By his mid-20s, former Triad gang member Lee Fai Ping was addicted to heroin and was regularly in and out of prison. Four decades later, he’s using his experience to help others transform their lives. We look at his inspiring addiction recovery story.

Former Triad Gangster’s Addiction Recovery Story


  • “I heard a voice which said ‘If you have the energy to end your own life, why don’t you use it to help others.’”
  • From Triad gangster & heroin user to one of the most respected addiction counsellors in HK.

Every once in a while we come across a story that reminds us of the remarkable powers of human recovery. Even from the most hopeless situations, we all have the strength to pick ourselves up and achieve things we might never have thought possible.

One such story is the remarkable tale of Lee Fai Ping. Once a heroin-addicted Triad gangster, the now 69-year-old turned his life around in dramatic fashion and worked for more than three decades as a counsellor helping Hong Kong’s youth to avoid the same mistakes he made.

Lee’s story reminds us that even from the most hopeless situations and the most debilitating addictions, recovery is possible. With the right support and drug addiction treatment, you too can transform your life and experience the many benefits of recovery.

Originally from Guangdong province, Lee moved to Kowloon Walled City ghetto in Hong Kong with his uncle at the age of five. As a teenager, he fell in with some friends who turned out to be Triad gang members. The years that followed would turn out to be the darkest of his life.

The Gangster Lifestyle

Even today, Lee is candid about his motivations during his days as a Triad gang member: he enjoyed the lifestyle. The lure of power, “money and girls” was just too much to resist for a young man who grew up in abject poverty and was frequently bullied by his peers.

“Life was quite happy,” he said in a recent interview. “I had money and I enjoyed a bit of freedom, so I enjoyed life back then.”

By his early 20s, Lee had entirely immersed himself in the lifestyle and in some ways he had it all. He made plenty of money through drug dealing, robberies and pimping, and his associations with gang-leaders gave him a certain amount of power. At least it felt that way at the time.

As is so often the case in stories like these, the gangster lifestyle would eventually take its toll on Lee and almost cost him his life. At the age of 23, he began using heroin and was regularly in and out of prison. By 1973 his situation had become so hopeless that he tried to hang himself in a prison cell, but the rope snapped. In many ways, that weak length of rope would turn out to be his saviour.

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The Transformation of Lee Fai Ping

“I heard a voice which said ‘If you have the energy to end your own life, why don’t you use it to help others’,” said Lee.

From there, the trajectory of Lee’s life took a remarkable upturn. It wasn’t always easy. It would take six months of intensive treatment at the Wu Oi Christian Centre for him to get clean, before going on to hold down his first regular job at a seafood shop in Sai Wan.

He would never forget his promise to help others and began to volunteer in the same treatment centre that helped him kick his habit. He began studying counselling and theology and would eventually go on to become the centre’s deputy general secretary.

Lee spent three decades helping drug addicts in Hong Kong before he retired in August last year. He is happily married and has a grown son, and has been formally recognised by the Hong Kong government for his services.

The Transformative Power of Recovery

Lee is one of countless former addicts who found the recovery process so transformative and fulfilling they decided to dedicate their lives to helping others recover from substance abuse problems.

“What those young people need most is for someone to care about them and in a sense, walk with them,” said Lee.

“When they come into the centre, they are as thin as skeletons. I am happy when they get better. It is very satisfying. I treat everyone who comes into the centre as my own child. I think the best strategy is always to teach by example.”

While Lee admits he felt some fear before beginning work at the centre in light of his heroin and opium abuse in the past, he need not have worried. He received nothing but support and encouragement as he established himself as one of Hong Kong’s most respected drug counsellors.

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Addiction Counsellors in Recovery

If you are recovering from drug or alcohol dependency there is a strong likelihood that you are now experiencing the many benefits of addiction recovery that led Lee to his career as a counsellor. A renewed sense of self worth, improved relationships with family and friends and sharing the simple joy of putting your dependency behind you can all be factors in deciding to become an addiction counsellor.

Studies have shown that anywhere from 37-57 percent of drug and alcohol counsellors are in recovery themselves and are every bit as effective as those who are not. A report in the Journal of Counseling and Development states that “recovering counselors are equally as effective as non-recovering counselors.” In fact, counsellors in recovery can bring a personal touch that may be beneficial for those they’re helping.

If you are in recovery, you will have a world of opportunity opening up to you that you did not have before. While the possibilities are truly endless, focusing your newfound enthusiasm and energy on helping others on the path to recovery can bring an unparalleled sense of reward and achievement.

It transformed Lee Fai Ping’s life. It could transform yours, too.

At The Cabin Hong Kong we’ve helped hundreds of people make a successful recovery and go on to lead happy and productive lives. Our licensed professional counsellors – some in recovery themselves – offer effective treatment and support for a range of addictions. If you need support with the next step of your recovery, contact us today to find out how we can help you.