Second chance for drug addicts

Sari, not her real name, had to return to the Bali Health Foundation (Yakeba) in Denpasar. “I’m sorry, I relapsed,” she said last month. For former drug users, relapse refers to the return to an addiction after a period of improvement. A relapse forces “clean” ex-addicts to restart their rehabilitation again. Sari, who is around 40 years old, was released from prison six months ago, it was her third time behind bars for using and distributing drugs. She said she had been banned from Denpasar and her parents wanted her to return to the family home in Bedugul, Tabanan.

“I had to ask Adi [the director of Yakeba] to call and reassure my parents that I still needed therapy,” she said. Sari said she was depressed as was often ridiculed for her addition. “People tease me,” she said. “You’re chubbier now. What drug are you using?” Sari quoted her bullies as saying. However, the foundation was not so judgmental and they welcomed Sari with open arms. She was given a room and told to participate in its interaction-based addiction recovery (PABM) program. “I’m not allowed a cell phone for the next few months.”

Due to physical and psychological problems, Sari has relapsed several times. Sari used to be a patron for a woman’s anti-drugs and HIV prevention group. In 2009, she led a group of her fellow activists in the reading of a statement to mark National AIDS Reflection Night (MRAN). The statement called on prisons to give HIV-infected inmates access to proper treatment and for the Provincial Council to allocate more funds to curb AIDS. Sari was introduced to illicit drugs, most notably heroin, during high school. She said the slippery slope had begun with cigarettes, alcohol, crystal methamphetamine and ecstasy.

She used to take heroin intravenously for an immediate “hit”. Drug users who shared needles were at greater risk of being infected with HIV in Bali around 1990 to 2000. To assist her recover, she used buprenorphine, a semi-synthetic opioid, but rather than help her get clean, she became dependant on it and ended up being as addicted to it as she was to the heroin. “I’m tired of being in and out of prison,” she said. “But I still want to be given a chance [to improve].” Unlike other rehabilitation centers, Yakeba is a modest place. Its office is also the therapy center.

There are no bars, high walls or locked-gates: Participants are not prisoners but they are obliged to be disciplined. The PABM program began in 1999: the same time Yakeba was established. The program was temporarily halted in 2004 to 2009 and again from 2010 to 2012. It restarted again last year. The schedule includes morning meeting, classes on addiction, vocational sessions and journal writing. “We don’t only focus on the class sessions but also counseling,” foundation director Adi Mantara said. Adi criticized the government for dragging its feet in building a drug-related convict prison and rehabilitation center in Bangli.

source : bali daily

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