An H. Phung
Alaim Mozas Siman has a lot to smile about. He is especially happy about the colorful garden before him because he cultivated each plant with his own hands.
In the bucolic setting of his home in Bogor, Alaim not only gardens in the sunshine and cool breeze 60 kilometers south of Jakarta, he also has the responsibility of creating artwork and tending to the needs of the community around him.
He is a long way from the life he once led in Jakarta, where he was a methamphetamine and ecstasy dealer and user for more than 14 years.
“It’s strange to me that I’m into gardening,” the 30-year-old said. “Because I used to sell drugs for a living.”
Now, Alaim lives at Yakita, short for Yayasan Harapan Permata Hati Kita, a nonprofit drug recovery center in Bogor and 14 other locations throughout Indonesia. The 9,500-square-meter facility comes complete with detoxification support, job development programs, counseling, prison outreach and HIV/AIDS education. There’s even a gym and a mosque on site.
Alaim has been here for six months. He relapsed twice but has been clean for more than two months — long enough to be rewarded for his perseverance. He is now a volunteer at Yakita , whose name in English means the Hope Foundation for All Loved Ones. Alaim works as a house manager, event planner and prison program coordinator.
Alaim’s story is emblematic of a growing need in Indonesia. Figures from the 2011 UN World Drug Report indicate that treatment admission for amphetamine-type stimulants tripled in 2010, surpassing the treatment demand for heroin addiction.
Improved drug policies contributed to the demand, according to the National Narcotics Agency (BNN), which implemented an anti-narcotics law in 2010 that emphasized rehabilitation over the criminalization of addicts. While the market expands at unprecedented rates, the country struggles to keep up with drug addicts seeking help.
Psychologist and Yakita founder David Gordon says the problem stems from poor infrastructure and a culture that doesn’t understand drug abuse.
“In Indonesia, there is no language for it,” Gordon said. “They don’t understand the process. This is too new for Indonesia .”
When Gordon and his wife, Joyce Djaelani Gordon, started Yakita in 1999, there was only one other drug recovery center in the country. It prompted them to start their own facility, which includes the 12-step program, reproductive health education and psychological treatment. Twelve years later, they have yet to see another center that provides the holistic approach commonly found in countries like the United States.
Today, their biggest challenge is to advocate for better infrastructure by implementing programs that certify counselors in drug and alcohol treatment in as little as six months. But they are up against a culture that still views drug abuse as a moral issue rather than a public health matter, which Joyce Gordon says is a major impediment in their fight against drug abuse.
“You clean them up with medication because they’re addicted to this great pain killer,” Joyce Gordon said. “But there is nothing about the psychology of it, there is nothing about how they’re feeling and nothing about how they got into drugs in the first place.”
Alaim speaks candidly about his own addiction, something he learned to do at Yakita. He says he was influenced by his father, who smoked marijuana when Alaim was a teenager. When Alaim grew tired of marijuana, he tried heroin, ecstasy and methamphetamine, known here as shabu.
It became his drug of choice, and he joined his uncle’s business and sold shabu and ecstasy for more than seven years. His wealthy clientele included famous actors and musicians, according to Alaim. He took home a net income of about Rp 75 million ($8,800) every month.
A growing economy coupled with an emerging middle class are the reasons why some say Indonesia’s drug market is evolving from heroin to shabu.
“People need to work harder in the heaving, pumping Southeast Asian economic miracle,” said Gary Lewis, the regional manager for the United Nations Office of Drug Control. “They need to stay awake longer, they need to deal with the harsher aspects of life through the use of psychoactive substances.”
Joyce Gordon says recovering addicts need more than just detoxification — they require counseling, support and education. Indonesia will always fall behind in drug rehabilitation unless policy makers provide the support and funding to combat the problem, she says.
David Gordon says the BNN needs to step in at a faster pace on rehabilitation and treatment.
“The BNN knows all about drugs, but they don’t have any programs,” he said. “They have one big center called Lido and it’s a really good idea, but there are 33 provinces and they have only one center. We need centers all over the country.”
Lido accommodates about 7,500 people, but according to BNN reports, the number of drug addicts in Indonesia went from 3.2 million in 2009 to 3.8 million in 2010.
“Access to reach treatment is a problem,” said a BNN spokesman, Sumirat Dwiyanto. “So many addicts beyond Java cannot join a rehab program close to their home.”
Three rehabilitation facilities are slated to open in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Sulawesi in 2011. By 2014, there will be facilities in every province, Sumirat says.