Danu’s Story Kicking It in Bali By Ines Wynn

This is a story of addiction, recovery and redemption. The journey from a living hell as a mean junkie on the streets of Legian to a different, fulfilling life as a recovering addict and a rewarding job as a program director at The Lighthouse Bali, a private drug rehabilitation center- as told by Danu who reclaimed his life and his senses through a process of sheer willpower and tenacity.

A Surabaya native, Danu has been living in Bali for more than 20 years. He had a rough past and a fascinating story to tell. At 45 years old, Danu is a recovering heroin addict and a one-time petty criminal. He was a hardcore junkie for 18 years, was jailed 5 times for drug abuse, dealing and robbery but finally decided to kick the habit and get clean. He now enjoys life managing recovery programs for alcoholics and drug addicts and doing outreach work with HIV/AIDS patients, teaching awareness and prevention.

Danu came to Bali when he was 21 years old to take a job as a bartender. He was not an addict at that time but fell in with the wrong crowd and after 5 months of peer pressure he started drinking heavily and using drugs. That was in 1994 when drugs were still cheap on the streets of Legian. A heroin hit went for just Rp. 20,000 and it wasn’t long before Danu was hooked and dependent. In order to finance his habit, he started to sell drugs on the street and the negative downward spiral was underway. By that time he was married and had a baby son. In 1996 he was caught selling drugs and landed in jail for 1.8 years. Prison did not exactly help him. No attempts were made to deal with drug addicts at that time and drugs were abundantly available and cheap within the prison walls.  As soon as he got out, he took up his old life selling drugs, lived on the streets and became a petty criminal to supplement his income. A predictable pattern was established. His wife wanted no part in any of it and left him, taking his infant son to be raised by one of his sisters in Surabaya.

In and out of jail 5 times – 3 times for drugs, 2 times for robbery – his life was rough and tough and his personality became aggressive and loutish. He was a troublemaker in jail due to his anger, aggression and addiction. Accordingly he was moved around the Bali prison system and was incarcerated in Kerobokan, Klungkung, Bangli and Gianyar. It was a very unmerry goround.

Each time he was out of prison he reverted to his old criminal ways. Drugs, women and gambling were his pastimes, his trademarks, and his downfall. Danu was high on the radar of local authorities, suspected of being one of Bali’s top criminal kingpins. As a result he was constantly watched by the police, re-arrested, convicted and re-incarcerated several times for drug dealing or armed robbery.

The prison system in Bali at that time did not actively provide drug addiction programs. Only community support programs were available to the inmates, brought in by outside organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Danu started going to these meetings in 2009, steered by an honest desire to turn his life around but those good intentions only lasted a few hours beyond the meeting sessions. Back in his cellblock, he was teased, tempted and surrounded by drugs and quickly lost his desire to get clean. It was such a crazy environment, says Danu, because drugs were so ingrained into his existence and the good intentions evaporated with the first sight of drugs or alcohol.

It was not until his 5th semi-permanent visit to prison that he started seriously thinking about his rotten life. What drove him onto an alternative path were the incessant dreams he experienced about his mother and her admonitions, way back when he decided to come to Bali, to “please do not use drugs”. The guilt about failing his mother and his family haunted him day and night and became so strong that he finally made that fateful decision to become clean.

The date of 12 August 2013, when he was sprung from jail for the 5th time, was the date he chose to admit defeat and sought help kicking his addictions. It was the best decision of his life but it was also the hardest and the most wretched as his choice to get clean was to go cold-turkey. He checked himself into Yakita (Yayasan Harapan Permata Hati Kita), an addiction treatment and recovery center in Denpasar where he went through a difficult and hellish time for 7 months to overcome his addictions. Without the benefit of detoxification medication or drug substitutes like methadone he withstood the full brunt of withdrawal in the same tough way he had acted on the streets in his criminal days. It was like a re-enactment of these bad guy days, but then in reverse. He kicked several habits all at once: drugs, alcohol, and smoking. He was violently ill and spent days in an isolation room battling his demons, but was successful through a process of brutal honesty and a willingness to change the direction of his life. It was unbelievably hard but in the end he triumphed over his demons and won the battle.

