The Turning Point in the Life of a Drug Addict
By Lam Ka Chun
During the years 2007–2009, I was in a very bad place. After years of substance abuse and failed attempts at recovery, I was contemplating suicide. I planned to take heroin on the roof of our house, pass out, and fall off the building. The plan partially worked. I fell off the building onto a stone railing, but I did not die. Another time I attempted to secretly overdose in the bathroom, but my mother found me and, in terror, pulled the needle out of my arm, thus saving my life. Thankfully, my mother had already met Jesus or else she may have died from grief.
Unhealthy Formative Years
I grew up in an environment where both my parents indulged in the vices of drinking, smoking, and gambling. We were a moderately well-off family in Hong Kong. My father was a driver and my mother made garments at home and later worked in insurance. I had two half-brothers.
When I was in Primary Four in school, I started smoking, disrespecting teachers, and acting out. Later, in secondary school, I stole chocolates from supermarkets during lunchtime and sold them back to schoolmates to have money to buy cigarettes. Since I had never been caught, I became bolder. During summer vacation in Form Four, I was supposed to attend supplementary tutorial, but instead forged a letter from my parents claiming that I had to travel with my family. When the school found out that I was actually working at a warehouse, they ordered me to voluntarily drop out.
So, I left school when I was 17 years old. I was rather sad leaving, because I would not be able to attend the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination the following year. Feeling helpless, I got a job at a café in a hotel. But because I was impatient and quick-tempered, I argued with my colleagues and was fired by the manager after half a year.
Led Astray by Substance Abuse
While working at the hotel, I tried taking cannabis for the first time. Later, when I was 18 and got my driver’s license, I started working as a truck driver and took cannabis with my peers. One of them was younger than me by two years, had been taking heroin for a long time, and was sentenced to a drug rehabilitation center. After his release, I tried advising him to stop using heroin. But my attempts to scold him or even threaten him were fruitless. Out of curiosity at what made heroin so attractive, I started taking heroin. It made me sick at first, but seeing how ecstatic he felt after taking the drug, I did not want to let it go, so I took it again and again. Soon I became solidly addicted.
Eventually, I became such a wasted mess that I could not even work and had to spend $100 to $200 on heroin every day. I stole money from home whenever I didn’t have an income. My father would put red packets of money underneath the mattress and, year after year, he saved up huge piles of red packets. I would sneak in and steal them one after the other. I also stole from others—even the gold jewelry that my brother’s daughter received when she was one month old. In the end, my family found out what I had done, and I became despised by them.
Probation and Rehab, Time after Time
When I was 20 years old, I got caught stealing for the first time, and drugs were found in my car. I had to go to court and pay a fine. The second time I was caught, I was sentenced to probation. But I breached the probation order, and later when I was caught robbing, I was sentenced to three years of probation. Then when I breached the probation order yet again, I was sentenced to the rehabilitation center of the Au Tau Youth Centre.
After my released from the Au Tau Youth Centre, I was clean for only three months before I took drugs again. This time the probation officer sent me to a longer rehabilitation program provided by gospel drug addiction treatment centers. I went to St Stephen’s Society for Rehabilitation, but before long, I escaped, continued to take drugs, and was once again arrested for breaking probation.
At this point, I chose to go to Ling Oi Centre (the center that I am serving at now), and later was sentenced to Hei Ling Chau Addiction Treatment Centre, the government facility for adult addicts. I was 21 years old. In three years, I had gone into rehab five times. Two times, I was arrested and sent in. The other three times, I was sentenced by my probation officer for taking drugs again.
When I was sentenced to rehab for the fourth time, I saw how heartbroken my family was. On the day I was released from prison, wanting to please my mother, I voluntarily went to Ling Oi Centre for rehabilitation so that she would see how I had been changed and tamed after spending time in prison. I really did change somewhat and was able to remain clean for a year and a half without a relapse.
In 2002, when I was 25 years old, I left Ling Oi Centre and worked as the manager of a bar. Although I did not use drugs, I kept drinking. We had a lot of customers and business was good. Later, I was asked to manage another bar. One night, my friend asked me to go to a disco for karaoke and cutting cake (which means taking drugs). The people there were already using drugs before our arrival. They said to me, “Take it; it’s just cannabis. You will be fine just this once.” I thought that since I hadn’t used drugs for over a year, I wouldn’t become addicted again after this one time. So, reasoning that it would be just like smoking, I took it. Then someone handed me some new stuff, and I took that too.
Sinking Lower and Imprisoned
By 2006, I had fallen very far, had to give up my jobs, was penniless, and dared not go back to my family home. I had always thought I could rely on myself for everything, that I could get away with everything. I had fallen so low that I was robbing people on the streets. I sold drugs too. Wherever there was money, I used all means possible to get to it. When I got caught at my last job, I was taking both methadone and drugs. This time I was arrested and sentenced to the Pak Sha Wan Correctional Institution for one year.
After my release in 2007, for a time I attended the services at the E.F.C.C. Causeway Bay Tung Fook Church with the brothers that taught the Alpha course in the Correctional Institute. What a pity that I started taking drugs again and gradually stopped going to church. I fell back once again into the dark pit of drug addiction.
