The Many Colours of Recovery

Wayan Bimbim has experienced an interesting life which took him from the privileged existence of a spoilt brat in the midst of a doting family to acute heroin addiction at the tender age of 16 and on to a 22 year span of binges, coming clean, relapsing and finally staying clean.  What made him get over the final hump was a chance encounter last year with an inspiring drug counsellor called Nev who approaches addiction recovery as a path of joy, or as he puts it, a process to be enjoyed rather than endured.

Most stories of recovering addicts follow a predictable line.  When the bottom is reached the addicts finally decide to kick off the drugs, alcohol or other substances or behaviours they are enslaved to and go through a detoxification and re-education process to help them get their bodies clean and their minds set on recovery.  It is by no means an easy path. Withdrawal symptoms are not easy on the body or the mind, a whole set of behaviours has to be undone, unlearned, modified or discarded.  Their life cycle is disrupted and needs to be built up anew.  The new world of addiction-free existence has to be vigorously maintained and every thought and action that poses a danger to relapse must be scrutinised and consciously held at bay.  Not a walk in the park by any means.

The recovery process is usually seen as something to be endured and completed; presumably a clean life awaits the recovered addict at the end. However, as any self-respecting drug counsellor will tell you, the relapse rate among recovering substance abusers is still high.  Mainly because the recovering addict ultimately returns to his former life with the same environment, the same temptations, the same attractions lurking in the shadows.  In a moment of acute stress, a life-changing circumstance or a major emotional upheaval, the resolve to remain clean is severely weakened and the temptation to just fall back on familiar and feel-good behaviour is just in front of you.

Bimbim, the relapsed junkie went exactly through these phases with each addiction treatment-recovery-relapse cycle until he sought treatment and afterwards met Nev who showed him a different way.  That there could actually be wholehearted joy in living an addiction-free life was something Bimbim had not experienced before.

Bimbim grew up in a well-off traditional Balinese family with 3 doting grandmothers.  The harmony in the family was not the best though with frequent fights between his parents, the ill health of his father and his mother’s outside liaisons.  Bimbim could not handle the trauma and at 16 he started mainlining heroin to escape.  For 4 years he was a hard core druggie until he found the motivation to stop.  With the help of his mother who locked him in a room in a remote place, Bimbim endured withdrawal the hard way: cold turkey.  For a week he shivered, raged and hallucinated through his symptoms until he felt he had kicked the worst of it.  When he emerged he vowed to remain clean.  And he did for 14 years.  In that time period he started a successful travel and tour company, married a loving wife and worked hard to reach his ultimate goal of retiring at 40 and enjoying the rest of his life.  But the devil was in the details of his best-laid plans and at age 34, when he was at the pinnacle of a successful business career, a series of events happened that greatly affected his life.  He lost both parents within a short time of each other and this was the trigger point for relapse. He sought to counter his deep loss, first with social drinking but quickly shifted to using sabu-sabu (methamphetamines), became addicted in no time, lost his wife and his business and became a drug dealer to finance his addiction. In 2017 he got caught, spent nearly a year in jail and started dealing again upon his release.  The relapse was full circle.

Thanks to a new girlfriend who supported him wholeheartedly, Bimbim opted once again to become clean and checked himself into a 3-month rehabilitation program at the Bangli Mental Hospital.  It was at his ‘graduation’ ceremony that the life changing encounter with Nev took place.  Nev, at that moment was making a video about the recovery process for the Movement of Recovery (M.O.R.) project he had started the year before. The M.O.R. project was described in a BA feature article in 2018  as an attempt to create an Indonesia-wide database of resources for recovering addicts.  Nev’s premise to make recovery a happy occurrence rather than a dreaded experience sounded very attractive to Bimbim who absorbed that good news  and latched onto Nev.  As a result of that meeting, the two of them became partners and Bimbim started working for the MOR project.  He became chairman of the new Yayasan Pergerakan Pemulihan (Movement of Recovery charity) founded by Nev. This new responsibility opened a whole new ball game for him and he started experiencing some very gratifying personal feelings. He felt good about the mission of the project, about his changed life, saw firsthand how much he could accomplish and felt elated about doing good things not only for himself but also for the people he came in contact with.  He noticed that his life was no longer a struggle.  Best of all he modelled himself on Nev, starting with the premise that if Nev found untold joy in a drug or alcohol free life, so could he. He got the inspiration from Nev to do the same thing; he also got a lot of inspiration from the recovering addicts he was working with, seeing someone starting up again on a new and healthy path after a wild or debauched past.  Becoming clean also made him feel better physically and feel stronger mentally.

Bimbim’s personal mission is to work with Balinese recovering addicts and give them a better shot at remaining clean, at rebuilding an exciting and rewarding life.  He sees the NGO as modelled on the traditional Balinese way of gotong royong, the age-old reciprocal assistance mode in the Balinese villages where all contribute some work for the common good.

‘Addiction warps the fabric of society’ says Nev, not just in Balinese society but everywhere so it seems logical to the MOR people that healing this tear in the harmony of the villages –that is rent asunder by the addicts’ behaviour and consequent impact on their families and neighbours – is primordial to restoring the harmony in society.  To that objective Yayasan Pergerakan Pemulihan is in the process of establishing a community centre in Denpasar that will be a haven for recovering addicts and their families.  A place where they will find support, stimulation and inspiration.  A place to come and heal.  Many times, when recovering addicts re-enter society after their detoxification program, they can still receive support and encouragement from their treatment counsellors but they are far away from the actual treatment centre and the advice of the pros.  There are few physical support resources in the environment of the recovering addicts.

That is what Bimbim and Nev want to change.  The Denpasar support centre, to be opened next year, sponsored by Balinese businessman Belgi and located centrally next to Kumbasari market in Denpasar, will be a physical place, with social, sporting, entrepreneurial and philanthropic projects. A place for information and resources; a help centre for individuals and families.  There is a coffee shop for socialisation, a place for music, table tennis, social games and art.  Activities will centre around outreach work and support those coming out of rehab in helping them establish a healthy new lifestyle. Those looking for remunerative activities or looking to acquire new skills can learn new skills or hobbies.  One promising enterprise sponsored by the charity is a horticultural project to raise flowers for sale to Singapore.  Other absorbing and fun activities available are courses in motorcycle building, making videos.

‘Many patients coming out of rehab are scared and afraid of the world waiting for them to re-enter.’ Says Bimbim. ‘They know the dangers, the temptations, the threat of relapse.  We offer them an environment to counter that and bolster their resolve to stay clean.’

Most important, the counsellors actively teach how to find joy in recovery; how to rediscover the pure, simple pleasures of life away from the haze of a drugged mind.  How to rediscover the pleasure of listening to music, to the exciting beats of a great band; of letting your body be enthralled to the magic of dance; of discovering the pure morning air at the side of a lake or in the mountains.  To encourage this new life style, the charity has 3 big vans available for fun trips, overnight camping and fishing, or moving base camps on off-road motorcycle treks.

In the immediate future, M.O.R. will be on the road again on a 7-week trip from Bali to Lampung to gather more data and resources, renew acquaintances with entities they met before and exchange information, give presentations about the recovery process, gain funding and create some awesome recovery events with the underground music and art scene.  The main new twist on this tour is to connect with subcultures and reach those who need help.  Nev finds that indie bands like Navicula in Bali, Burgerkill, and others are great influencers and very helpful in spreading the drugs-are-not-cool message.

There is a lot on the plate of the MOR guys and in a follow-up article we will highlight the ways the charity will create partnerships with sponsors and supporters, how they intend to combat the stigma of addition and how they make recovery a sexy endeavour.


By Ines Wynn

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