'N' Level student-inmate from Tanah Merah Prison
Have you ever reflected on the decisions that you have made in life? All the paths you have chosen, all the obstacles that you have faced, all the people you loved or hurt? It can be a truly overwhelming experience.
Like most youths growing up in Singapore in the 1980s, my early years were structured around family, friends and school. However, the first major junction in my life’s journey came about when I was sent to the Australia, at the age of 15. As I was there alone, I had to decide whether to adhere to my family’s hopes and expectations, or submit to the allure of new found freedom.
Taking the easier path, I set out to indulge in all the offerings of this new land. Giving free reign to my senses in the land Down Under, soon, alcohol and cigarettes became part of my daily life. As school slowly became an afterthought, I started experimenting with drugs. Pills, mushrooms, LSD and weed; mothing was too exotic which eventually set me down a slippery slope towards the abyss.
Even after returning to Singapore, my drug use was not left behind in Down Under. Hiding behind the façade of a decent job, I soon graduated to heroin and methamphetamines as I was constantly chasing the next trip to nirvana, even if I had to suffer hitting the nadir of paranoia and desperation, as the effect of the substance wore off. I just could not let this poisoned manner go.
My addiction reached a point where I no longer cared about the people around me. Just as the cannibals of New Guinea fed on their kin, I fed on the emotions and feelings of my family and loved ones as I continued down a slope, that if I slipped, I might never be able to climb up and out.
In October 2009, I finally slipped. In order to pay for my growing addiction, I started trafficking as long as the money was right, any drug or weight was acceptable. This came to a crushing and when I was arrested with 1.3 kg of heroin. With a mandatory death sentence for anything above 15 grams, I knew this was the end. Whenever I closed my eyes, I would see myself on a platform, with a hood over my head and a noose around my neck. This image haunted me for sixteen months.
February 2010, just as I was going over the edge, I caught a rock. This rock was the news that if I pleaded guilty, I might be given a lighter sentence. Agreeing to the terms, I started a new journey as an inmate, with a jail term of 22 years and 8 months.
Prison gave me a lot of time to reflect on my journey in life so far; every action, word and broken relationship. More fortunate than most, in my family never gave up on me, my friends accepted me.
“There is still a chance!” I told myself.
Nowadays, my family, every friend and stranger that came into my life, telling me not to give up, are like rocks embedded on the slope I had fallen down from. They give me the courage and persistence to pull myself up again, and journey towards a clean and safe life. As Shira Tehrani said, “You can’t do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth.”
Maybe, my life’s journey will one day encourage another person, just like me, to not give up even when you fall.