He spent his youth in prison, then regained his life. He’s now helping other ‘specials’ with addiction

When asked if he fears falling back into addiction, his answer is “yes and no”. There’s no guarantee against a relapse, but it’s preventable, he says. For him, it is essential to count his blessings and control his selfish behavior.

“If I continue to live my life healthy, take care of my mental health, I won’t relapse all of a sudden,” adds Koh, whose eyes turned yellow and limbs swelled at the height of his substance abuse. such as alcohol, painkillers, sleeping pills and codeine.

One thing he did differently the last time he came out of rehab in 2014 was this: He lived a humble, frugal life for almost a year instead of rushing back to work. , where the stressors would have caused him to relapse.

He also practiced honesty, which was put to the test when he met the woman he was going to marry. The first month after he asked her out was tough. “I couldn’t (tell her everything) what I was going through the first day we met,” he says.

“If you tell a girl you’re a drug addict, she’ll run away. If you tell the person you’re divorced, bankrupt, you can’t even see (how far they run) with binoculars.

It took a month before Koh slowly told her about her past. She did not rush to the exit, and they now have two children.

He was working in sales for a food company when the National Board of Social Services Peer Support Specialist program and role at Nams came up.

In 2017, he seized the opportunity to make the switch. Sufian did the same early last year after nine years working for the voluntary welfare organization that ran the halfway house where he had been staying.

Apart from fatherhood – Sufian has five children aged between four and 18 – the two men pursue their interests. Koh is doing a master’s degree in counseling, while Sufian, who has a degree in social work, runs an outpatient support group with former colleagues on weekends for drug addicts and their family members.

His journey was made possible in part by a society more open to second chances, Sufian believes. “In the past, it was harder for (the community) to accept people like us, but now Singaporeans are quite open,” he said. “I really take (this opportunity) – I cherish it.

“So far (my journey) has really hurt me, but there is no regret in me because it makes me who I am now.”

Hear how Mohammad Sufian Mohd Noor and Thomas Koh are building relationships with recovering folks on Heavy Duty here. This CNA podcast series is about people whose work deals with the dark side of human nature and the life lessons they’ve learned. New episodes Friday.

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