Smile and trust the process, you will eventually see light at the end of the tunnel.
Mental health should be taken seriously.
Fight your battle.
Addiction is a disease that needs medical attention.
“Everyone deserves a chance to clean up their mistakes.”
Humans are quick to judge. Whether you like it or not, each of us has passed a nasty or impolite remark about someone we barely know. You may not realise it, but oftentimes these comments can have a lasting impression on people and lead to serious problems.
People with mental health conditions often face these stigmas. An action like avoiding someone because you think they could be harmful or you assume they’re unstable contributes to this stigma.
Eka Shereen faced the same battle when she suffered from addiction due to her mental health issues. Her mind was filled with negative thoughts of her not being worthy of God and afraid of being labelled by society, she was reluctant to seek help.
The Founder of Hope Valley often blamed herself for “being the problem”, but sooner or later, she realised addiction is a disease. Just like diabetes, cancer, or any other sickness, Eka believes addiction should be treated the same way. Instead of being punished behind bars, they should be given medical attention.
Life before substance
Love makes a family.
“I come from a decent family background – a textbook middle-class family with good education background, gentle, kind and loving. My childhood was memorable and fun. It was a good balance between family, school and friends. We had an uncle who lived with us and was an interior designer. I believe this helped nurture my interest in creative arts because I often helped him with his masterpieces,” Eka shared with us during an interview.
Pampered by both parents, she recalls being “spoilt” as she always got whatever she wanted. Growing up with strict parents, Eka’s mother wanted it different for her children, and that brought their relationship even closer – a friend-like relationship rather than a regimented mother-daughter expected relationship. “We were very close that I had no barriers to sharing anything with her, which included very personal intimate matters,” Eka recalled.
Being the only daughter in her family, Eka’s relationship with her younger brother was inseparable. They shared the same interest, especially in music. They also had the same circle of friends, and they did a lot of activities together.
When darkness took over
Unfortunately, Eka lost her father as a young girl. Growing up, she felt there was a form of emotional neglect as she was not getting the attention and love she was yearning for. Slowly she fell into a trap that flipped her world upside down.
In her teenage years, Eka started smoking before trying alcohol and escalated quickly to other substances like marijuana, ecstasy and lastly, methamphetamine. She became dependent on meth for 10 years, and overall, Eka was exposed to substance abuse for 20 years.
Eka with her beloved ex-colleagues.
Eka’s friends referred to her as the heart and soul of the party. Little did they know the cheerful and joyful young lady was filled with void and loneliness that dragged her into a dark place.
“The biggest struggle was that I knew there was a void in my soul, yet I had no idea what was causing it or how to solve it. I would find myself staring at my reflection, wondering what was wrong with me. Of course, I had no answer and it was nearly impossible for me to share or verbalise them to anyone. I repeatedly felt trapped in that dark, miserable place and it even came to a point where I felt the only solution was to… end my life,” Eka shared.
Sometimes, friends often feel like family.
“Can you imagine that I was only 12 when I first attempted suicide?! At that time, I couldn’t obtain sleeping pills from the pharmacist without a prescription. During the other two suicide attempts, I did not swallow enough pills to completely put me out. On my last attempt, I was very ill the next day after the consumption. My mother was the one who came over to treat and save me. I did not go to any medical institution for help as I was afraid of being criminally charged.”
Journey to recovery
“I realised when you look at your mother, you are looking at the purest love you will ever know.” – Mitch Albom
The sacrifice and undying love of a mother were very much apparent as Eka witnessed her mum’s obsession to rescue her. Despite suffering from aneurysm, it did not stop her from going to any extent to do anything for Eka. However, just like a burnt-out candle, it came to a point where she became exhausted and stopped chasing after Eka.
It wasn’t til then Eka realised it was about time to get treatment and she was willing to go into recovery.
Explore the world while you can, don’t let anything or anyone get in your way.
“It is really silly how I was always a rebel. For some reason, all I wanted to do was just the opposite of what she expected of me. When she stopped, it somehow meant that at that point I could make my own choice. I don’t feel controlled anymore and am not being forced on what to do. I strongly believe when given the freedom to choose, it did play a big part in my decision makings later.”
In her recovery journey, Eka received support from her best friends and especially her brother, her pillar of strength. Some of the biggest and greatest help she received was from the people of the 12-step fellowship, her sponsors, and Alcoholic Anonymous and Narcotic Anonymous members. Her psychiatrist and therapist also had an impact on her journey to recovery.
Hope Valley was born
Believe in yourself and you’ll do wonders.
“I just have a passion for helping others in similar situations, whether it is the addicted ones or their loved ones. Addiction is a family disease. Like it or not, everyone is affected. I strongly believe that education and awareness will make society more understanding, empathetic and loving. It will stop the stigma associated with mental health disorders,” Eka expressed with great passion and determination to make changes.
Knowing the harms of addiction first-hand, Eka co-founded Hope Valley, a rehab centre based in Malaysia offering holistic recovery programs. Besides providing services and solutions to individuals and their families as a Certified Recovery Specialist, Eka hopes to train more people to become certified recovery specialists in this field due to the shortage of counsellors, coaches, therapists, etc.
“We have to be ready when the Malaysia lawmakers finally decriminalise addiction; just imagine the number of people that would finally come to seek help after and not want to suffer in silence anymore.”
Putting her faith in recovery, Eka reconnected with her inner self.
Recovery doesn’t happen overnight. Eka began offering outpatient treatments to clients who were feeling helpless. Sometimes she’s unsure if her clients will show up. But as they continue with the program and show daily progress, she feels incredible to have experienced that. Despite the challenges, one thing that motivates her is seeing these transformations while carrying the message of hope.
“I feel enlightened watching someone who’s given up on life recovering and regaining their strength and finding their true selves again. I have no words to describe it. I feel extremely blessed and grateful to be able to witness miracles on a regular basis.”
From one fighter to another
Giving up is not an option, which is what Eka has proved from time to time.
As we continued chatting, Eka’s word of advice is that even if you keep falling or relapsing, just keep going and one day you will get it. Seek proper help (preferably professionals or people with similar experience), do the work and anyone can recover!
You can live a life beyond your wildest dreams. You are worth it. You matter.
Learn more about addiction and Hope Valley. Click here