I never knew what was wrong with me until I entered AA. All I knew was that I was different and needed to be fixed. Over and over again, you hear “I just never fit in” uttered during meetings. Well, that was my reality.
I grew up in a very wealthy family in the Philippines. My grandfather founded the first bank and my father founded a steel mill. My childhood was really pretty perfect. I guess, the best way to illustrate it is by describing what happened when I was around 5 years old. I wanted a pink pony, so they found a white one and spray painted it pink. I was overjoyed when I was able to ride around in my very own PINK pony. Well, needless to say, the pony died the next day due to poisoning from the paint and when I found out I was devastated. They could’ve just told me that I couldn’t have one!
Anyway, despite all the wonderful things my family did, I was always unhappy. I always felt a poignant isolation. I blamed the fact that my parents kept moving me around. At eight, we moved to Hawaii. At 11, we moved to Italy. At 15, we moved to Canada. At 16, my parents moved to Miami and I went off to a boarding school in Connecticut.
All I know is that I was always lonely and unhappy. I remember reading a book called “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” where this girl was put into a mental institution. That’s what I wanted for myself. I wanted to just be filled with drugs until I was numb and kept safe. I kept trying to fill the emptiness inside of me. Life was always overwhelming and painful.
When I discovered drugs and alcohol, I had finally found my solution. Drugs and alcohol allowed me to deal with life on life’s terms. The years rolled by and I got married and started a family. I was pretty happy during this time. I was able to control my drinking and I didn’t use drugs because of my children. Life was good for a long time.
Then I started to become extremely unhappy in my marriage. I started to feel a quiet desperation. When my father developed cancer and subsequently passed away, I was devastated. The doctors started prescribing all sorts of tranquilizers and sleeping aids. One year after my father died, my mother followed. This was the last straw. They were my rocks, my foundation. I felt lost and alone.
That was when my addiction spiraled and went out of control. Somehow, I had crossed the line from taking drugs when I wanted to, to having to take them. Drugs had become my master. I couldn’t imagine a life without them. When my husband would beg me to stop and enter a rehab, I absolutely refused. Even though, by this time, I had kept trying to kill myself, I couldn’t imagine living without drugs and alcohol. How was I supposed to function? I kept showing up at emergency rooms. Finally, one of the psychiatrists at the hospital that was sick of seeing me there said “If you really want to kill yourself, why don’t you take some poison?”
I don’t know what happened to me on the day of November 16, 2005. All I know is that I came to, once again, in an emergency room. But this time, something was definitely different. I absolutely realized and accepted the fact that I was an alcoholic and that I could never ever again put anything mind-altering in my body. I call it my moment of grace. There was nothing different about my circumstances. I had woken up in emergency rooms many times before. Why was it different this time? The only way to describe it is grace.
Having been introduced to AA when I had entered rehab 5 years prior, I knew that I had to give it a try. Either that or take the rat poison that I did buy and kept in my purse. I just couldn’t go on. I was at the end of the line. The reason I had even considered AA was because for the brief time that I had gone to meetings, I saw people that SEEMED to have gotten better. I hadn’t bought it at the time. Sure, AA worked for you guys, but I’m different. I’m such a victim of my circumstances and AA was a cult full of Jesus freaks. Besides, I could afford therapy. I chuckle now as I write this.
As soon as I got out of the lock-down pych ward, I started attending meetings. I got a sponsor. She was someone that had been at rehab with me 5 years prior and she seemed like she was better. I did what she told me to do. I did everything kicking and screaming and bitching at her, but I did it. And little by slowly, my life began to change. Not so much because my outside circumstances had, but because of my perception. My husband was still as much of an “if you had a husband like mine you would drink too” kind of guy.
On November 16, 2017, I will have 12 years of continuous sobriety. I am so grateful for this life. In these past 12 years, I have lost 2 sisters and 1 brother to cancer; I finally got the courage to divorce my husband after 27 years of marriage; I lost almost all of my inheritance and what little I did get, I sunk into my husband’s business; I filed for bankruptcy; my home was foreclosed upon. And through it all, I have never even thought about picking up a drink or a drug. Today, sanity has returned and I know that if I ever took anything mind-altering, my life would fall apart and I will want to die again.
