1993 / 7月
Chang Chung-fang /tr. by Phil Newell
The visit to the drug rehabilitation center was begun with a certain anxiety.
For someone who has never before been in contact with drug addicts, the stereotype is closely connected to that of criminal society, with large dark eyebrows over brooding, threatening eyes leading into a violent, powderkeg personality.
Little did we expect that when we got to the rehabilitation center we would find that the patients were no different from the run-of-the-mill. If it were not for some who had scars from tattoos, knives, or cigarette burns left by past experiences, you could never tell that these were drug addicts just from their appearance.
Forget the past:
The priest told us that it is only by the grace of God that these people have been brought together here. "Can you imagine the state they were in on the outside?"
Each individual has their own story trailing behind them, perhaps tragic, perhaps revolting. Though they differ in character and psychology, they are alike in finding it
unbearable to look backward. They have brought pain to many people, including those closest to them.
There is one thirty-plus male who normally doesn't seem to care about anything. But when you mention his mother. He cannot hold back the tears.
He says that all the members of his family had given up on him, and even his wife had left him. Only his mother was still willing to take him in. "My mother is already 76. She felt sorry for me, and went gray with worry. If it weren't for her I'd probably be dead." His expression as he said this moved me deeply.
Together with everyone else Father Simon Liu recalls his drug-dependent days. At that time he would lie, cheat, and steal daily, victimizing even his friends and family. In the end he was a completely bankrupt character with whom no one would associate. Even after Liu entered the church, his friends and relations still did not believe he had changed. They just figured that "this guy has lied his way into the church to cheat them of money."
From their bald confessions, it seemed to me that these people had regained their humanity that they had lost when they were drug-addicted.Know your weaknesses:
Under the prompting and listening of the priests and missionaries, all the young men and women at the center have become very clear about their own weaknesses.
One girl received a large box of caramels, her favorite candy, sent by her family. I couldn't help but wonder why they spent all that money to mail the candy, and didn't just send money for her to buy it herself. "How can people in our state have money on them? As soon as we get money then there's really a problem!" she explains with a laugh.
Munching on a rather amateurish looking onion cake, one boy says in a satisfied way, "It's enough that people like us have anything to eat at all. On the outside we only thought about taking drugs, and we wouldn't buy a thing to eat even if it was the finest meal you could imagine!"
"People in our condition shouldn't even listen to pop music. All that stuff about feelings and love puts our emotions into turmoil," says one boy. He tells me that he once snuck a listen to the radio and it made him so nostalgic for those stuporous days of his past that he couldn't restrain himself and raced out to get a fix.
When you hear them say one after the other, "people like us" this, "people like us" that.... one feels pained at their apparent sense of inferiority and lack of self-esteem. It was only later that I came to gradually realize the centrality of "self understanding" to those trying to kick the drug habit: It is necessary to know oneself before one can change oneself, and if you want to avoid repeating the same mistakes it is necessary to know your weaknesses.Resist the first bite:
Throughout the visit, what I found most inexplicable is what the attraction is to drug addiction in the first place. Why is it so hard to quit? Probably many people have the same questions.
For one thing, I couldn't identify at all with the feeling of being "stoned," or "high" or "flying" that they described. So I raised the idea of trying that sensation just once for the purposes of writing this story. But they immediately told me, as people who had been there, that I absolutely should not even try, or else I would find it as hard to get myself back together as it has been for them.
At first they too were just giving it a try, then experimenting a little more, until they were addicted. "When I began I was sure that I had everything under control, that I would never get hooked. When I discovered that I was dependent, I really regretted it." This is a very common experience among the rehabilitation patients.
I entered the drug rehabilitation village with a mixture of anxiety and skepticism. When I left my fears and doubts had been swept away. I was instead deeply moved, but also worried.
What moved me was that these people were so willing to fight bitterly within and against themselves. What worries me is that the temptation has not disappeared in the outside world. I know that freeing oneself from addiction is difficult, but I still hope that all those in rehabilitation can soon succeed.