Recovering drug addicts have taken to the seas around Hong Kong to gain life skills that will keep them clean when they return to society.

The group of men, who reside at Shek Kwu Chau Treatment & Rehabilitation Centre (SKC), spent a week with Outward Bound Hong Kong (OBHK) learning to sail.

“I think I can be braver and tougher, it was such a difficult task but I still completed it so I get more confidence in myself,” said one recovering addict.

There was a 24-hour period during his training when he had barely anything to eat, and was constantly working hard on the boat.

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“During that time I thought so much about what I want, and what I really need in my life. A simple life can make me happy,” he said.

“When I was on drugs, I could not face my setbacks. I drowned in that sadness. Now I will think differently, although I’ve lost so many things to drugs, it will be different [when I leave SKC].”

He started the course afraid of the expanse of the sea, but he grew in confidence as time went on, thanks to the cooperation between him and the rest of the crew.

“I took ‘ice’ [crystal methamphetamine] before and during that time I had many illusions. I was afraid of people. Afraid they were threatening or killing me,” he said.

His aunt was at OBHK when it hosted a graduation ceremony for the participants.

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“You can see emotions in him, you can see him crying,” she said of the change she had seen since he moved to SKC, an island south of Lantau. “Before, he didn’t show emotions, he was just taking drugs, but not any more.”

Another new sailor said the OBHK helped him learn determination.

“During my stay in SKC, I learned to have a more disciplined lifestyle,” he said. “I did not have this during my addiction. Here, I learned to be more persistent, to achieve my tasks and not give up. I could practise, not just in theory but in a practical setting.”

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The two instructors, Keefe Hung and Houso Ho, supported their crew with more than just technical skills.

“Even within one group, what they have changed or learned is different,” Hung said. “Some have come to learn patience, some have come to learn communication, so it is hard to say what participants get out of it.”

Ho said: “Some of the participants were learning very slowly at the beginning but quickly by the end and we were increasing what we taught them.”