“I’m not a highly-educated man, but I’m very hardworking. Since I started working at the age of 13, I liked earning money, and eventually liked spending it too. Unfortunately, the money was used on drugs, alcohol and other things I shouldn’t have spent on.
I was 17 when I first took drugs. I tried cannabis, marijuana and eventually heroin and opium. It was done out of curiosity; I didn’t care about the future back then. Knowing that I had money, the drug pushers found my weakness, dragged me down to try different drugs, and soon I became an addict.
I was caught for consumption in 2003 and sentenced to 12 years in prison. It wasn’t a pleasant journey, but I took it one day at a time. The most important thing was that I kept my mind intact and did not take any psychiatric medication to pass the day.
Upon release from prison, I had lost everything as a human being. Both my parents passed away while I was inside, and the fact that I couldn’t take care of them really hit me hard. They went through a lot because of what I did, and I couldn’t be there for them.
I remember sitting down at Changi Village for half a day after my release, unsure of what to do. With no place to stay, I went to a halfway house with the little bit of money I had. It was a hard decision to make. After 12 years in prison, it felt like I was going to another prison.
At the HEB-Ashram Halfway House, I vowed to stay away from my old circle of friends who had the drug supplies. I was weak; the only thing I could do was to stay away from temptation.
I got my act together at Ashram. You have to understand that I went to prison at 38 and came out at 50, so my mindset was still stuck in 2003. It was hard for me to catch up with the times, but they taught me how to use a phone, how to use the…what do you call it? The Internet?
They also introduced me to places like ISCOS where I could get help. Whenever I can, I do make my way down to ISCOS to join their support group. It’s a place where I can exchange ideas with others and perhaps get advice on where I went wrong.
But my schedule doesn’t allow sometimes. Now working as a driver for a transportation service company, I need to fetch the crew from airport or hotel to their vessel. I have to be on standby because the vessel can arrive at any time of the day.
Even though I’m not young anymore, I did some job-hopping to explore my options before I became a driver, and am finally happy with my current job. Although the pay may not be most attractive, I do see the opportunity for growth. My boss is also nice and happy with my work. More importantly, he trusts me.
This is so important for me because let me tell you this; I don’t think employers or the public at large really trust people like us. Even our family members find it difficult to trust us because of our past. After three years out of prison, some people still see me as the same rotten soup but with different ingredients now.
Yes, drugs make people different, but the truth is, when the addicts are clean they are generally good people. Do you know when I realised this? Remember the case of the Iranian twins who needed to be separated in 2003?
Back then, the boys were willing to give away all of their savings to help pay for that operation. We’re talking about money that they took years to save. These people have good hearts; they just made the wrong choices in life.
Everyone makes mistakes, don’t they? But that’s all in the past. These ex-convicts have paid for their mistakes and are on the road to recovery, so why can’t they be treated fairly?” – Rasheed, 52
Mohamed Rasheed is a member of ISCOS.