His 22-year battle with drugs caused his wife and daughters to draw away from him, and his daughter even “disowned” him. This is a story of reconciliation, a Father’s love and how love overcomes all.

Jack Koh (65) was only 19 years old when he came into contact with bad company and more – he shares that “(he) was from the hippie era and marijuana was from then.” Before he knew it, he was dabbling with more hardcore substances such as heroin, and was even detained in the Detention Barracks in the army.

This was the story of Jack, a youth full of willful energies. He then met his wife Julie, and married in 1978. However, his encounter with drugs continued, and this led to another addiction – gambling.

“I was from the Hippie era of the 80s: check out how long my hair used to be.”

Deep in addiction

When his first daughter Josephine was born, instead of caring for her, Jack refused to give up on his habits and lifestyle. His own father was so upset that he slapped him and gave him a piece of his mind. “After slapping me, he said that I not even fit to be human and left in a huff,” Jack shares. The situation did not improve, and Jack and his father would remain estranged for almost a decade.

Jack’s drug addiction was so bad that every single morning, upon waking up – “the first thing I had to do was to smoke heroin even before brushing my teeth and shaving.”
“[My wife and I] met at our company. We danced together at a company Dinner & Dance for a song and that was it.”

After five years, when his third daughter was just born, his wife Julie could not take it anymore and left the house with two girls and a young baby in tow. He was devastated, and during the month that she left him, it felt like the world had stopped. “During that one month… I cried by myself in the middle of the night, wondering why was I left without a family even though I had one.” However, his deep entanglement with drugs and debt continued, and he was also gambling and borrowing from loan sharks as well.

By 1994, he was on the brink of divorce and was about to be declared a bankrupt. All that changed when he discovered his faith and decided to join a halfway house and commit to his recovery.

The light at the end of the tunnel

His journey to recovery begin at HCSA Highpoint Halfway House, where he joined a one-year program and overcame his 20-year drug habit for good. During that one year, he battled and overcame his addiction through the program which included counselling, work skills training, emotional and spiritual growth, combined with encouragement from his wife and guidance from his mentors.

After graduating from the programme, he joined the halfway house as a staff. He also restored his relationship with his wife. Julie forgave him, never gave up on him, and even encouraged him in his recovery journey.

Over the years, Jack grew in his leadership and was appointed to be Assistant Director of the halfway house. His job was to care for over 50 residents, who were either former prisoners or walk-in residents who wanted to begin their recovery journey. But it was during these years when his first daughter Josephine went through her teenage years of rebellion. Having grown up knowing her dad when he was using drugs, she “disowned” him and found it difficult to relate to him. It was a challenging period as Jack had to bear the stress of his rebellious daughter and manage the needs of the halfway house at the same time.

A better Son and Father

Jack had to also learn to become a better son to his father. After over ten years of estrangement, he reached out to his dad and they rekindled their bonds. Although his father passed away five years later, it was valuable time spent rebuilding their relationship and he learnt to forgive and love him.

Sunday night dinners look like this at the Koh family. Pictured from left to right is a cosy affair with Jack’s youngest daughter Jacqueline, Jack’s wife Julie, Jack, and Jack’s oldest daughter Josephine.

During this time, Jack also reached out to Josephine, and improved their relationship. Today, Josephine shares: “I am extremely proud of my dad and respect him as a true hero… he overcame immense challenges to be who he is today.”

Braving through the storms of life

Today, Jack is the proud co-founder of the charity The New Charis Mission, which he started in 2006 with Don Wong, his personal mentor, pastor and boss. Don was instrumental in Jack’s personal victory over drugs and gambling, and helped him mend relationships with his wife and daughter. “I feel very… satisfied. For 20 plus years I couldn’t overcome this addiction, and there is a sense of achievement in finally overcoming it. This serves as motivation for me never to turn back and go to drugs again,” Jack shares poignantly about his life journey. Since then, he has helped hundreds of other ex-offenders gain victory over their addiction and re-integrate into society with his own experiences and shared his life story with hundreds, if not, thousands more.

Jack shares one of his favourite Father’s Day gifts – a handmade cup by his youngest daughter, Jacqueline.

To Jack, nothing is more precious than spending time with his family. Some of their favourite memories include traveling together every year to different destinations such as South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. Every Father’s Day, Jack’s three daughters give him gifts. To him, it is not the gift but the thought that counts. He proudly shares that he has kept every handmade gift he has received for the past 22 years.

Jack shares the values he would like to pass on to his daughters, “More than money and things that rust, I hope they will always chase after the timeless values of love and faith all the days of their life.”

Jack pictured here with his wife, three daughters and son-in-law.

To me, there are two things are the most important in my life: my faith, and my family. The family bonds were so strong that they never gave up on me through my struggles. It is not the home that makes a family, it is the people, my wife and daughters, that make my family.

Father of 3 Daughters & Assistant Director of The New Charis Mission