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June 26, 2010

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Jin fought addiction and won, but it's a secret she must keep

JIN Xiaohe, who was a drug addict for 12 years, is finally getting her life back together -- working as a hotel manager and joining social workers to help other drug users.

"I'm satisfied with my life now, and the experience of using drugs has been strange to me," Jin, not her real name, told Shanghai Daily yesterday on the eve of International Anti-Drug Day.

But the 40-year-old woman has to give up on the chance of promotion because of her past.

Jin has to receive training in Hangzhou before gaining promotion. But if she goes there and checks in at a hotel, police would arrive within three hours to test whether she was clean.

She's not afraid of the results, but concerned others will find out that she had been a drug addict, a secret she has kept from colleagues. "If they knew, the hotel wouldn't hire me, especially a person like me, to do the accounting," said Jin.

To avoid an awkward situation, Jin has decided she won't go to Hangzhou, though she desperately wants the promotion.

The manager said she can understand why former drug addicts are treated in this way, but hopes that the practice employed by the police can be changed.

On China's mainland, once a drug user is caught, his or her record is kept in the system. When the former addict's ID card is used for any purpose, the police will immediately be informed of his or her location and arrive to carry out their tests.

The country's anti-drug law stipulates that addicts must be sent to a drug rehabilitation center and stay for two years.

Jin's last stay in a such a center was in 2005. Before that, she had been to various centers in Shanghai and other cities. But she always went back on drugs when she came out.

What made the difference this time was when a social worker named Chen Hui visited her at a center in Qingpu District. In Shanghai, social workers build contacts with those leaving rehabilitation centers, and follow their moves over a certain period of time.

"She got me into social activities gradually," said Jin. With the social worker's help, she cut off contact with the so-called friends who introduced her to heroin in 1993.

"The most important part to get off drugs is to stay away from the drug-using circle," Jin said. She then began to get to know new friends, and gets invited by social workers and other anti-drug groups to give talks about her experience.

Since social workers began to form bonds with people leaving rehabilitation centers, the rate of those getting back on drugs dropped to 11.29 percent last year from 31.42 percent in 2005.

"I do not like people to call me an 'anti-drug hero'," Jin said. "I made a mistake, and now I've corrected it and come back to the original point. I'm starting a new life."


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