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Addicted Since 12: How This Man Turned His Life Around Thanks To His Mom.

Francis, Jolene, and two of their kids smiling as they pose for the photo. Behind them are red and white bags that read, "Have a heart, share a gift." They come from The Boys’ Brigade Share-a-Gift Project.

Francis How’s life began to spiral out of control when he was only 12 years old.

His family life was never great, only adding to the pressure he felt to follow along with whatever the gang members who hung out with him did. That included drugs, from cannabis and heroin to methamphetamine and ecstasy.

“I was roaming the streets searching for love, acceptance and security but at that time, I did not know I was looking in the wrong places,” Francis told The Straits Times. “Honestly, I did not know why but I just kept doing it again and again. Drugs were like a huge magnet, sucking me in after my first encounter.”

From here, Francis spent years getting in trouble with the law. His drug use turned into committing other crimes, like breaking into homes and gambling. Each new destructive behavior led to another, all of which only worsened his drug addiction.

Francis wanted to quit drugs, but when he tried going cold turkey alone, it didn’t work. By the time he was 32 years old, he had served a total of 10 years and nine months in jail.

During these years of struggle, Francis’ mom stuck by his side, always making sure to visit him in prison once a month.

“She did not abandon me and accepted me for who I was,” Francis shared. “She believed and hoped I would change.”

That’s why, when he was put in jail for the fourth time at 26 years old, his mom’s heartbreaking honesty truly opened his eyes for the first time: She revealed that she felt he was safer when he was behind bars and unable to make the bad decisions that repeatedly brought him there in the first place.

“All these years, I had made her cry, worry and have sleepless nights,” he said. “I had disappointed her again and again. I felt useless and wanted to get out of this mess so that I could stay out of jail to love and care for her.”

More determined than ever to start over, Francis got involved in groups and programs that allowed him to find healthy relationships. In fact, today, he’s a counselor, using his experience to help other kids avoid learning the lessons he did the hard way.

One way he does this is by volunteering with The Boys’ Brigade Share-a-Gift Project. This allows him to provide weekly counseling with Prison Fellowships Singapore.  

Those aren’t the only kids Francis has dedicated his life to helping. Now, he has kids of his own with his wife, Jolene –three daughters and a son, all between the ages of two and 10.

Although their kids are still young, Francis and Jolene have already found ways to talk to their two oldest about their dad’s past. He wants to make sure they understand the consequences of taking drugs.

“It’s important to teach them the right morals and values, so that they will continue to uphold them even after they’ve grown up,” Francis said. “We are more focused on character-building than academic progress.”

In having an open, communication-focused relationship with their kids, Francis hopes they’ll always feel safe coming to them for anything, which, in turn, can help keep them from turning to the wrong people.

“The people you mix with have a significant impact on your mindset and outlook in life,” he explained. “Surround yourself with positive influences.”

Share this story to celebrate the incredible way Francis turned his life around!

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