And what a life! I have true friends whom I love like family. Wonderful children who have blossomed and are happy and whole because their mother lives in recovery; beautiful grandchildren. And I have a new man in my life who was my friend in the rooms of AA long before we became a couple.
Life is good today. It’s far from perfect, but I have learned to count my blessings and be grateful for what I do have. I also, now, have a very loving higher power that wants me to be happy & whole. I am no longer a victim of my circumstances. Today, I have an inner strength and I am peaceful. I love my life today. I am BLESSED.
Thinking back to September 2015 I can still remember the pain I felt as I fell to my knees in the hotel room. “NOOOOO!!!!!, I screamed. This can’t be happening again!!!!! I was filled with fear, and I felt like my world was coming to an end. “I want my son back!!!”That was the last memory I have of visiting my son down in Delray Beach, Florida. At that time, Kevin had been battling an addiction to opiates for nearly six years. Watching a child battle addiction is one of the most painful, heart wrenching things a parent can go through. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
Never in a million years did we think this could happen in our family and more importantly to our beautiful son. Kevin had everything going for him. He was intelligent, athletic, good-looking, kind, honest and loyal. He was everything we had hoped our son would be, and we were excited to see what the future had in store for him. Raising him was easy, and he brought nothing but joy into our lives.
That brings me to the first hard lesson I learned about the disease of addiction. Addiction does not discriminate. It affects people from all walks of life and once it rears its ugly head into your life, things will never be the same.
Being so unprepared and not knowing how to handle what was happening to Kevin, our first action was to pull him out of college. We thought once he was home we could fix him with our love and support.
That brings me to the second hard lesson I learned about addiction; there was no way to fix Kevin. Kevin had to fix himself. Helping him was hurting him. I needed to get out of his way.
I prayed every waking moment of every day that he would have the will, the strength, and the desire to take his life back from this insidious disease. Kevin started attending a local out-patient facility but after a couple of weeks we got the dreaded phone call that he failed a urine test and had to leave the program. Next came an in-patient facility in New Jersey and then a facility in Florida. It seemed that just as things were looking up and we had hope he was getting better, another relapse would occur. Each relapse broke us to pieces and we became paralyzed with the fear of loosing our son to this disease.
Kevin’s drug use was progressing. He had his arms wrapped tightly around his drugs, we had our arms wrapped tightly around him, but it seemed the drugs were winning. During his darkest times, Kevin had lied to us, stolen from us, and it had gotten to the point where we couldn’t believe any thing that came out of his mouth. It was one lie after another, and one false promise after another that he would stop using and change his behavior. He had become a master manipulator and it had gotten to the point that we didn’t even recognize our son anymore. We continued to pray that he was still in there somewhere and he would find his way back to us.
The more the drug use continued, the more unmanageable all our lives became. My husband and I decided our only option left was to ask Kevin to leave our home. It was the hardest thing any parent could have to do, but we felt there was no other option. I remember looking into Kevin’s eyes as he stood at the front door. My heart was so broken. I remember saying to him, “I love you, but I hate this disease. I can’t watch you do this to yourself anymore and cannot allow this to go on in our home “. That was our last words and he walked out the door. Tears poured down my face and I felt like I was going to die. Where will he go? What is going to happen to him? Will I ever see my son again? My heart was broken and I didn’t know if I had the strength to go on. The next six weeks were a living hell. Every time the phone rang I feared it would be that “dreaded call” that he had gotten arrested or worst yet, that we had lost him. It was only by the grace of God and the support of Al-anon that we made it through. During this time my rosary beads became my constant companion and I prayed to the Blessed Mother every chance I could. I would visit a local church that had a beautiful statue of Mary and I would kneel in front of it for hours on end and pray. The words I recited were simple but meaningful:
“Help him to become the man you intended him to be”
Deep down inside, I knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that God had bigger plans for Kevin. He had created him for a purpose far greater than dying in active addiction. It was then that I put all my faith in God, my higher power, to help Kevin find his way.
