Benedict back from hell still pays the price
By TONY MARIADASS
Benedict Monteiro, a former drug user and human immunodeficiency virus infection and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) positive patient, speaks to MALAY MAIL’S TONY MARIADASS of his ruined life and how he is now trying to educate youth to stay away from the world of hell.
The 59-year-old who has been married thrice and divorced and has a 29-year-old daughter from his first marriage, besides HIV, has clone cancer, hepatitis, liver problem and high blood pressure.
He was diagnosed HIV positive in 1990 and was only given a seven years to live. But having survived the period, with his borrowed time now, he has come out in the open to become a HIV activist in Malaysia – care giver/ peer supporter and counsellor since 2003.
He was the
UNDP 'We Care' regional HIV and AIDS advisor from 2004 to 2006 and left over difference of ideologies.
The former La Salle Brickfield and Petaling Jaya student has a diploma from his alcohol and drug studies and is a certified alcohol and drug counsellor besides having done psychology and community development studies at the Swinburne University of Technology and Southern Cross University.
Currently he works as funeral manager with Hope Memorial.
“I have ruined my life because of drug abuse and it my goal now to come out in the open and help, educate and create awareness among the youngsters of today to stay away from drugs.
I was young, without proper guidance and it was bad company of friends who got me involved in drugs. I was a very self-centred person who would not listen to anyone.
I started off with marijuana (ganja) as a 19-year-old but one day when my supplier could not get the supply of marijuana, he offered me heroine instead.
As I was desperate for a fix, I decided to try heroine. But I vomited, but the high got me hooked.
I was running away from life and reality and just wanted something make me forget all that and be in a world of ecstasy.
But little did I realise that it was the beginning of hell for me.
Things really got back when I really hooked to it and when I did not get my fix I would go crazy.
But in 1978, I decided that enough was enough and registered myself into a rehabilitation centre – Pusat Insaf Diri – and was there for six months.
I was off for five years before I suffered a relapse.
Then in 1990, my whole came down on me when I was diagnosed positive for HIV. The first thing the doctors were trying to establish was whether I had contracted the disease through sexually activities or use of drugs.
I have always practiced safe sex and it was obvious that it was the needles I used for my shots which were the cause.
The doctors gave me seven years to live and despite my efforts to quit drugs I was having relapses on and off.
It was during one the relapses that I got ‘stoned’ silly and was lying in the streets near the Klang bus-stand overnight, until two Malay friends of mine from the streets found me and took care of me till I recovered.
When I woke up finally, I asked them why they saved me. I would have rather they let me die.
Then it dawned upon me that despite me being a useless person, there was a purpose for me in life.
I registered myself into another programme to get rid of my addiction once and for all.
It was an excellent 12-step programme under narcotics anonymous which was for six months. At the end of the six months, I asked for an extension to stay back for another six months.
That programme changed my life and I finally came out a better man.
But the drug world out there has many cunning people who will try their level best to get one back to taking drugs.
I had a few relapses and final relapse was in 2004 and after that I have been totally clean.
It was then I decided that I have to preach of the ills of drugs and save the many young people who fall victims of drugs.
Drug users still do not have enough support to get out of their habits. Of course there is no excuse for them using drugs in the first place.
But these there are so many drugs available and it is easily available everywhere and more often than not, these young users are tricked into using it before it becomes a habit. More often than not they are a discriminated lot, looked down and have few places they can turn to for help.
It was then I decided to assist by assisting to provide shelter, love care, treatment and support the people who have been rejected or made homeless due to HIV AIDS, drug addiction or human trafficking through the many organisations I worked with.
Among the organisations I have worked with include PT Foundation a community-based organisation providing information, education and care services relating to HIV/AIDS and sexuality in Malaysia and working with the five communities that are most affected by HIV in Malaysia.
Among some of the people who played key role in giving up drugs include Zack Siow and Ivan Zuzati and it is people like them who have given fresh hopes to the many who have been shunned by the community.
Drugs abuse is now substance abuse because drugs come in many forms. It is a challenging battle to combat drug abuse and that is why it is important parents .There is simply too much of temptations out there and only a close knit family can combat the ills waiting to take over their children.
Creating an awareness of drug abuse is utmost importance and must be readily available to our young generation to prevent them from falling into the pitfalls of temptations.
I have wasted my life and am still suffering although I have dropped the habit. I cannot change the clock back for me and have to live with ills of drugs.
I am still suffering and spend most of my time in hospital as they try to diagnose me from one aliment to another. As I speak I am at the hospital bed doing more tests.
But the moment I am up and able, I will continue to preach the ills of drugs and try and save the young generation from becoming victims.
I live to regret my actions and I don’t want anybody else to undergo what I am going through.”