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Recovery is about Change

By Joey Ibanez

This is more a story of recovery than addiction.

I was a healthy confident 40 years old when I was introduced to cocaine. My business was taking off, earning so much, having an easy reach to profitable contracts, broadening my connections, and in the course of dining and wining my clients, I developed a heavy penchant for booze and women.

Before I realized it, a bad influence got me snorting the white powder with magic power endowing me with superhuman recuperating feeling. It was extra energy that I needed for the nightly drinking sprees with client friends. Aside from the alcohol binges and increasing dosage of drugs, I acquired a taste for high-end leisure gentlemen’s club which I visited with increasing frequency.

The early onset of the habit-forming substance abuse was justified on the basis that it was motivated by business interests. Over time, such behavior took a personal hue, I was just enjoying the increasing dosage I was getting and doing it with shadier characters. Worse, the bad company got me to experiment on other habit forming drugs like ecstasy, ketamine, and dreadfully the worse that I should have avoided; methamphetamine also known as “Shabu” 7 years of destruction, addiction slowly chipped away my moral core, the principles that anchored me rusted away.

I drifted to the far end of paranoia, my mental balance, in the end, proved shaky that got me committed to a treatment facility where it took me a total of three years to finally find my bearings. The addiction was a nightmare, the treatment is not without its challenges, the most important and interesting part of this journey is the aftercare, the things you need wiggle through once you clear the gates of the center.

At age 50, exactly ten years I began dope, I am to restart my life embracing the hope that I could regain my footings on finance, family, and friends. The surest way to fail in anything you aspire for in recovery is to be clueless. One goes through a lengthy treatment period not to while the time away, it is to absorb learnings that would help you in recovery.

I was always told in rehab that habits developed over the period, such as mine could not be undone overnight, that there was no pill I could take to make my addiction and cravings vanish easily. To shake off addiction means being ready and strong, prepared, and equipped as if to do combat because that is really what it is. A lifetime of struggle.

Over the years I am frequently asked how I appear to easily overcome recovery challenges others find daunting, where I see light when others find darkness. Somehow this is what I always end up telling them. That at its very core, addiction recovery is about change.

It is the process of letting go of the use of all substances and self- destructive patterns, but that is only the beginning. To have a clue on what successful recovery is requires understanding, managing, and improving key factors that impact your daily life.

This is where I guess I got lucky. They say the addiction is isolation and its opposite is connection. In my 3 year therapy, I developed friendships and connections with others going through the same journey with me.

1. Creating and engaging with addiction recovery support groups to help cope with life’s challenge: Just months out of rehab, going back to work, recreating family relationships, connecting with good friends were the first steps to my recovery. I was also made part of founding a rehab facility which is now A DOH accredited 3,000 sqm, 80-bed treatment center in Amadeo Cavite. This became my major recovery support group that provides me the coping mechanisms when I am inevitably challenged with my sobriety. 2. Developing healthy habits including good nutrition and exercise. I am not athletic, but I made myself run on the slight urging of a friend, I ran 10k, 21k, then a full marathon. a made it a daily thing. Exercise settles my nerves. Drove away my cravings.

3. Finding a safe and nurturing living environment. I relocated my residence, far from the dense cement jungle of Parañaque with easy access to drugs I went to the south of Metro Manila where I am less prone to reach out to my source.

4. Identifying and changing harmful thinking patterns like denial, rationalization, and justification. I heeded the counsel of my recovery mentor despite my ambivalence to psychiatric care, going along with the consultation, interview, diagnosis, and treatment. what I deemed a monthly scheduled torment proved to be a big help towards the treatment of my co-occurring bipolar disorder.

5. Building healthy coping and living skills to manage stress and conflict. Unlike before, I turned to and embraced my spirituality, a daily dose of serene prayer proved to mitigate stress. Reading books sets me up mentally, allows my mental exercise. Writing on a recovery journal alleviates stress and anticipates conflict leading to easier resolution.

6. Understanding your triggers and how to address them. The one I fear the most is me getting lost in my emotions. Controlling it is easier said than done. But it must be done as the consequence of failure is dreary. Triggers are emotion-driven, it is a want, a need, a desire that are always perishable, they do not last long. One must develop not only the strength to resist it but more importantly the patience to wither out the craving. Intelligence is knowing the varying emotions that drive your triggers, wisdom is the ability not to get lost in them.

7. Recognizing your personal strengths and building upon them. Lead when you can. Never waver in your confidence because the lack of it is your downfall in recovery. Connect with others and help when you can and even when it hurts, never stop.

8. Improving your functioning in primary life domains like relationships, work, and finance.

The very foundation of recovery you can not do without. Money to bear you out, family to support you, work to sustain you. Keeping busy is essential in recovery, it fills away dead time, the devils’ playground.

Loneliness is a killer, it is a deadly trigger most relapse emanates from which often love of family effectively neutralizes. Sustaining material needs is finance sourced, the lack of it depletes not only pride and manhood but also a sense of value and contribution. you must be able to find a way to be financially sound.

I’m going 56 years old soon, almost 7 years drug-free. I can say I have survived and continue to do so on a daily basis. Recovery is a fight one can prevail over only when one is sure how to overcome it. the moment you waver on any front is the day you can relapse. This is my recovery, this is my story.

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