Sunday, June 1, 2008

Recovering From Addiction

The memory of the high when they use is the greatest hurdle for recovering addicts. This understanding may be the key to long-term recovery.

AT 30, Hafizi Harun can still remember in detail how he took heroin when he was in his teens.

“It is difficult to forget the art of taking drugs – the way you roll the foil, the way you light up, or the way you search for a vein to inject,” says Hafizi.

Listening to this without judgment, it occurred to me that he is just describing something that is most pleasurable to him at a point in his life. Just as my mother would describe, in detail, the way her dough rises in the oven when she bakes.

“You miss the ritualistic behaviour that comes with drugs,” says Hafizi. But spending a year in Pengasih rehabilitation centre had changed Hafizi’s life. Even though memories of his life as an addict come back, he has learnt the art of talking himself out of it.

“Overcoming the wanting or craving is the most difficult hurdle for drug addicts who want to stop their habits,” says Mohd Yunus Pathi, President of Persatuan Pengasih Malaysia – a non-profit organisation initiated by reformed drug users in 1987.

Even after stopping drugs for 10 years, it takes only one time of drug use to cause a relapse, says consultant in addiction medicine, Dr Mahmud Mazlan.

“No addict in the whole world wants to be addicted, but all addicts want to use drugs once in a while. That’s why they often experience relapses,” he continues.

But understanding and admitting the possibility of going into a relapse might be the key to Hafizi’s success in keeping clean for about 10 years now.

“I applied what I learnt in Pengasih and used the techniques to overcome my craving,” says the Persatuan Pengasih Malaysia training manager.