Malaysia bears host to an abundance of culture, life and people. And where there are people, there are addicts.
The word is dirty. It rolls off scornful tongues all too easily and more conservative tongues not easily enough.
Ask any person what kind of person they imagine when the word “addict” is said, and a good majority will come up with a similar response.
A sunken-eyed, sunken-faced, needle-marked homeless man itching for the next hit.
The fact that these people have been cast aside by society, considered failures by the same people who failed them, is in itself a problem.
The second problem is that people fail to see themselves in the people they so vehemently beseech.
Addiction is not some punishment meant for bad people who do bad things.
Addiction happens to anyone, from your grandmother who spends most of her day playing Candy Crush and agonising over lost levels, to that friend-of-a-friend who had a rough year and had everything come crashing down after.
That isn’t to say people who do bad things don’t get addicted either.
It would merely be a more unbiased way of thinking if one were to not group everyone who has had problems into one label and call it a day.
It is all too easy to point fingers and laugh, telling your children to “study hard and be good so you don’t become like that” or even not acknowledge the problem exists. Far harder is the obligation we have as humans to stretch out a hand for another to hold.
See, when people get sick, not everyone gets the same symptoms. For one person it might be a rash, and the other a cold or a bad tummy ache. Some people don’t experience symptoms at all. But the disease is still there. Deep inside, lingering, whispering. It nibbles. Bites. And then, the things that you once consumed, consume you.
Addiction can happen to anyone, and once you acknowledge it can happen to you, perhaps we can live kinder lives and make life kinder for those who need it, including ourselves.