Beyond the Bottle

By Shi Jin-yu (施金魚)
Abridged and translated by Leslie Han (韓世曦)
Syharn Shen (沈思含)

Beyond the Bottle

By Shi Jin-yu (施金魚)
Abridged and translated by
Leslie Han (韓世曦)
Syharn Shen (沈思含)

With a gentle appearance and a slim figure, Lai Jing-cong had a thirty-year drinking habit and once reached a weight of 90 kilograms. (Photo by Liao Di-heng)

Lai Jin-cong (賴進聰) had been drinking for thirty years, starting during his college days. Initially, it was enjoyable to gather with friends for drinks and card games. However, as time passed, his tolerance increased, and his life began to spiral out of control. "During summer and winter breaks, my friends and I took part-time jobs in nightclubs," he recalled. Working as a bouncer, "drinking and brawling became frequent occurrences. Money came and went quickly, and bad habits were formed."

As his father's health declined, Lai returned to his hometown to take over his family's traditional Chinese therapy business and married a Vietnamese woman, Pan Hung-jung (潘紅絨). Yet, his drinking habits persisted. Compliments like, "How can you drink so much without getting drunk?" inflated his ego and fueled more aggressive drinking. He would drink for three days, spend two or three days in bed, and then go out to drink again.

One day, a heavy drinking session led to a hospital visit. The nurse told his wife, "When I was giving him an IV drip, he said, 'Two bottles of sorghum liquor!'" This left Pan angry and helpless. Another time, he caused an accident while driving under the influence, and his mother had to pay a hefty sum of money for compensation.

Lai's alcohol addiction was a great source of worry for his family, who constantly feared for his well-being and endured the pain of his actions. "I thought by getting married and moving to Taiwan would give me an escape from a difficult life, but I ended up marrying an alcoholic," admitted his wife, who contemplated leaving him several times but couldn't bear to leave their children behind.

Lai Jing-cong and his Vietnamese wife Pan Hung-jung are partners in life, in business, and in volunteer work. (Photo by Pan Chang-guang)

Deep inside, Lai Jin-cong felt a sense of unease about his behavior. Hearing about the foolish things he did while drunk, he couldn't hold his head up high anymore and always worried about what trouble he would cause next. Yet, despite feeling regret, he couldn't break free from the cycle of habitual drinking. Every joyful or sorrowful event triggered the desire for alcohol. Month after month, year after year, he drifted through the sea of alcohol for thirty long years, feeling powerless to escape.

Amidst his struggles with alcohol, a window of change opened in Lai's life. His mother had been a donating member of Tzu Chi for a long time, and he had accompanied her on a train tour to visit Jing Si Abode, Tzu Chi's headquarters. On the train, a volunteer shared how he had overcome his gambling addiction through Tzu Chi, touching Lai's heart. In 2009, he watched the Da Ai Drama An Heir of Love, in which the main protagonist faced many hardships and suffered greatly but transformed herself and found renewed meaning in life after joining Tzu Chi. This deepened Lai's aspiration for Tzu Chi.

Lai (left) and his fellow volunteers promote bone marrow donation at a company. (Photo by Shi Jin-yu)

In 2009, Lai's mother fell seriously ill and even fell into a coma, causing him immense pain. By chance, he read in a book that doing good could change one's destiny. This idea ignited his desire to help his mother, so he donated a large sum of money to Tzu Chi in her name. Miraculously, her condition gradually improved.

Then, in 2011, several months passed without seeing the Tzu Chi volunteer responsible for collecting monthly donations. Lai contacted his local Tzu Chi office. Invited by volunteers, he participated in a year-end ceremony and eventually joined the ranks of Tzu Chi volunteers.

During weekends, Lai and his family spend time together helping out at the recycling station. (Photo by Pan Chang-guang)

Being a volunteer with Tzu Chi, an organization with a rule against alcohol consumption, was a life-changing experience for Lai. Despite initially struggling to turn down drinks, he gradually found the courage to say no, as he no longer wanted to bring more worries to his ailing mother.

Lai (left) and his daughter (right) rehearse for a charity concert. (Photo by Pan Chang-guang)

In 2013, Lai participated in Tzu Chi's volunteer training and started to engage in recycling work, finding joy in giving back to society. That same year, he overcame his alcohol addiction. The following year, he took on more responsibilities in Tzu Chi, such as visiting the needy, assisting in children's classes, and supporting students.

His hard work and dedication not only helped him break free from his 30-year-old drinking habits, but also influenced his family. His daughter, who once knew him as an irritable father, noticed that he became more patient and kind. His wife, inspired by the love and warmth of Tzu Chi volunteers, has also become a volunteer. "If it weren't for Tzu Chi, we would have separated," Pan expressed.

Lai Jin-cong has undergone a profound transformation in every aspect of his life. With harmony and understanding in the family, he and his wife now lead a fulfilling life, managing their business and actively participating in volunteer work as they share their commitment to serve society and inspire goodness in those around them.

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