Out of the shadows, came light

I am 56 years old, and currently detained at a maximum-security prison in Hong Kong.

Coming from a poor family of seven, we lived in temporary housing and resettlement areas. In the late 1960s, the social environment was quite challenging, and I was recruited into a triad organization when I was just 10 years old. At 13, I began using heroin. Influenced considerably by my peers in my youthful naivety, I got involved in various illegal activities such as fighting, theft, and extortion. My drug addiction later led to my exploitation as a drug trafficker and smuggler.

I dropped out of school during junior high though I attended a reputable school, and even became a baptized Christian. Yet, my fixation on drugs overshadowed my interest in studies. The only thing I cared about was getting money to get high.

Coming from a large family with a disadvantaged background, my parents were too preoccupied with work to look after us. As a result, I started working as a child laborer at a young age, but the income wasn’t sufficient to sustain my drug habit. Eventually, I resorted to risky activities, such as assisting in drug trafficking and dealing, to satisfy my addiction. This led me to a life in the shadows.

I stopped going home and was abandoned by my friends and classmates. Instead, I spent time with other addicts, aimlessly roaming about just to get high. I lost all sense of direction, goals, and dreams. Despite wanting to quit, I felt helpless against the addiction.

I lost all sense of direction, goals, and dreams. Despite wanting to quit, I felt helpless against the addiction.

Once, I tried to inject heroin in the middle of the night when the weather was cold, without anyone to help me. As a long-term heroin user, my veins have shrunk and become impossible to find, and the cold weather also made it more difficult. In my desperation, I ended up puncturing both my hands until they were covered in blood, and the dissolved heroin even started to coagulate. Staring at my hands, I didn’t know what to do, and the drug craving hit me hard. I couldn’t help but break down in tears, wondering how I had ended up in this deplorable state. Was my life destined to be enslaved by heroin?

The power of addiction is something that many cannot comprehend. Once addicted, you become powerless – the absence of the drug results in suffering, yet its consumption leads to an immediate craving for more. It’s a cycle where self-control is lost.

This is how I found myself in a mandatory drug rehabilitation center at just 15, due to a drug possession charge. The detoxification process was tremendously challenging, without any medication to ease the process. I had to rely solely on my willpower; no one could truly assist me.

However, after spending several months at the rehabilitation center, I fell back into the same patterns upon returning to society, influenced by my drug-using peers. This vicious cycle repeated itself, and I became a full-fledged addict, living a life devoid of light.

Out of the shadows

Stealing, lying, and cheating became a recurring part of my life as I continuously sought out drugs, devoid of any purpose or direction. It wasn’t long until I faced another drug possession charge and was sentenced to a drug rehabilitation center. Between the ages of 15 to 18, I found myself in and out of rehabilitation three times, approximately once a year. I was consumed by a sense of hopelessness and even had suicidal thoughts, though I lacked the courage to act upon them.

I am deeply grateful that, at a time when I was losing hope, I encountered the gospel message at the rehab center. The preachers were former drug addicts who had grappled with addiction for many years. Yet, by placing their faith in Jesus, they managed to recover and courageously shared their experiences with others. I found their stories deeply moving as if I had rediscovered hope in my life.

After completing my sentence, I didn’t go home. Instead, I attended fellowship gatherings and chose to enter a 9-month experiential treatment program in a rehabilitation village. In the village I kept reading the Bible, praying, singing hymns, and sharing my faith journey with others. I also evangelized and bore witness.

During this period, I was diligent and committed. At 18, I served as the vegetable garden supervisor, unafraid of tasks like collecting fertilizer from the septic tank and cleaning toilets. I believe God’s guidance enabled me to do all this.

During this time, I engaged in daily devotions, prayer, and assisting those in need. There was an organization that hosted wilderness orientation activities for young people. Occasionally, participants would succumb to exhaustion. In such instances, due to my youth and physical fitness, I joined the rescue team to help bring them to safety. Despite the danger of these rescue missions, I managed to overcome the challenges each time and bring those in need back to the village safely. I attribute these experiences to Jesus’s transformation of me and my increased understanding of God’s profound love.

In the rehabilitation village, I gained a lot and met many fellow Christians. Most importantly, my family accepted me once more. During this period, I truly experienced the joy of my new life.

