I sat down with “Jang” today to let her know that she was out of work. Jang, 43, is a yaba addict. Yaba, literally “crazy drug”, is a mix of mostly meth and caffeine that is pandemic in Southeast Asia, especially in the lower class. It is highly connected to risky behavior, including prostitution. It is relatively cheap, not as intense and harmful as homemade meth, but is still highly addictive, debilitating and potentially devastating. Jang has been incarcerated twice, for a total of 9 years.
Everyone likes Jang. She loves Jesus, is bright, gentle, good at making jewelry, and gets along with everyone. Sadly, it also means she hits it off with newcomers with a weakness for yaba. For the good of both Jang and others, we had to regrettably decide to ask her to step away and find a program for recovery.
We’ve worked with Jang for a long time, trying to help her through every means at our disposal to quit. She has made strides, then always relapsed. She tested positive to a surprise drug test last week, and we finally had to tell her that it isn’t working. The Well isn’t helping her, and she is hurting others.
Drug addiction, like all mental illness, is improperly stigmatized. No one grows up saying, “I want to be an addict.” Addiction preys on the hurt and vulnerable. A few years ago, when my mom was more mobile, she would visit women at her local county jail. About 90% of women with drug convictions, she said, reported having endured sexual abuse as children.
That of course is what makes this all so hard. Jang sat motionless, staring at me with wide, puppy-dog brown eyes. I wanted to reach across the table and hug her. Her eyes moistened, but she did not weep, nor did she protest. I asked her about her talk earlier today with a counselor. She said she talked about growing up unloved by her mother. Her father died when she was little.
People usually need healthy support systems in order to recover from years of addiction. That is our problem. There is a government drug clinic nearby which has limited counseling and groups, but there is no 12-step or other recovery network in Thailand. Churches, limited in number as they already are, rarely address it.
There is slow progress. We recently began a recovery unit as part of our program at The Well. Women who are unable to work due to trauma and addiction can receive holistic therapy. Our three newest ministry workers are former addicts, who just joined us in April but are already having a huge impact. Sorn and Gik, a husband-wife team, were heavyyaba users before meeting Jesus at The Well in 2008. Sii was a heroin addict, prostitute and sex trafficker before the Lord met her in Singapore years ago. We will be telling their amazing stories very soon.
However, we still are only able to provide a day program, and folks are still very subject to bad influences evenings and weekends. Our next goal is developing activities, such as Bible study, recovery support groups, music and recreation for folks during those hours. We hope to add Saturday and Sunday options very soon.
Please pray for Jang with us, that she will find God’s perfect plan for her. Pray for God’s victory against the overwhelming negative spiritual forces that dominate the Thai lower class. And please pray for God to continue to build and bring the leaders needed to form a healthy, supportive 24×7 community.