Former addict fights Indonesia's drug problem

A fresh look at rehab in Indonesia
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Story highlights

  • Former addict and ex-convict David Gordon is taking on Indonesia's drug problem
  • Gordon and his wife started a foundation to educate and rehabilitate addicts
  • They face challenges including lack of support from the addict's families and increasing drug use

(CNN)After 15 years of being addicted to drugs, David Gordon was ready to turn his life around, but he soon realized there were others that were still being controlled by addiction.

Having been through the cycle of jail and drugs, starting with marijuana and ending up with heroin, he decided to start his own rehabilitation center in Bogor, a city just south of Indonesia's capital Jakarta.
    Now, 18 years later, he is the director of the Yakita Foundation, one of the only non-governmental drug rehabilitation services in the country with locations across in Indonesia.
    Spreading drug problem
    "I saw an article about the only drug recovery center in the country at that time, at the government hospital," explains Gordon. "I went over as a volunteer and saw the problem immediately. I sat with 22 young people, 21 were heroin addicts.
    "I had never seen that many heroin addicts in one place at one time, and I'm an old junkie. That was the day that all of this began."
    Gordon started the foundation in 1996, alongside his wife Joyce, who brought in her knowledge from working with non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
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    In the mid-1990s it was difficult for drug addicts to get clean as there were few drug programs and help centers.
    "In 1996 heroin was running wild. It had spread so quickly people did not recognize the severity of the problem," says Gordon.
    "I thought the best way to begin was to start the narcotics anonymous program in Indonesia. It was already well established worldwide, but nothing was translated. So my wife Joyce translated the alcoholics anonymous book and the narcotics anonymous basic text."
    Educational solutions
    David and Joyce's first program lasted six months, they taught 156 modules over that period, teaching five hours a day and checking on the progress of each individual student.
    "The offering was a complete program," says Gordon. "We had programs that dealt with prevention, intervention, detoxification, and the beginnings of a basic aftercare program. We created a school with an above university level of education.
    "It gave them a basic understanding that they had a choice. If you're going to relapse at the end of six months, choose it. Giving them the choice is what a real program will do."
    Family support
    However, the pair have come up against some problems, family support being one of them.
    "Aftercare is a big problem across the country," says Gordon.
    The sense of shame prevents some families from being involved in the aftercare programs, which could make a huge difference.
    In addition, the drug problem in the country is growing faster than the foundation can possibly work. Despite this setback, the Yakita Foundation won't quit.
    "I keep going for the same reason I started." says Gordon. "I remember a long time ago somebody put their hand out to me when I had no hope and showed me these programs. I started with a 12-step program and they gave without taking anything.
    "That was a very long time ago now and I do it for the same reason. I see people who have no hope."