“I was sentenced to six years in prison for drug trafficking and consumption. Ever since my release in October last year, I’ve been going for urine tests once a week. The officers told me I’ll only have to get tested for a year if I continue to make good progress and stay clean.

I first got involved with drugs at 16. There was no Facebook or Internet back then, so I’d hang out at the void deck and make friends. Unfortunately, I got involved with people in the black market. I’d skip school, sell pirated VCDs for money, and even got arrested for rioting.

The first few times I went to prison, I never really thought much about my actions. Maybe it’s because I was always around the same company. I had the same group of friends in jail, and I’d go back to my old ways when I met up with them again after my release.

But everything changed when I lost my wife; she died in a bike accident while I was still serving my sentence. I cried, of course. The officers allowed me to attend the funeral, and for three whole days, they kept me in a cell with some of my closest friends to comfort me.

I was very worried for my daughter as she was only one at the time. Who’s taking care of her in my absence? It was then that I truly realised that I had to change my ways. I had to stop mixing around with bad company, find a decent job and focus more on family.

While I was still serving the remainder of my sentence, my sister had taken her in, put a roof over her head and sent her to school even when she already had six kids of her own. She would also bring my daughter along for monthly prison visits. I’m very grateful for that.

Now that I’m out, my daughter and I are able to really build our relationship. Our first meeting was very weird and awkward, of course. We didn’t really talk much. I’d speak a word and she’d reply with a single word. But I’m happy that she is slowly starting to open up more.

The day before my release, I felt nervous and excited. Nervous because I wasn’t sure I could get a job to support myself. I also knew the world is very different now because everything is so digital these days, and I was worried I’d feel lost.

Luckily, ISCOS had this one-day programme called Project ReConnect to keep us up to date on the way things work now. They taught us how to use a handphone and how to buy things with the cashless machine at NTUC FairPrice. They also helped set up our SingPass.

ISCOS offers training subsidies for courses as well, and I plan to get my driving license next. I’m now working in the logistics department at RedMart, and I think upgrading my skills can hopefully get me a job in delivery, but I think it’s important for me to pass my probation period at work first.

My hopes for the future? I just want to maintain a wonderful relationship with my daughter. That’s why I think it’s great that ISCOS organised a birthday party for her in March; it was a good bonding session for both of us.

I also hope that she excels in her studies and is surrounded by only good people in her life. Stay away from bad friends and drugs, because drugs destroy lives and there is no end to it once you’re hooked. So stay clean, and lead a positive life.” – Normizan, 40

Interview by: Arman Shah

Normizan Bin Mohamed Dahlan is a member of ISCOS.

Humans of ISCOS is a collaboration between The Everyday People and ISCOS, a co-operative that helps ex-offenders in Singapore. Read more here.