Humans Of Courage – Nguyễn Thị Vĩnh

It was in the death of night. In the rented house with only two of us, my husband,  uncontrollable of himself, rushed in to strangle me! 

I could not resist against him because he was so tall and big. My scream was blocked in the throat, and all that was left was the rattle of a dying person.

Perhaps I was lucky. A passerby on their morning exercise routine heard the noise. They broke the door to save me. There was a first time, then a second time. The third time he rushed in to strangle me, all I thought of was my mother. Since I was born, I had never been able to pay her back… So after cheating death for the third time, I returned him to his family. I had to escape them and go back to my mother!

I really caused my mother lots of headaches. As my father passed away very early in my life, my mother brought us up all by herself. At 17, I got addicted to heroin all the while my mother was trying to make ends meet. After many failed attempts to admit me to rehab, she chained me up in the middle of the house to stop the addiction. I struggled until I bled. The next day, she put parts of the inner tube of a bike around the chains to lessen the pain. But still without any success! Since then until I got to nearly 40 years old, I completely exhausted the family’s resources. Our family’s lands were being cut up for sale to pay off debts. Without any money to buy heroin when the craving came, I again screamed at my mother!

I ended up contracting HIV after sharing syringes with friends. The goods that my mother sold at the local market were boycotted by everyone, “Don’t buy from her, her daughter is a junkie, she has ‘sida’” (“sida”: a derogatory word often used as a blanket term for people who use and inject drugs, people living with HIV and AIDS alike). I wanted to change, but heroin would never leave me alone…

In 2008, I saw a light at the end of the tunnel. The methadone (a medication used to treat Opioid Use Disorder) program was piloted in Hai Phong and I was one of the first to participate. Methadone helped me control the craving, I started regaining my conscience. More importantly, we have a group that assists the recovery process for people on methadone treatment. In this group, we share among ourselves about health issues, HIV, and the motivation to rid drugs. 

My mother said, “Methadone is like a second mother who gives you life.” Without heroine clinging onto me, I return to my everyday life with my mother. I help my mother make “bánh trôi bánh chay” (a type of dessert made from glutinous rice) so she can sell them at the market. At the moment, I am the co-leader of the recovery support group. Each month, I organize two gatherings for the group and during each meeting, I will talk with the members, checking if they are still using heroin or meth. If the topics are within my knowledge, I will deliver the session without having to invite experts. 

Thanks to ARV (Antiretroviral – a common treatment for people living with HIV), my viral load is at an undetectable level. As my mother is getting older, I fear that there is not a lot of time to repay her… Until the end of my life, I wish for nothing but peaceful days where I can be by her side and take care of her

Green One UN House, 304 Kim Ma, Ba Dinh, Ha Noi, Viet Nam