Weeks passed and finally one day the phone rang and our prayers were answered. It was Kevin and he had decided he wanted to go back to treatment. Was this the “bottom” we had heard so much about. Was it finally going to be different this time? Kevin went back into treatment, completed the program, and decided stay in Florida and work on his sobriety. Things were looking up and we felt like we were finally getting our son back. But hope started to fade after we got a call from Kevin and we had a feeling he was struggling and his sobriety was in danger. Fortunately, we had planned a family trip to go visit him in Delray, and we felt the timing couldn’t be any better. I couldn’t wait to get down there to be with him, but I was filled with anxiety as to what we would find when we got there. We drove to where he was living at that time and once we saw him we knew that our worse fears were coming true; Kevin had relapsed. His year of sobriety was over. Stolen by the disease we had learned to hate so much. My beautiful boy was gone again and I didn’t know how to get him back. I was heart broken, paralyzed with fear. I remember screaming as I fell to my knees in the hotel room, NOOOOO!!!!!! This can’t be happening again. Help us please!!!!!!
What happened next in the pits of my despair was the answer I had been praying for. Call it what you like, but to me it was a divine intervention. I felt like God was showing me the way out of this desperation. I picked up my phone and searched for the number of Kevin’s old sponsor from back home. I hadn’t spoken to Chris in years, but I felt like he would give me the help I needed. My body was still shaking as I heard the voice of an angel on the other end. It was Chris’s wife, Leyane, and like a babbling idiot I hysterically explained what was going on with Kevin and asked her for help. She gave me the number of the therapist both her and Chris had used while they were in treatment down in Florida years before. That was the first time I was introduced to my other two angels, Eileen and Joanie.
Joanie answered the phone at Principles Recovery Center and as soon as I started speaking with her, I knew that was where Kevin needed to be. Joanie calmed me down, gave me the support and guidance I needed. She offered to speak to Kevin and see if he was willing to go get help. No matter how badly I wanted Kevin to go, it was he who had to make the decision to change his life and give recovery another chance. Knowing his options were running out, Kevin decided he would go to Principles. That is where Kevin met my third angel, Eileen. Eileen would be Kevin’s mentor and therapist during his stay at Principles Recovery Center. There was something different about Principles that set them far apart from any other treatment center we had dealt with. Most of the staff members had battled an addiction at some point in their life, and some had celebrated over 20 plus years of sobriety. They knew the destruction addiction causes because they lived it. Since recovery, they made a conscience decision to give back and help others find their way to a clean, healthy way of life.
With the help of the wonderful people at Principles and a devotion to a twelve-step recovery program, Kevin will celebrate two years of recovery this coming September. Principles gave Kevin the road map to recovery and with that map, he found his way and took his life back. I had the pleasure of meeting Eileen, Danny, Frank, Scott and other members of the Principles Staff while down in Florida a few months back. I can’t even put into words the gratitude and respect I have for this group of individuals.
Not only did they play a big part of us getting our son back, they have helped Kevin become “THE MAN HE WAS INTENDED TO BE” as nearly 2 years later Kevin is currently employed by Principles and has begun his own journey to help others by giving back and sharing his story.
I can’t tell you how proud I am of my son, Kevin. I sincerely believe that those who battle addiction and get sober are some of the strongest individuals that have ever walked on this planet, They have done the work, fought the fight, and turned their life over to a Power Greater than themselves. They give back to others effortlessly, and are there to support each other by example one day at a time. I pray that Kevin continues on his road of Recovery and lives a long, healthy life filled with the peace and serenity he has worked so hard to find. Kevin is a living, breathing example that there is Hope in addiction and I am blessed to have a son like him.
My heart goes out to all those who struggle with addiction. I pray that when they are ready to do what it takes to get their lives back, they will find the help they need at a treatment center as wonderful as Principles. That is where they will find the gift of Hope and Recovery.