Ah-fei was 14 when he first tried opium. Yesterday, the 17-year-old celebrated having kicked a habit that made him sick and drove him to rob his family.
'My friends were smoking, and I was curious,' he said of the first time he took opium. 'I felt freed, that I had no need to worry about things . . . it was an anaesthetic.' The Tsing Yi Island teenager was among the first of 47 people aged between 15 and 29 to be awarded by the Government for kicking a drug habit. Each is given a grant - a maximum of $8,000 - for further education.
Ah-fei will use his grant of about $5,000 to study music with the new Christian band Fellowship.
At the Life Inspiring Award Scheme ceremony in Tsim Sha Tsui yesterday Ah-fei took to the stage to sing before family, friends and other reformed addicts.
'Detoxification was very difficult,' he said.
'But I decided I was sick of being bound by this physical addiction.
'I hope I can stay away from drugs . . . my religious belief will help me.' Commissioner for Narcotics Clarie Lo Ku Ka-lee said after the ceremony that the number of reported drug abusers was 19,000, more than 3,000 of whom were aged under 20.