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City Weekend

Pedal power: how cycling tours are helping recovering drug addicts turn a corner in Hong Kong

‘We Cycle’ programme is not only a life-changing experience for participants – those doing the training also benefit

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 December, 2017, 3:03pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 December, 2017, 3:03pm

Having had her own struggles with drugs, Lee Man-ying is no stranger to dealing with addiction.

For her, cycling became a ray of hope. Friends, family, sports and helping others are now her top priorities in life.

Every week, the addict turned athlete gears up as a guide to take participants on cycling tours in the North district of Hong Kong.

Her life turned a corner after she completed six months of sobriety at a rehab centre, when the 33-year-old enrolled in a programme called “We Cycle”.

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The initiative is run by Cheer Lutheran Centre to help young drug addicts so that they can be set free from their dark past. Lee and 40 others on the programme share a common bond as they are all recovering drug addicts. Together they underwent more than four months of training during which they were taught cycling skills, basic medical knowledge as well as the history and cultures of the areas along the cycling routes.

“Not only that, we are also able to draw on past experiences and give each other the support needed in their recovery process,” she adds.

According to the latest available government data, the total number of drug abusers stood at 8,598 in 2015. And 24 per cent of those cases were newly reported, 1 per cent higher than in 2014.

Lee had been in and out of Shek Kwu Chau Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre twice, each time over drug addiction. Her journey into drug use started at the age of 13 when she ran away from home.

Methamphetamine, ketamine and marijuana were her constant choices of strong narcotics. By the time she was in her 20s, she became highly dependent on drugs.

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She hit rock bottom in 2014 when she lost interest in her own health and even the will to live. To top it all off, she found out she was pregnant. At that time she got no support from her parents or the father of the child. But despite the odds, she decided an abortion was not an option. It was during her second time at the rehab centre that she decided to make a fresh start.

Lee is now married to another man and a full-time housewife with a healthy two-year-old son.

The programme is not only a life-changing experience for recovering addicts, it also benefits the trainers.

Paul Ng, the secretary of Hoi Bun Heritage Docents Society, has been helping with training for more than two years.

“I am impressed by their strength and courage to change,” Ng says.

After every tour, the docents are required to share their stories with the participants. “Speaking to a room of people will give them confidence. Talking and sharing their stories so openly can also serve as a kind of reminder if they ever go down that path again.”

Dennis Cheung Pak-shun, who is in charge of the programme, knows the stages a person has to go through when they try to make changes in their lives.

“We Cyclesounds like ‘recycle’ and it implies that our life can change with the turn of a wheel. They have poor self-image issues because they assume they will not be accepted by society again but once they put on their cycling uniform, they take on the responsibility of a leader and that shows the underlying capability which they never saw before.”

Lee says: “Life is just like riding a bike. If you fall down, it doesn’t mean you need to stay down forever. With courage and determination, getting back up on your feet isn’t hard at all, especially when you have these wonderful people and mentors riding alongside you, steering you in the right direction on the road of recovery.”