Moving On / Letting Go
Participant from Tanah Merah Prison
“What?! Are you sure? Think about your reputation, man. You don’t need to do this if you really want to change.” Those are the words that played like a broken tape recorder every time I asked my fellow inmates, especially my would-be-now ex-gang members, for their opinion on my participation in the gang renunciation programme.
I have been a member of a secret society group since my school days. Many of my gang members are also my childhood friends. The bond we have built among ourselves was a formidable one, forged by the sacrifices we made for one another over many defining years of our lives, we would never hesitate to take a hit for other in fights and we never fail to turn up when trouble comes knocking.
The camaraderie that I felt within my gang was indeed the toughest obstacle that was refraining me from letting go of my gang affiliations. My gang is the only organization I know where I belong and where I would never be prejudiced for my long criminal and incarceration history. Moreover, my gang was the one who provided financial support and supplemented my income for as long as my career life goes, albeit via unlawful activities. Indeed it was through them that I managed to cultivate a “healthy” network of drug traffickers, which had allowed me to earn tens of thousands of dollars by hardly breaking a sweat. Yes, the money actually provided me a good life, but it was also a life full of debauchery. The phrase “easy come easy go” had never held truer for me as I splurged my not so hard-earned money on drugs, alcohol, women, clubbing, gambling and all other vices that crossed my mind.
So how could I move on with my life without severing ties with the people who were almost like family to me and destroying the only source of income I had ever known? In addition, with the negative feedback I am getting on my plans to renounce my gang affiliation, all this business of letting go and moving on has become an absolutely daunting task for me. If I add the stigma I may face from my “own people” and the random veiled threats that I received, letting go and moving on has become anything but possible.
Therefore, it became the most tumultuous period of emotional struggles that I ever had in my life. On one hand, I wanted to break away from my former life and start clean. However, on the other hand, I was so afraid that I fail again, and this time I would not only lose my freedom but my closest friends and the life that I only knew. I had to dig deep inside the recesses of my heart for the strength to overcome this dilemma, but I guess my supplications were answered when somehow, I felt God pointed the direction for me.
When the day for my renunciation came, I was filled with apprehension. It was not the least that I have to stand in front of all the teachers, officers and inmates to renounce my renunciation, but I was more afraid of what would come after it. Fortunately, the response I got was much better than I expected, especially when the same people who discouraged me in the first place came up to congratulate me. Maybe they were afraid like I was too, but I found out that sometimes you have to face up to your fears before you could let go and move on.