'd tried it once, and there was nothing wrong (then), I thought, OK I'll try it again," said Remy, who was then 21 and serving his National Service in the army.

Soon, Remy started taking it regularly, actively seeking out the high and trying other psychoactive substances like "magic mushrooms" and K2, a synthetic cannabinoid.

"It was something that I had never expected to see myself going through," said Remy, adding that he once believed that he would not try anything other than cannabis, which he regarded as a softer drug.

He was caught by the military police for doing drugs and sent to the detention barracks.

When he got out, he thought about kicking his drug habit, but was halfhearted about it.

"Relapsing was so easy when it was all around you," said Remy, who continued to hang out with his group of drug-abusing friends.

The second time he was caught, he was with his friends on his birthday when they were stopped at a regular police road block. One of his friends had drugs on him, and Remy tested positive for drugs.

He was sent to the Drug Rehabilitation Centre for medical observation, and then placed in a two-year direct supervision programme where he had to report regularly for urine testing.

But he had a hard time in kicking the habit. On one occasion, he was questioned and warned by his supervising officer, as he was struggling to keep to the urine testing schedule.

That was his final wake-up call.

"I was very scared, and I told myself no more running, no more pretending that I'm on the safe route to rehab."

He cut ties with his old friends and stopped visiting drug haunts. He also reflected on what drugs had cost him. He had lost his job in a company that organised student camps because of his addiction, and his relationship with his family was strained.

Now a dispatch driver, Remy said he has repeatedly replayed, with regret, the moment where he first said yes to drugs.

Fighting the addiction is a long battle, he said, adding that he had to take it "day by day" and avoid the triggers that would cause him to relapse.

"Having the whole world's support is not enough... You actually have to depend on yourself to get it off you," said Remy.