This is the story of Pham Duc Duy, 29, and his recovery from a life of drug addiction and misery.
I was the spoiled only child of a hardworking family in Ha Long City in Vietnam. From a young age, I did not pay attention at school and ignored my studies. I was a disobedient child and my parents had to chase after me day and night to make me behave. They tried all kinds of methods, from sweet talk to scolding and even beatings. My mother shed many tears at night, and I could tell my father’s heart was broken, but back then I didn’t care.
My drug addiction started with the light stuff at first, but quickly escalated to heavy drugs. By grade 10, I was already addicted to heroin. It was around then that I started hanging out with criminal gangs and dropped out of school.
I began using crack cocaine, a white solid powder that can be smoked. When I was on crack, it put me in a state of paranoia, and I could go days without eating. When the effect wore off, I felt devastated and exhausted.
I don’t know how much money I was spending on drugs in those days, but it was a lot.
I borrowed from relatives and neighbors, and when I was older I pawned valuables to get money, such as my motorcycle and items stolen from my parents. My family always came up with the money to pay back the lender, though it was a struggle. My parents owned a cafe, working hard day and night. My mother got up early in the morning every day to prepare the store, working herself to the bone. Raising a drug-addict son meant that my parents couldn’t afford to take even a day off.
That all happened before my eyes, but I never gave it a second thought. The old me—that filthy guy with broad shoulders and a constant scowl—was happy to burn through money that his mother earned through blood and sweat. I only realized this when I looked back after finding my way out.
The Dead End
My inner demons emerged whenever I ran out of money and could not get drugs. Thoughts of robbery and pickpocketing crossed my mind many times, even though I never followed through. Fortunately, I never physically or verbally abused my parents to force them to give me money.
People may think addicts are dead inside and turn into cold-blooded killers when they crave drugs. But in reality, drug addicts, like I once was, are miserable. This is because they can see no way out but only the sad reality that their life is a dead end.
My parents devoted themselves to saving their only child, but none of their methods were successful in helping me quit my addiction. Then, with a glimmer of hope that raising a family may put me back on a straight path, my parents had me married.
Yet I continued my ways even after I became the father of a beautiful little girl. It is heartbreaking to think of the number of times I hurt my wife and daughter.
After having tearfully begged me to change my ways countless times, my wife finally gave up hope and left me. She went back to live with her parents, taking our daughter with her.
My parents were overwhelmed with distress over our broken family. But even then, I did not have the will to change. I was so hooked on crack that I couldn’t feel my family’s pain. My days were spent getting high and hallucinating.
By then, years of drug abuse had taken its toll on my body. My skin was yellow, my eyes were sunken and hollow, and I was frail and sick. I suffered from insomnia and hepatitis B and C, and could not even taste food. I needed to spend large sums of money on medication that had to be shipped from Hanoi. Completely exhausted and desperate, I began to lose hope in life.
Then, that all changed when I found my way back.
The Path Back
It was a meditation practice that helped me regain control of my life. The practice not only healed my illnesses but also changed my whole family’s destiny.
My friend Toan, a former drug addict who had suffered from kidney disease and depression, told me about a book called “Zhuan Falun” that explains the principles of Falun Gong, a meditation and qigong discipline from China.
His wife was practicing the Falun Gong exercises and introduced it to Toan. They started to practice together and it gradually helped Toan quit drugs, cure his illnesses, and steer him toward goodness.
Toan became a completely different person as a result. He was no longer the yellow-skinned, emaciated drug addict who injected heroin all day. Remarkably, he turned into a rosy-cheeked, smiling healthy man. And he seemed peaceful and stable—a far cry from the twitchy, paranoid addict I had known for years.
Toan’s wife deeply understood the suffering and pain of drug addicts and their families. She also knew from experience that Falun Gong could help people address their problems fundamentally. Without hesitation, she walked a long distance in the cold every day in the early morning to pick me up to go to the practice site.
