Rehab patients reconnect with loved ones

About 30 drug addicts in Qingpu District had a special gathering with their families ahead of International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

About 30 drug addicts at Xiayang Drug Rehabilitation Center in Qingpu District had a special gathering with their families ahead of the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

Under isolation in order to free them from drug addiction, they can usually only see their families once a month and talk through phones and a wall of glass. But this time, they were allowed to sit knee to knee and enjoy lunch together.

It was the first time Jiang Wei, 26, was able to hug his gray-haired grandma since he entered the center in April last year. He asked her numerous times whether she was well while she kept adding more and more food into his bowl.

“I feel guilty about my grandma,” Jiang said. “She is in her 80s with and has serious diseases, and I'm the only family member who can look after her, but I'm unable to do that because of my irresponsible behavior.”

Jiang’s parents divorced when he was three years old and his father has been working outside of Shanghai. He was brought up by his grandma who once served in the military.

Two years ago he was caught by police while under the influence of methamphetamine, also known as “ice,” and was later put into the center for two years of compulsory rehabilitation.

“I felt I was going to faint when I received the call from police, telling me my introverted grandson was a drug user,” the grandma said. “I was shocked and also felt remorse for not having looked after him well enough.”

In the past year, she's only been able to go to the rehabilitation center twice to meet Jiang, through the glass, because she suffers from heart disease and cancer of the colon and lung. It takes her about three hours to travel from her home to the center by bus each time, and then another three hours back.

“I relied on my grandma too much as a child previously and had not realized that I am a man that should look after my family,” Jiang said. “But only after I was isolated from her, I began to worry about her. Is she well? What if she has a fall while I'm not at home? Such questions are always on my mind.”

Jiang says he will do his best to look after his grandmother once he's released. “Even if she can live up to 100 years old, there are only more than 10 years left, not to mention her diseases," he said. "I will cherish my time with her and will not make her worry about me any more.”

Next to Jiang's table, 40-year-old Xu Gang sat his 5-year-old son on his knee and continuously fed him.

“I haven’t had the chance to hold my son in my arms for half a year,” he said. “He is going to attend kindergarten in September. I feel so bad that I can't go with him." Xu hopes he can return home soon and vows not to miss any more important occasions.

The gathering is part of the center’s efforts to integrate family and social strength to help drug addicts with rehabilitation.

“Drug rehabilitation can not be achieved in the center alone, it requires support from families and all of society,” said Xu Renmin, deputy director of the Xiayang center.

The center officers showed family members around the institution to let them know what the life of their relatives is like. They also gave tips on helping stay drug free.

Xu said the rehabilitation center not only helps patients break free from their drug addiction, but also encourages them to live independently and re-integrate into society.

The center also held a meeting with families, sub-district office staff, social workers, vocational training organizations, employment promotion officials and volunteers to share their experiences in helping addicts in the hope of closer cooperation in the future.

A third-party organization conducted a survey among 814 released drug users. More than 60 percent of them said family care was one of their main motives for becoming clean.

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