The problem of drug addiction affects the entire community, bringing misery and tragedy to households of every background.
Among the hurdles faced by addicts who want to free themselves from addiction, the biggest is often language and cultural acceptance. There is also shame and stigma to deal with in their families.
“Van” (not his real name) is a member of the Vietnamese community who has had to go through this difficult process. For him, it has been successful, and has left him feeling inspired to help others in his community follow his path to success.
Van was born in Vietnam in 1970, at the peak of the Vietnam War, and as he puts it, “had to grow up quickly”. He had his first drink of alcohol at the age of 12, when his family celebrated his father's release from a rehabilitation camp. His family came to Australia when he was 14, but he had great difficulty settling in. Before long he started avoiding school to hang around with older boys, drinking and smoking. By the time he was 17, he had started using heroin.
After years and years of using, Van says, he felt absolutely hopeless, a disappointment to his family, and living in constant fear. When he was 43, a friend suggested a rehabilitation centre, and Van was first introduced to Narcotics Anonymous. He saw addicts like him staying off drugs and doing well. “They were really kind to me, and understood my pain and struggles,” he says.
Van stayed “clean” for 4 months, then fell back into his drug habits, but people looked out for him and encouraged him to keep trying. Now he has been clean for nearly 4 years, turned his life around, and studies at VTU.
As for a legacy, Van is part of a group of Vietnamese boys that started holding regular Wednesday night meetings in Footscray over 2 years ago, and the numbers keep growing.
“Our main purpose is to support each other and to carry a message of Hope to those still suffering from drug addiction,” Van says. “We are living examples that recovery from drug addiction is possible.”
The Vietnamese Meeting is held at the Church Hall Car Park, cnr Barkly and Geelong Road, at 7.30pm every Wednesday. Everyone is welcome there.
If you or someone you know has a drug problem, ring Helpline on 9525 2833 or visit the Narcotics Anonymous website at www.navic.com.au.