Every time I tried to quit drugs, I relied only on myself. I would think to myself: after I get out, I will never take drugs again, and I will find another job. However, whenever I came to certain junctures and had bad experiences, my mood would sink low, and I would turn to drugs again. I had promised my mother that I would abstain from drugs, but I did not make good on my promise. When I could not stand the withdrawal symptoms, I stole to buy drugs and broke her heart. I was helpless and in much pain.
When in prison, I finally realized that I could not rely on myself to quit drugs. Because the will of man is weak and easily tempted, I could not persevere without strength from Jesus. Just as Paul said, “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Romans 7:18).
Faith Changed My Life
In 2009, I made up my mind to participate in the gospel drug rehabilitation program organized by Ling Oi Centre. This time, I was devoted to the faith and wholeheartedly relied on Jesus. The drug rehabilitation village provided us with a timetable for designated spiritual formation periods. I took the program very seriously and would often read the Bible in the tool room. One time, a verse from the scripture deeply touched my heart, and I knelt down and prayed to God, “Oh Lord! I am a sinner. Please help me. I have tried to quit drugs 14 times relying only on myself, and I have failed every single time. I now know that to succeed, I must rely on you only.” After this prayer, I freely admitted my sins and repented of them and felt certain that God’s saving grace was upon me. That prayer was the turning point of my life!
When I first went to Ling Oi, the center had already been providing counselling for family groups. My mother was invited to join and heard the gospel for the first time. At first, she told me, “Son, I am only listening to the gospel for you.” Yet, after three months, she told me, “I’m not listening to the gospel for you now; I’m doing it for myself.” Thanks be to God! After listening to the gospel, she gradually found faith and was baptized in Chai Wan Baptist Church. Afterwards, she stopped smoking and playing mahjong, and only drank occasionally. She even started serving at church and introduced a pastor to me.
Seeing the changes in my mother after she came to know Jesus, I thought: “If my mother can change, why can’t I?” I realized that I could not restrain myself. So, like the prodigal son, I decided to return, repent fully, and quit drugs with the help of Jesus. My rehabilitation had spanned 15 years, during which time I had been in and out of rehab centers, correctional services institutions, and prison, trying to quit drugs!
The Ling Oi Centre had a new venue uphill from the beach, and a lot of Christian organizations brought guests to visit. Whenever they came, the social workers would ask if any of us wanted to share our testimony. A social worker encouraged me, “You’ve had an amazing life. Try sharing your testimony!” So, I told my story for the first time. I was very nervous but also deeply touched by the experience. The following week another group came to visit, and I wanted to share my testimony again, but I didn’t want to be in the limelight too much, thinking I should let others have a go at it. Yet, no one was willing to share. So, again, the social worker called on me. From that time, I began sharing my testimony as a way to serve in the village. I even taught others—albeit not very professionally—how to share their testimony. During my nine months at the Center, I was able to share my testimony a dozen times.
In 2009, after finishing the drug rehabilitation program, I moved to the Center and cooperated with the sisters from Barnabas Charitable Service Association. I also participated in the Beat Drug Master Ministry and received official training in giving a testimony. As there were not many male Masters, I gave my testimony 57 times in one year. Through sharing my testimony, I experienced God’s grace and His presence. I often reminded myself not to become complacent, get carried away, or be full of myself. At all times, I needed to bear in mind that I was telling my testimony to glorify God.
God Granted Me a Good Companion
During my time at the Center, I grew in faith; God changed me and renewed me. I prayed that God would give me a companion who pleased Him. Nine months earlier, I had met Chan Ying Yum, a sister in Christ whom I did not see again until April 20, 2010, when I accompanied a brother to give his testimony at Chuen Yuen College. That day, she also shared her past experiences that she was not proud of, and I was deeply touched by her testimony. Her life had been difficult and lonely, and her upbringing was much tougher than mine. Yet, God had amazingly renewed her life!
Nine months passed, and we met again at the Methodist Retreat Centre in Mui Wo, where we both were giving our testimonies. God was working in curious ways to bring us together. So, we started dating and going to church together. Although we were very different, we were compatible and complemented each other. Our marriage is truly God’s amazing arrangement. We understand each other, communicate well, share and exchange our views, and support each other. And we cherish the family we have built together.
After I Found Faith
After surrendering myself to the Lord, my life changed in big and little ways. One drastic change was that I stopped lying. The scriptures showed me the importance of honesty. I also stopped swearing and became less quick-tempered. I used to be very competitive and relied on myself for everything. But now I know that even when I am in a bad situation, God is with me. He showers abundant grace on me every day.
Besides changing my life, God also led me to serve in Ling Oi Centre and gave me a chance to study theology. Tung Fook Church graciously paid for my tuition, and when I was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in theology, my tuition was sponsored by another person. I have deeply experienced the abundance of God’s provisions and His amazing grace. Whenever I receive my salary, I think of tithing, the duty of all Christians to give back a small portion to God for His goodness to us. Actually, we should give more! We should surrender our entire lives to God and faithfully serve Him!
*Lam Ka Chun was interviewed by Yu Wong Kwok Hoi, who collated his story. It was first published in Chinese Today, Issue No. 722 (June 2022) and was translated into English by Kiara Ngai.