Help­ing oth­ers beat the drugs scourge

For­mer ad­dict nearly lost ev­ery­thing to heroin, but now works as a psy­cho­log­i­cal coun­selor

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By ZHOU WENTING in Shang­hai zhouwent­ing@chinadaily.com.cn

Gu Ying’s big­gest re­gret in life is wast­ing 20 of her best yearssub­merge­d­i­nawhirlpool of heroin abuse.

The 45-year-old lost her free­dom, hap­pi­ness and wealth as she bur­dened her rel­a­tives and friends with her ad­dic­tion.

But af­ter many mis­steps, she fi­nally got clean and be­came a psy­cho­log­i­cal coun­selor at the Shang­hai Sun­shine Drug Re­lapse Preven­tion Med­i­cal Cen­ter, a pri­vate non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that helps drug ad­dicts and their fam­i­lies.

A stage play adapted from her story, in which she played the lead­ing role, was per­formed dur­ing a Na­tional Nar­cotics Con­trol Com­mis­sion con­fer­ence in Shang­hai last month, and Gu said her dream is to turn it into a movie.

“I hope none of the younger gen­er­a­tion ex­pe­ri­ence what I ex­pe­ri­enced. It was com­plete hell. Don’t ever chal­lenge the weak­ness of hu­man na­ture and don’t be silly to be­lieve that you can con­quer what oth­ers can­not,” said Gu, a Shang­hai na­tive.

Her story is made all the more im­pres­sive as, ac­cord­ing to the com­mis­sion’s sta­tis­tics, more than 85 per­cent of those who aban­don a drug habit af­ter two years of com­pul­sory re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion re­lapse within a year.

Gu, a part-time model from age 15, first ex­pe­ri­enced drugs when she was 19 and her boyfriend of­fered her some white pow­der that he said could help re­lieve in­som­nia and stom­achache.

“There was lit­tle pub­lic­ity about nar­cotics back then in China and none of us knew what they were. We used the pow­der ev­ery­where, even in front of par­ents and po­lice of­fi­cers,” she said.

Grad­u­ally Gu re­al­ized some­thing was wrong. She had sold a 100-square-me­ter apart­ment and all her jew­elry to feed her drug habit, while her boyfriend had spent more than 2 mil­lion yuan ($295,000) on nar­cotics, she es­ti­mates.

Things came to a head fol­low­ing a

“He sold my fa­vorite mink coat, which was worth more than 40,000 yuan back then, to buy more drugs,” she said.

“Drugs are so hor­ri­ble. They changed the man I loved and made me pen­ni­less. I left him, and booked­my­self into a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion clinic.”

Re­cov­ery was not easy. Over the fol­low­ing three years, Gu spent 15,000 yuan — al­most two years’ salary for an av­er­age res­i­dent of Shang­hai at that time — on sev­eral 10-day re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cour­ses. But each time, she was us­ing again as soon as she was out.

“I be­came a model be­cause I wanted to be wealthy and let my mother live like a queen, but I be­came a bur­den on my par­ents,” Gu said.

In des­per­a­tion, she at­tempted to take her own life three times. The third at­tempt saw her in­ject what should have been an over­dose of heroin in a house she had rented that none of her fam­ily knew about, to pre­vent them com­ing to her aid.

But af­ter two days, she woke up. “Even to­day I still don’t know how I sur­vived,” she said.

Im­bued with a new re­spect fight with her boyfriend. for the sanc­tity of life, Gu checked her­self into a com­pul­sory re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­ter, where she stayed for a year and a half.

“The staff there just gaveme a lit­tle chair to sit on and I was trem­bling all over. I never imag­ined I could make it,” she said.

But make it she did, and now Gu is on call around the clock to help other ad­dicts. She par­tic­i­pates in ses­sions at high schools and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­ters reg­u­larly, to warn young peo­ple about the dan­gers of drugs and per­suade cur­rent users to turn their lives around.

“For me, drugs are like an ex-lover­who­broke­up­withme peace­fully and has trav­eled far away. And I don’t re­sent my ex-boyfriend ei­ther. I hope he’s liv­ing well like me,” she said.

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GAO ERQIANG / CHINA DAILY

Gu Ying in Shang­hai.

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