PW Special Feature: An Interview with Hannah Chun

From a Teenaged Drug Abuser to a Confident Woman - Hannah's Inspiring Story of Courage and Resolve!

"I am very thankful that today I can openly express whatever I have gone through in the past.”

If you meet Ms. Hannah Chun today, you will undoubtedly see a self-assured woman who is also a content wife and a mother of 4 children. It is hard to imagine the Hannah from over two decades back – as a little girl fraught with self-doubt and fears, who tried to run away from home, or as a teenager who started abusing drugs and was imprisoned for it.

Parents World spoke to Hannah who very graciously agreed to share her inspirational story with our readers – of how she overcame her drug addiction and also of how she gave birth while still serving time in prison.

A Lonely Confused Childhood

After what seemed like a happy, normal childhood and a family like any other, Hannah’s parents got divorced when she was only 8. Both her parents could not come to terms with the divorce, leaving Hannah and her older sisters confused.

“No one really cared for our feelings. No one was there to process with us or explain to us what was going on. At the same time, we were expected to do well. And I believe there was a lot of hurt and pain.”

As a result, Hannah’s sisters started running away from home when they were 13 and Hannah attempted to run away too. 

After the divorce, Hannah initially lived with her father. She was a good student in primary school and excelled at sports. She got into a good secondary school but could not cope and dropped out of school in Sec 1.

“I felt during the transition (from primary to secondary school) and when I was supposed to join competitions that I had no support or encouragement. I felt alone all the time. I didn’t have my mum or my sisters with me. I started to hate my life so I dropped out of school. I couldn’t wait to grow up.” 

Growing Up Too Soon

Confused, lonely and dejected Hannah started to look for friends in the wrong places. Even though underage, she started frequenting clubs, where drinking and smoking was common. It escalated to glue sniffing, having boyfriends at an early age and not returning home at night.

After a big fight with her father, Hannah moved in with her mother thinking that her life would be better but her mom had still not recovered from the divorce and was depressed all the time. Hannah felt the need to mature quickly, earn money so she could take responsibility of the house. With her job at a nightclub, Hannah became the breadwinner of the family.

“I needed to be a parent to my parents. That was my belief because of the way my mom shared her problems. I started working at nightclubs, first for fun and then since the money was so good, I couldn’t stop. I started paying for bills at home. But inside, I was still the very abandoned, lonely, rejected girl who was pretending to be someone she was not.”

Soon, Hannah started experimenting with drugs, and she was regularly intoxicated while working at night. She was addicted to ketamine and was caught by the police at the age of 16 for the first time. 

Giving Birth in Jail

At the age of 18, Hannah was arrested for drug abuse for the second time. This time round, she was 5 months pregnant with her first child. She served her sentence while pregnant and also gave birth while in jail.

Hannah recalls how the jail wardens took her to the hospital where she gave birth with her ankle cuffed to the bed. After giving birth, she was taken to a special hospital ward which Hannah said looked like a prison cell.

On returning to prison, Hannah was given the choice to send her baby to live with family but she was reluctant as she thought there was no one to care of him. A month later however, he started getting skin rashes that looked like raw wounds, Hannah had to make the difficult choice of sending her son away to live with her elder sister.

Hannah was released from prison after serving her time for 2 years. But spurred by her old fears & insecurities and her poverty mindset, Hannah went back to her nightlife and drug abuse. She was arrested for the third time – this time as a single mum.

“ I didn’t know that drug addiction was a disorder. I just thought it was a bad habit. I thought that it was easy as long as I had the willpower, I promise myself and changed my lifestyle, I would be able to get out of the addiction.”

Hannah felt more socially ostracized by the many labels that were hurled at her, such as being an irresponsible mother to her son. These labels pushed her deeper into a sense of condemnation, shame and guilt but did not stop her from taking drugs.

“I was leading a very pretentious life and a very pretentious lifestyle, covering up for being a failure all my life. I was pretending to be okay but I was not okay. Something was eating into my soul everyday”

The lowest point that led to the turning point of her life

As Hannah continued with her addiction, her body started showing signs of long-term abuse. She felt her body was falling apart, plagued by constant aches and pains. Hannah also realized that her son who was growing up, was mimicking her behaviour and habits. His living environment was not healthy and that he knew his mother was not normal. Due to the condition of her body, Hannah had to quit her job in the nightclub too.

“Everything was falling apart for me. I started to look more and more like a drug addict.”

Hannah often browsed Facebook & saw pictures of her friends who had graduated, travelled overseas, and looked nice; while she was a drug addict, who had been to prison to two times in the last 10 years and whose body was failing her. Hannah started feeling very worried for her son and realized that if she continued this way, the only end for her would be death.

In those rock bottom moments of her life, a friend introduced Hannah to the New Creation Church. Not knowing what to expect, Hannah went along and this turned to be a life-changing moment for her as all the hurt, guilt and shame she had been carrying all her life started to go away. After listening to other people’s stories, Hannah got into a path of self-discovery, finally understanding how the rejection and abandonment from her parents had affected her. Hannah realized that she didn’t want her child to suffer in the same way and started letting go of her addiction.

She realized that mere will power was not enough, she needed help and change of environment. One year in the church helped Hannah unlearn her bad habits and pick good ones. As she let go of her addiction, Hannah started to love and accept herself.

“It was the healing in my heart and mind that helped me recover from the addiction.”

The Giving Heart

Hannah began volunteering at the church, helping women who were facing addiction or those who were in prison. At the time of this interview, Hannah was working at the New Creation Church’s women’s sanctuary– a residential program for women who are trying to fight off drug addiction. At the sanctuary, the women have a safe place to stay and recover from their addiction and start life afresh. They also focus on faith based programs, family reconciliation, life skills and job training.

Hannah shares her life’s experience with her children openly. Her eldest son is now 20 and in NS. She has 3 other kids from her marriage. Looking back now, Hannah feels that despite her background and despite not knowing how good parents are or what constituted good parenting, she has done well as a parent.

“Today I can say I know how to love my children in the right way. I am raising up my children with the right kind of values, giving them the right environment. I am making sure that they are emotionally well.”

When asked what advice would she give to others in a similar situation, Hannah said:

• Always be kind to someone who does not seem to be doing well as you don’t know what they
are going through. Don’t pass judgements/ make comments.
• Forgive yourself and forgive others who hurt you.
• Learn to love yourself, the healing has to begin with you. It’s not easy to carry on with so much
• Encourage people who are struggling – whether the parent or the child- to seek help.
• Find someone you trust. Don’t go through all these emotional challenges in isolation.
• To the youngsters who look at social media and see all this pretentious life and feel this is cool,
do not be influenced because the consequences of drug abuse and this kind of lifestyle is very
hard to bear.

“It is almost impossible to quit once you get addicted. It is a trap to a vicious cycle. It has to come from within. It’s a long process of learning and unlearning.” – Hannah on drug abuse and getting out of it.

The feature is based on an interview conducted via Zoom with Ms. Hannah Chun by Parents World Senior Digital Editor Puja Chandra Nanda.