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Linus’ Story
From vice to virtue – an ex-drug abuser shares how faith helped him overcome the drug abuse that consumed his life.

Home Team News SPS Volunteer Linus 1
PHOTO: Tiffany Tan

Linus Kok, 55, started down a path of self-destruction early on in his life.

He first began abusing drugs when he was just 16. Growing up in a neighbourhood in Sembawang, he hung around gang members who led him astray and exposed him to smoking, gambling and drugs. It started with cannabis, but one joint led to another, and he was abusing heroin within a year.

What followed was a 20-year battle with drug addiction that took Linus in and out of prison seven times.

No More Words
Besides abusing drugs, Linus also stole to fund his all-consuming habit. This spiral into criminal behaviour isn’t uncommon among abusers. “You stop thinking of the consequences,” Linus shares. “I thought only about how I could get money to buy more drugs. I was willing to do anything.”

As Linus descended further into addiction and crime, his relationship with his family suffered. The more they tried to stop him, the more he rebelled. Tensions escalated and Linus and his parents stopped speaking. “They were very disappointed in me,” he recalls. “Abusing drugs is a very selfish thing to do because you don’t think about anyone else.”

Starting Anew
Linus’ time in prison and the Drug Rehabilitation Centre meant he was separated from his ageing parents when they needed him most. Ultimately, it was this realisation that led him onto the road to recovery.

Linus attributes his rehabilitation to the discovery of his faith. While serving his sentence, he attended chapel services in prison and listened to the stories of fellow inmates and ex-offenders who’d changed their ways. “I was hesitant at first because I didn’t think I could change,” he says. “But I knew that if I didn’t, I’d grow old and end up with nothing in my life.”
After serving his sentence, Linus tried to distance himself from friends who abused drugs. But it wasn’t easy to cut his friends off entirely, and on more than one occasion, Linus relapsed into his drug habit and landed himself in prison again.

His final wake-up call came after he’d left the home of a fellow drug abuser. Moments later, officers raided the home. “I was so scared,” he recalls. “I told myself it was a sign from God that I had to change.”

Giving Back
After his release from prison in 1995, went to The Helping Hand halfway house to undergo treatment and rehabilitation. “You have to find a way to help yourself, because others can’t do it for you,” he says.

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Celebrating change: Linus with fellow award recipients at the Yellow Ribbon Celebrating Second Chances Award Ceremony in 2019. The event honours ex-offenders who've stayed crime- and drug-free and made positive contributions to society. PHOTO: SPS
Nearly 20 years have passed, and Linus continues to be involved with The Helping Hand as a volunteer, meeting ex-offenders and doing occasional graphic design projects. This was one of the skills he picked up during his time seeking treatment at another halfway house, the Gethsemane Care Ministry, from 2011 to 2017. “You have to find a way to help yourself, because others can’t do it for you,” he says.

Since 2014, Linus has also been an active volunteer with the Singapore Prison Service (SPS), where he shares his testimony with inmates at the same chapel service he once attended.

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Thanking our volunteers: In 2019, Linus received the Long Service Award (Five Years) from Mr Amrin Amin, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Health, at the Prison Volunteer Award Ceremony. PHOTO: SPS
Through regular sessions and follow-ups, Prison volunteers like Linus play a vital role in offering spiritual guidance as well as emotional and mental support to inmates and ex-offenders. Such services are provided by dedicated volunteers from organisations such as Buddhist Fellowship, Christian Counselling ServicesFITRAH (En-Naeem Mosque), Muneeswaran Prison Society, PERGASPrison Fellowship Singapore, Roman Catholic Prison Ministry, SANA Religious Group of Volunteers, Sikh Welfare Council, Singapore Buddhist Federation and Hindu Centre

“When I was at my lowest, I received so much from those who shared their testimony with me,” says Linus. “Now I want to give back. I hope to give the inmates courage and let them know that there’s hope in their lives.” 

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Mr Linus and his wife, Fei Fei. PHOTO: Desmond Ang

Linus is also making up for the time he lost to drug abuse and focusing on rebuilding his life. Having just started a full-time job with a [printing firm] in February, he’s working hard to build a future with his wife. The pair met in church through a mutual friend and have been happily married since July 2018.

Determined to not let his mistakes define him, Linus says, “I may have an ugly past, but what matters more is my present and my future.”

The Role of a Prison Volunteer: Religious Programmes and Services 
Volunteers and organisations have an important role to play in the provision of religious-based programmes and in assisting the offender’s integration back into society. Volunteers provide spiritual guidance and emotional and mental support to ex-offenders, giving them the strength to maintain a positive outlook in life. To learn more about volunteer opportunities, visit this page.

Harm Prevention Seminar
On 20 January 2020, around 300 professionals in the field of drug prevention and rehabilitation came together at the first-ever Harm Prevention Seminar to share their research findings and experiences in fighting drug abuse. Read the opening address by Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Home Affairs Mrs Josephine Teo. 

Home Team News SPS Volunteer Linus 3
PHOTO: Alvin Loh / SPS

At the Seminar, a special issue of the Home Team Journal titled “Spotlight on Drugs” was launched. Put together by MHA’s Research & Statistics Division and guest-edited by Dr Stella Quah, Adjunct Professor at Duke-NUS Medical School, the issue features research studies on different aspects of the drug problem such as the social and economic costs of drug abuse and drug crime; the consequences of liberalising drug policies; and the effectiveness of Singapore’s harm prevention approach. Download the Journal here.

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GRAPHIC: Home Team News

Back issues of the Home Team Journal are also available from the Home Team Academy.
© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.

  1. by Tiffany Tan
  2. 31 March 2020
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