Life after prison: He started taking drugs at 13

10 years after starting on drugs, Bei was arrested just one week after his wedding.

Christopher Parwani

Published: 13 September 2016, 10:42 PM

He was sleeping in his mother’s HDB flat one afternoon, dreaming of his newly-wed wife. The couple had just gotten married a week earlier and his wife was four months’ pregnant at the time.

That dream was rudely awakened when police suddenly barged into the home and rummaged through his possessions searching for drugs. Bei (not his real name) was taken to the police station for a urine test and was eventually charged with drug consumption.

It was not his first brush with the law. Bei, then 22, was headed to jail a second time for drug related offences.

Bei hanging out in the common area of Pertapis.

Bei told Youth.SG he was introduced to drugs when he was only 13.

“When I was 13, I mixed around with bad company who fooled around with drugs. I got curious and tried it myself,” said Bei, now 23, recalling his teenage days.

He went on to sell drugs until he was caught the first time in 2011. He was 18 then, a school dropout and was meeting a buyer at Downtown East. The police swooped in and he was caught in possession of drugs and a weighing scale, which he used for measuring the amount of drugs to sell.

He was charged with drug trafficking and consumption.

Faced with a possible sentence of five years’ imprisonment and five strokes of the cane, Bei was, unlike most people, strangely excited at the thought of spending time behind bars.

“I was eager to find out what went on in prison at that point of time. People were saying this and that about life in prison but I wanted to know first-hand, so I was quite excited,” said Bei, chuckling at how naive he used to be.

The secondary school dropout ended up serving a 20-month jail term for his first offence and learnt that prison was nothing to look forward to.

“It was really strict inside prison and they would charge us for every minor thing we did, which could add to our prison sentence. It wasn’t the best place to be and I knew I didn’t want to return there,” said Bei.

Bei twiddling with his thumbs, hesitant as he spoke about his past.

When he was released from prison, he was 21, bald and had to wear an electronic tag on his ankle for six months. That was when he met his wife-to-be, through family friends. Bei was not confident in sweeping her off her feet at first.

“I thought girls weren’t into botak (bald in Malay) guys. So I just tried my luck and she unbelievably agreed to go out with me,” said Bei, blushing at the memory.

The young lovers got engaged in June 2014 but it wasn’t smooth sailing for them. Like any young couple, arguments erupted between the two and quarrels were constant. These heated arguments drove Bei back into a life of drugs whenever he was stressed out.

“My wife and family didn’t know of it, and I was pretty sure they weren’t going to find out because I took [the drugs] from my old friends,” said Bei.

But he could not hide his secret life forever. In April 2015, just a week after he got married, he was arrested for drug consumption.

“I called [my wife] when I was arrested and she immediately broke down. She was already four months’ pregnant and had to survive on her own without her husband. I thought she would never want to see my face again,” said Bei.

However, his wife never gave up on him.

“She visited me almost every two weeks without fail, and one day it just dawned on me how much I’d been putting her through. Being so heavily pregnant, she was doing retail [work], standing for long hours and going home with blisters all over her feet. I couldn’t bear to put her through that anymore,” recalled Bei.

The guilt hit him harder when their son was born months later.

“I couldn’t be there for my son’s birth but I requested a ‘newborn baby visit’ and got to hold him for 20 minutes while in jail. He was born with cleft lips and needed treatment. At that moment, I told myself that I would take care of them when I got out,” said Bei, who is now determined to turn his life around.

Bei has served the past 14 months in the Drug Rehabilitation Centre and is now going through four months of rehabilitation at Pertapis Halfway House. He should be released next month, but will be on electronic tagging for five months after that.

Bei is now learning to adapt back into society through community events that the halfway house is hosting, and is taking time to reflect on his life.

Bei is eager to be a different man for his family when he finishes his sentence in PERTAPIS.

“I made a promise to my wife when she visited me last week that I will try my best to be a responsible husband and father. More importantly, I promised to never return to drugs,” said Bei.

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