Upon my return to society, I ceased using cocaine and experienced a genuine rebirth. Cocaine no longer had any hold on me or any appeal; I had rediscovered my life. During this period, I landed my ideal job, attended night school, and acquired a driver’s license. I was proactive and enthusiastic, even participating in religious activities. I shared my testimony in front of hundreds of students at a secondary school. Despite my nerves, I found strength in my faith to do everything, even sing – my weakest skill – in front of hundreds of people. I’m unsure where this courage originated, but with God, I felt empowered. Thinking back to that time, I realize that I had found true joy.

Back to square one

But as time passed, I gradually distanced myself from God. I even resumed smoking, neglecting the important mission God had entrusted to me. I stopped preaching the gospel to others and ceased participating in religious activities. While I had escaped the grip of drugs and no longer used cocaine, I was merely living an ordinary life. Without God, I lacked the sense of fulfillment I once had, and my temperament became less harmonious and more irritable. Immersed in drinking, smoking, and living an ordinary life like any typical Hong Kong person, I lacked purpose and merely existed, until I reached 30.

In 1998, due to my job as a night-shift taxi driver, I often found myself lacking sleep and energy. To combat this, I resorted to using ice to stay awake, as I needed to work overtime to cover my car expenses. Over time, this turned into a habit. Driven by financial needs, I even began transporting drugs, focusing solely on the immediate financial gain and ignoring the possible repercussions. This led to my conviction for drug trafficking later that year, resulting in a sentence of over 12 years in prison.

I fell into a deep depression and felt like I was back to square one. Seemed like despite my experiences with drugs and prison, I hadn’t changed at all. My family was deeply disappointed in me and began distancing themselves. While I was imprisoned, my beloved mother passed away. I didn’t get the chance to see her one last time before she left this world. My time in prison was incredibly difficult. The heavy price I paid for my foolishness drove me to the brink of insanity.  I was forced to undergo medical observation and was not allowed to stay in a single cell, as they were afraid I might attempt suicide.

After being released from prison in 2017, I relied on my second elder brother for support, as our mother had passed away. For two years, I stayed clean from drugs and worked as a night-shift taxi driver. However, the good times were short-lived. The 2019 pandemic caused a downturn in the Hong Kong economy and as a taxi driver, I felt the impact quickly. Despite having no business, I had to cover car rental and fuel costs without any savings. Gradually, I fell into a financial deficit, struggled to pay the taxi rental, and even daily life became a challenge, prompting a career change. At my age, without specific skills, I felt lost and unsure about planning for the future. Therefore, I had to borrow money from my old friends, who also used drugs, to make ends meet.

As the saying goes, “long-term poverty is hard to manage.” The pandemic worsened over the years, and my debts continued to accumulate. It left me questioning how to sustain myself.Faced with no other options, I found myself resorting to drug trafficking to pay off my debts. Naturally, this led me back into the world of drug use, returning to my old ways. I attribute all of this to what I believe is a divine plan, controlled by a higher power.

In November 2022, I found myself arrested once more. I hadn’t expected to endure such circumstances at my age. The current charges against me are severe, and I anticipate several years of incarceration, which likely will make me nearly 60 years old upon release. Life in old age is challenging, and it feels as though I’ve returned to square one.

New hope found

In a moment of extreme despair, I met my fiancée through a friend. She is currently incarcerated as well. Over more than a year, we got to know and understand each other through letters, offering mutual encouragement and support. Despite being a Mainland Chinese with no family in Hong Kong, she has wisely used the last eight years of her imprisonment to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Chinese-English translation. She is also a devout Catholic. Our sincere love for each other and shared spiritual beliefs led me to propose to her. I am grateful that she agreed to become my wife, and under her guidance, I have drawn closer to God. I now borrow Bibles from the library, pray, and find it truly miraculous. I believe all of this is part of God’s plan.

Participating in this Campaign has been deeply meaningful to me. It allows me to help others while helping myself. Despite awaiting sentencing and the expected anxiety it should bring, I feel peace, free of worries or fears, having placed my trust in God. I am confident He hears my prayers.Good fortune often arises from adversity. At this stage in my life, I’ve found the love of my life. We share a common faith and goal, achievable only through God’s power. I’ve decided to return to the Mainland to build my life, distancing myself from drugs, and to start a family with my fiancée, contributing to society and returning to God’s embrace. I hope my letter can serve as a cautionary tale for the younger generation – drugs have caused me and my loved ones pain for most of my life. I am thankful for God’s constant presence.

Note: This story was originally written in Chinese. It has been translated and edited. Switch language to read the original.