Career Guide

From drug addiction to success: Reapfield Properties' star real estate agent

The founder and president of real estate agency Reapfield Properties Sdn Bhd, David Ong, overcame personal demons to achieve success The founder and president of real estate agency Reapfield Properties Sdn Bhd, David Ong, overcame personal demons to achieve success

He survived the dark pit of a heinous failure in “a lapse in reining himself” as a teenage drug addict and is just grateful for been granted a second chance in life.

Compared to his “dishevelled and hellish” drug addiction days, David Ong is a contented and successful real estate agent.

The 58-year-old is the founder and president of real estate agency Reapfield Properties Sdn Bhd.

He has not only overcome drugs since 1977, but has not even touched a cigarette since, which he says contributed to his traumatic addiction to drugs.

Sharing his “most regrettable failure” he has encountered with so as to forewarn “curious and looking-for-a-meaning-in-life” youths from experimenting on drugs, Ong related that it was out of curiosity that he took up cigarette smoking which eventually led to “grass” smoking and before long he was hooked on heroin.

He got hooked on the “hard drug” when he was 19 and his addiction grew for four years. At the height of his addiction, drug dominated every area of his life. Completely enslaved, Ong found his world already torn apart; the harder he fought the deeper he sank, he was constantly insecure, depressed and aware he was not going to make it out alive after seeing many of his addict “buddies” perished after succumbing to HIV and other diseases.

“I was in constant need of drugs and had to spend most of my money to support my addiction. Addicts like me are eventually reduced to a life of begging, stealing, borrowing and piling debts. One is also in pain and has mood swings constantly,” he confesses.

Being the youngest child and only son among four elder sisters, Ong admited that he made some really bad choices as a teenager.

“I hung out with the wrong company while looking for a meaning in life. I did not realise that I was in trouble even though there were many episodes of painful withdrawals when craving for a fix. My drug addiction problem had brought much suffering not only to myself but more so to my parents who had high hopes on me as I am their only son,” he says.

His parents were heartbroken when they learned of his addiction to drugs. The day his late father broke down and cried, Ong was really sorry and he agreed with his mother’s suggestion to check into various rehabilitation centres which included one operated by a former gangster.

“They would not hesitate to beat up any of the inmates who ran foul of the order of no drug taking. The compulsive addiction habits overcame the fear of being beaten up and in the end the treatment failed,” he recalls.

Living by faith

Finally, out of desperation, Ong’s mother sought help from a church ran by a pastor who based his treatment method on Christian teachings and bible principles. Recalling the effects of the treatment, he says: “I underwent some profound self-realisation and awakening that if I have faith, I would succeed in my endeavours with the grace of God and Jesus Christ.”

A staunch Christian today, Ong says he is forever grateful for the “divine help that has kept me free from drugs and cigarette smoking ever since”.

“Today, whenever I have the chance to share those painful times with people facing the same predicament, I tell them to start making the right choices.”

“For example, you have a choice of the company and habits you keep. Break away from bad company. Nobody can influence you if you don’t let them,” is his sincere advice to these people.

The drug addiction was not the first time Ong had failed himself. He failed his MCE examination and secured only a GCE certificate after passing just two subjects – English and Geography – in that examination.

Without a paper qualification, the senior Ong sought out his friend for a job for his son in a brick works factory in Puchong. But he only lasted three weeks on the job before calling it quits.

Ong decided to venture into selling real estate and joined hands with three friends to start Reapfield Properties in 1984. His partners later sold their share when the economic recession hit in 1985.

Business was slow and Ong found it hard to make ends meet and had to give up his rented office and work from his house with two supporting staff.

When the Government decided to regulate the real estate agency business, Ong was grateful that he had not sold off Reapfield Properties despite the hard times he faced.

He successfully applied for a real estate licence and has built up Reapfield Properties into one of the largest real estate agencies in the country, raking in annual sales value of more than RM3bil last year.

A young David Ong (back row far right) with his administration and sales team at Reapfield’s old office in Damansara Jaya in 1993. A young David Ong (back row far right) with his administration and sales team at Reapfield’s old office in Damansara Jaya in 1993.

Spirited endeavours

When asked what he has learned from his failures, Ong offers some wise reflections.

“Smooth seas don’t make skilful sailors. Failures are likened to storms of life that will prepare one to handle crises and challenges better.

“Failures are good if one learns the lessons from them. But those who repeatedly make the same failures are being irresponsible. Like the saying goes, as a dog returns to its vomit, so a man repeats his folly. It is not advisable to make the same mistakes without having learned from them.”

He has also realised that however bad a situation or problem may seem, it is not the end of the world.

“Failure is only temporary; it is how you address it that will determine whether you’ll emerge better or bitter.

“Those who continue to blame others instead of taking responsibility and start amending their faults will end up bitter. It will be a case of a good opportunity gone wasted,” he says.

To break away from their predicaments, there must be self-awareness to admit and acknowledge the pit one has fallen into. Then do all the necessary to rescue oneself out of the situation including seeking help from caring people or institutions.

Ong says failures can be blessings in disguise if they succeed in jolting people out of bad situations to become more focused and turn their life around.

“Out of a bad situation, I am grateful of having this opportunity to care and share with others about the pain and agony of drug addiction, and raise the alarm and level of awareness against falling into those traps.”

“I advise parents and guardians to be vigilant and guide their young with unconditional love and attention. There are many young people who are just going about life aimlessly looking for a meaning in life.

Many of them landed with the wrong company and got into different forms of troubles like addiction to drugs, pornography, computer games or compulsive spending.

“Young people should find out where their passions and strengths lie and put in the right efforts to excel in their chosen endeavours.

“Although it is fine to be curious about things, please don’t experiment with drugs, and other vices. Once you are in it, it is very difficult to shirk off those harmful addictions,” Ong reiterates.

This father of three girls in their 20s certainly knows what he is talking about as he gets ready to share his story with a wider audience.