I was lazy at first because my body was very weak, but seeing her waiting for me patiently outside while it was still dark was very touching. I tried hard to overcome all obstacles so that I could go to the practice site on time. I saw that Falun Gong practitioners are truly good; they selflessly think of others first.
The more I read “Zhuan Falun,” the more fascinated I was. The book teaches people that true happiness comes from thinking of others and following the universal principles of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance. It gave me perspective on my actions, and I deeply regretted that I had committed so many sins and hurt so many people. For the first time, my heart was moved and filled with sadness when I recalled how my mother labored so hard every day. And it was unbearable to recall the anguish and grief on my father’s weathered face.
By reading the book, I understood why it’s necessary to be a good person, and that selfishness is the root cause of suffering in life. I felt I was awakened from a long sleep, and I promised myself I would change. I didn’t want to go on living the same as before, and I didn’t want to hurt or disappoint anyone ever again.
After I started reading and practicing the Falun Gong exercises regularly, I felt my body being cleaned out. In the first week I began the practice, I had blood in my stool, sometimes blood clots and sometimes fresh blood. Strangely, I had no pain in my abdomen, nor did I experience any abnormal feelings. I was nervous, but I came to understand that I was just ejecting all the filthy things from my body. The symptoms went away naturally soon after.
I began to focus more on the exercises, and gradually I started to eat and sleep better. My health improved quickly and remarkably, and I was no longer always tired. I even started to regain weight.
I often felt tired when I began doing the exercises, but I found that if I persevered, then I would feel very comfortable and refreshed every time I finished. My skin became bright and pinkish.
Within a very short time, I no longer needed to take any medication. For over a year now, I have been healthy, and I have even gained 15 kilograms. This was beyond my or my family’s dreams.
I became well enough to help my family with chores, and I began helping my mother with physical work—something that I never thought would be possible. Seeing the change in me, my mother said, “This cultivation way [Falun Gong] is very good, my son has truly changed.”
I apologized to my in-laws and my wife and asked them to give me another chance. My wife saw the tremendous change in me and agreed to return. I was very thankful for her forgiveness; our family was together again, happy and warm.
As a practitioner of Falun Gong, I do my best to apply the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance whenever I come across conflicts. This has created harmony in my family and a stable environment for my daughter.
I am always striving to improve my character and become a better person, and this has brought great happiness to my parents and the whole family. I have regained hope and belief in life’s potential.
Before I started practicing Falun Gong, my addictions were like glue sticking to my life and penetrating my mind. Even when I was very sick and bedridden, I still had to at least smoke, as I could not go on without it. The more bored I was, the more attached I was to my addictions. It was not until I began practicing Falun Gong that I was able to successfully let go of my bad habits and addiction to drugs.
I began to wake up. I knew my destructive attachments had to be removed, and I came to better understand the relationship between cause and effect. In the past, I had tried to quit a few times but failed each time. I needed many other drugs while abstaining from crack, but still my efforts were in vain. But as I read the book more, I started to feel stronger and lighter, and no longer craved crack. With a new perspective, I was able to transcend the ordeal.
I was surprised by how easily I was able to recover from addiction, and my tears poured down in gratitude. At first, even though I had quit heroin, I still smoked cigarettes. After reading “Zhuan Falun” a second time, I decided to stop smoking completely. From then on, I was no longer dependent on any substance.
I have also elevated my moral character. For example, customers regularly make payment mistakes at my parents’ store and give me too much money. Or they might forget their cellphones, including expensive models like the iPhone. In the past, I would have taken the money or kept the phone for myself. Now, as soon as I realize the money error or find the phone they left behind, I call them and return what rightfully belongs to them.
In the past, if my mother wasn’t looking, I would even take extra money from the till. But now, I understand this is wrong, because Falun Gong practitioners should be good people anytime and anywhere—even if no one is watching.
What I want most is to be able to help other young people who are suffering from addictions and have no way out, like I once was. I know that there are many young people who have fallen like I did and are helpless, with no hope. When I see them, it truly breaks my heart. I know how much pain they are in, and I just hope they can be fortunate and have a new life like me.
By Pham Duc Duy.