After finishing the Yakita program, he spent an additional month at Yakeba (Yayasan Kesehatan Bali) in Renon, another drug rehabilitation facility that provides care and education for alcoholics, addicts and those suffering from HIV/AIDs. Since then Danu has been clean, sober and happy for the last 2.5 years. This new state has brought him untold joy and peace of mind. Foremost, he relishes the clean and healthy way he can live now, free -one day at a time – from the bondage of his addictions. He is grateful that he can engage in new life opportunities, specifically as a recovered addict, by sharing his experiences and contributing to the transformation of other addicts. In addition, he reconnected with his Surabaya family and found his son back after 18 years.

Danu turned his life around in such a way that he feels compelled to share his story with other addicts and help them on the road to recovery. His mission now in life is to do outreach work and try to educate addicts to the fact that there is a better life than one of drug dependency with all the bad ties this entails. Besides his job as one of the program directors of The Lighthouse Bali, counseling individual clients and directing their way to recovery, Danu also does a lot of volunteer work for Yakeba where he counsels and works with drug addicts.

The Road to Recovery leads to Glasgow. -As part of his recovery program at Yakeba, Danu took up an old football hobby from his childhood days in Surabaya and when he became clean and graduated from the drug rehabilitation program, he used it as a medium to reach other addicts in recovery. At Yakeba, he helped form a football team and made it part of their physical rehabilitation. They play a game once a week. It was this activity that got him noticed and ultimately selected to be a member of the 2016 Team Indonesia that will compete in the Homeless World Cup, an international soccer tournament for homeless, drug addicted and HIV infected people.

The Homeless World Cup was started by 2 social entrepreneurs from Scotland and Austria in 2001 because they saw it as a great way to help the homeless – of which many are drug addicts and/or HIV sufferers. The matches, they felt, would empower these people and inspire them to change their own lives. Therefore they helped to organize and coordinate teams all over the world to participate in yearly matches to be played at various locations. Since its inception, the Homeless World Cup has been played in places like Austria, Italy, Russia, Scotland, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Brazil, Chile, Denmark, Sweden, South Africa, Australia, France, Poland, and Mexico. This year’s Cup is to be fought out in Glasgow, Scotland from 10-16 July. The matches will be played in a makeshift stadium at George Square in the heart of Glasgow and are expected to attract up to 100,000 spectators. Not bad for an amateur cup.

Teams from 52 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas are participating. The teams, whose players change every year, are organized by various NGOs in their home countries and funding for the teams is provided by multinationals like Nike, Chevrolet, etc. Team Indonesia, which has played the Cup since 2011, is organized and sponsored by Rumah Cemara in Bandung, a government funded treatment center for people suffering from drug addiction and HIV/AIDS. The 8 member team is made up by people from several towns in Java and just one participant from Bali, Danu. They are all amateur players drawn from homeless shelters or HIV and drug addiction treatment centers. The team will practice in Bandung for one month before traveling to Scotland with their coach and team manager to challenge the other teams in matches. The Indonesia team figures they have more than a fighting chance and are eager to win. The Homeless World Cup 2016 rankings put Indonesia in 13th place among 48 countries ranked. It stands above countries with big names in football such as Argentina, which is at number 19, England (27), Italy (32), and Germany (34). Home team Scotland is ranked 15th.

The Homeless World Cup was featured in a 2008 documentary Kicking It, starred and narrated by Colin Farrell who is also an ambassador for the organization. Football fans will enjoy this movie which tells the story of seven homeless and drug addicted participants who played in the Cape Town matches of 2008.

The Road Beyond. Danu was selected as a goalkeeper for the Indonesian team on the basis of his football skills and his buoyant personality. He is going to Scotland with a lot of motivation and a few well defined goals. First of all he wants the Indonesian team to win the Cup. In second place, he wants to show the world that hardcore addicts can be rehabilitated and should not be discriminated against. His fervent message, besides saying NO to drugs, is asking the world to say NO to the stigma and discrimination that is usually meted out to recovering drug addicts and HIV positive people. “We are in our core decent human beings”, he says, “who have made some bad choices in life but want to recover and regroup. The recovery process is a long and arduous road and stigma and discrimination is a burden that weighs heavy and hampers our progress. By choosing to work ourselves clean, cost what may, we are asking for support and respect. To discriminate against us is to put unnecessary roadblocks in our way.”

Drug and alcohol recovery programs are available in Bali to help people who seriously want to kick a nasty habit. They range from the free, government run clinics to group and individual programs that stretch from the affordable to the expensive. In the next article we will take a look at these facilities and summarize their programs.


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