There is a stigma, an unfair mindset of the general public that must be changed. And it is the discriminatory belief that all addicts are evil, hopeless, and deserve to die.
The fear is understandable. When we hear the word “addict” we immediately connect it to pain, crime and violence. But trust me when I say that NOT ALL ADDICTS ARE EVIL. The majority are actually good fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, husbands, and wives who just made wrong choices…yes, just like every non-drug-using person. Those who are criminally-minded deserve to pay for their crimes. But those who wish for a second chance deserve to be SAVED!
Here is another remarkable individual who turned his life around with the help of God’s saving grace and the compassion of a welcoming Safe Haven family. Bop Buenventura did the once unthinkable… From living a life in hell to becoming a role model!
I spent the first half of my elementary years in Tagbilaran, Bohol, studying in a private Christian school where morals and values were taught partnered with the discipline I got from my father, I grew up as an obedient boy. Due to our economic instability I had to relocate to Cebu where my uncle supported my studies in USJR. It was here when I started to get influenced with alcohol and whatnot. When I was 11 yrs. old I transferred to my aunt, a sister of my father. I was left unsupervised. As the days went by I came across people much older than I was who would I call “friends”. Through peer pressure I started smoking cigarettes, marijuana and even sniffed rugby. I entered a world where the weak would perish and to avoid being bullied, I had to project myself and be intimidating.
When I was in high school, that was the time that I was introduced to a drug called Shabu which I experimented for curiosity sake. It was during this time I started to think about how my parents were never there for me and blamed them for reasons I can’t even remember. All I remember is my first hit using Shabu. I was never good in class but I was a varsity player for our volleyball team back then.
It was in college when I started substance abuse and Shabu wasn’t enough anymore so I started taking cough syrup and injectables. I did A lot of stealing, lying and manipulation. For four years I only took 1st year subjects and prerequisites. I then realized I wasn’t going anywhere. My addiction had a solid hold on me. My uncle, a former Senator back then and an advocate of “Save a User, Jail the Pusher” program, asked my mother if I was willing to submit myself to rehab but I declined. Why should I go to rehab? I am not crazy and from what I have heard people just kept going back to using and it wouldn’t work for me, so I decided to self-rehabilitate. A year later I enrolled in airline maintenance engineering, a 2-year course. I graduated after 5 years because I was back to drug use, but eventually I passed the licensure exam. Finally something I can be proud of, I am an aircraft maintenance engineer.
I stayed clean for 2 years after I got my license and I had plans to work abroad, but my plans changed. I decided to marry a daughter of one of the top Doctors here in Cebu so I decided to work in a BPO industry instead. It wasn’t long before I started using again. As I continued my drug abuse I was such a pain in the neck for my wife she was very miserable back then. I wasn’t just into drugs. I needed something else to go with it. So I started gambling, alcohol and womanizing. Cheating on her wasn’t even enough, so I’d ask money from her so I could get high and if she won’t give me anything I had to steal money, her jewelries or getting her personal belongings of value and I had it “swapped” for a fix. She endured this life for years living with me. And one day she decided she had enough and left me.
After she left me my life continued to spiral downwards. I was beginning to regret what I have done . I had a home and countless blessings, but what did I do? I threw them all away. For 5 straight years I was in an empty shell looking for that next high. Bright sunny days were gone and only long cold nights remained. Some nights I would sleep at St. Peters Memorial Homes so I can get food from families who patronized their services. There are days that I had to roam around in the streets of Colon wondering where to eat and sleep because I could no longer pay for the room I have rented. I spent holidays alone, away from my family because they have had enough of me already. They would not let me in because they were afraid that I would steal from them. My addiction has taken everything from me, family, real friends, loved ones and every centavo of mine.
I had nothing left and all I could think of was my next fix and to get high. There was an instance that I had to rob three kids at gunpoint and they gave me everything that they had on them. I could see all the fear in the children’s eyes. Something struck me inside. What has happened to me? I stood there for a few seconds silent, then returned there belongings, then walked away crying thinking to myself, I wasn’t raised to be like this, why am I doing this? I suddenly remember that question, then my tears would fall in the act of using. I don’t want to do this anymore, I told myself. So I asked a friend of mine for help. That’s when I was rescued and brought to a facility as a scholar. After a 3 month program I volunteered and was accepted as a recovery coach. I was working in the facility for a year and a half and resigned after feeling confident that I was ready to face the world .
After which I applied in the BPO industry and it didn’t take long, there I was back to my old ways again. Failing to remember the pain and trouble I caused in the past. I started out with denial, then all negative thoughts and feelings would eventually come back like self-pity then stealing and lying Oh no, here we go again. For two years this continued. Within those two years I asked help three times from a good friend Emmanuel Llenos. The first and second times I would either be high while asking for help. On the third though, I was desperate. I missed that warm cozy feeling of being in recovery. So I approached Emman Llenos again for help and went to SAFE HAVEN Recovery Village where he is currently working as a recovery coach. There I met Pastor Ronnie Delos Santos the founder/ owner. He listened and embraced me, welcomed me and loved me. Through his guidance and his love my darkness has turned into light!
The Safehaven culture is very much different from others. No one forces you to do anything, The place has given me so much HOPE, and it encourages change for the good. It is here where I accepted the program. It is in Safe Haven where I belong. Before coming here, I had no purpose, no direction, my days were as dark as a puddle of mud. But now I am a proud messenger of HOPE in helping people like myself, an ADDICT showing the world that there is a brighter future awaiting. Life indeed will get better.