From sleeping on the streets to businessman – an ex-addict turns his life around

Yusri Sahrin hopes people will give former addicts a second chance.

KUALA LUMPUR: There was a time when Yusri Sahrin’s life was hell. The 19-year-old heroin addict would spend most of his time roaming the streets in Chow Kit looking for a fix.

“With heroin, the addiction is really bad and you will feel pain in your body when you do not take it. This is what drives addicts to steal and cheat people, just to get their next fix,” he said.

Getting his fix was his main priority then, and only after that would he even think about getting a meal or looking for the next place to lay his cardboard box to sleep.

Yusri was arrested four times by the police, spending time in the police lock-up before being released.

“But I always prayed to find a way to get clean because I just could not stand my life and I wanted change,” he said, adding that he made numerous attempts to turn around his life but failed.

That was until one day in 1996, when a fellow addict told him about a drug rehabilitation centre here run by former addicts, called Pengasih Malaysia.

For the last 23 years, since the day he set foot in the rehabilitation centre in Bukit Tunku, Yusri has remained “clean”.

Yusri, now 43, said Pengasih was a “university” for addicts to learn from other former addicts how to live again and rejoin society.

“Without it, I would not know where else to go. There are thousands who joined Pengasih who have stopped using drugs, everything we learned, we have learned here,” he said.

After “graduating” from the rehabilitation centre in 1997, Yusri restarted his life with nothing except the few clothes he owned, working as a cleaner at an LRT station, then at a factory and later at a printing company where he spent the next 15 years.

“As long as there was work, I wanted to learn. I wanted to change, so I worked hard to improve myself.

“The printing company knew my background but they gave me a chance,” he said, adding that it was during this time that he would meet the woman he would later marry and start a family with.

Now, the man who once left the rehabilitation centre with “zero” has a wife and three children, a home, and runs his own printing company where he employs 10 former addicts from Pengasih.

Yusri hoped the government and the private sector would continue to support his “alma mater” in its quest to help addicts seeking to change their lives.

He said companies and society should play their part to help in the rehabilitation of drug addicts.

“My message to people is, please give former addicts a second chance and never give up hope on them,” Yusri said.