Recovery & Regeneration
By Jennifer Adriano

Abuse means using drugs for “recreational” purposes, though this may be occasional and in varying doses, Dependency, or being “hooked,” is characterized by symptoms of withdrawal and tolerance—the dosage gets progressively higher with continued use.

“Most young adults say it’s their peer group that influenced them, though during their earlier years they may have experimented with gateway substances such as cigarettes and alcohol, or marijuana,” says psychiatrist Randy Dellosa, one of the founders of Life Change, a drug rehabilitation program. More hardcore drugs like shabu, cocaine and heroin lead drug abusers into the cycle of addiction.

Nina*, 29, started drinking in’ college. “I loved getting blasted on weekends. I lived for it! I really liked being drunk—I felt freer, less inhibited. The world seemed much nicer when it was blurry.” She was then introduced to some “party” drugs lice marijuana, cocaine, 1ast) and heroin by some “sosyal” Mends. “Psychedelic is actually a good word. There’s energy, confusion, hallucination. I went from getting drunk every weekend to shooting smoking and getting stoned,” she recounts. “As time passed, I realized I needed more and more 3rugs to get the’ same effect. It began to scare me.”

Nina began exhibiting signs of, withdrawal when she tried to stop “partying.” “I’d get nervous and restless, my stomach would get upset, I’d get the shakes and sweat. So when my friends couldn’t give me any drugs or I didn’t ban any money to buy some, I’d just drink a lot of whiskey.”

Her father, a widower, knew she needed to get help. Nina begged him to take -her out of the country. “Manilas so small,” she said. “At the time, I was immature and full of shame. 1 was so paranoid people 1 knew from school would find out that I was a drug addict.” Nina and her dad went to the States, where she underwent rehabilitation and therapy; she stayed On with an aunt for two years afterwards, doing part-time jobs and a lot of soul-searching. “The experience humbled me and made me realize I came so close to ruining myself,” Nina reflects. “Now that I’m back, I’ve dropped out of the party set and the stiffest ‘drink’ I take is Call,”

IN THE WORSE OF DR. RANDY Dellosa’s work at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center and Makati Medical Center, he realized that half the patients confined in the psychiatric facility were drug or alcohol dependents. “I thought to myself, this is where the need is,” he says. After talking to some people, he and Life Change Recovery Center Inc. in November of 1996. “It’s an empowerment program based on choices, moral recovery arid spiritual regeneration,” Dr. Dellosa begins.

Life Change begins with two weeks of detox, followed by a personalized one-month recovery program which includes family sessions, individual sessions and occupational therapy. “After physical detox, there has to be some kind of psychological, personal arid social detox. Upon completion of the program, for sessions on an outpatient basis. Recovery for us means that in two years, the patient hasn’t touched anything.”

Dr. Dellosa calls his an “eclectic” approach, a hodgepodge of different approaches like Addictive Voice Recognition Training (AVRT), which trains people to recognize the voice of the addiction and fight against that voice, and somatic psychology, which involves the body during therapy so the patient recognizes what his body is telling him. “Sometimes addicts have become so desensitized from their bodies that they no longer know how it is suffering,” he explains. Another is Christian evangelism and discipleship.” Part of the problem of drug dependency is the lack of morality—the loss of values and disintegration of the conscience, which is why users succumb to negative influences We try to develop the relationship they have with God. Spirituality is a very important aspect of recovery.”

The Life Change approach fundamentally differs from Narcotics Anonymous in the sense that, according to Dr. Dellosa, they do not subscribe to a disease concept. “You can’t say, ‘Once an addict, always an addict.’ That is removing power from the patient. Rather than treat it as a disease, I look at it as a syndrome with a lot of different factors adding up to the addiction,” he explains. “We believe the person is capable of choosing a life outside d drugs with 100% commitment. Our job is simply to motivate, guide and empower him towards that goal.”

Surviving Codependency

THE TERM "CODEPENDENCY" inevitably comes up in discussions pertaining to addiction. Many may think this term merely applies to relatives of the drug dependent, though Dr. Dellosa offers a more comprehensive definition. “The addict gets his high from the substance, while the codependent gets his or her high from saving the addict,” he says. “For example, an alcoholic binges. He vomits all over his shirt, gets a blackout and falls to the ground. While he’s unconscious, the family member bathes him, dresses him in nice pajamas, tucks him into bed—when he wakes up, he’s as fresh as a daisy. He doesn’t remember anything. So how is he going to feel the negative impact of his addiction if he’s assured of having all of that to lean on?” This kind of messianic” codependency, he says, actually perpetuates the cycle of addiction. The solution: recognizing the fine line between support and unrealistic savior tendencies. “One very basic thing we emphasize to families of
addicts is responsibility for their own life—meaning taking care of themselves, having fun again, smelling the flowers, and growing spiritual, socially and emotionally in their own lives, It’s essential to place certain bound-become that the drug addict doesn’t the center of their world. No matter what they do to try to save the dependent, he may or may not change. Be there for support, but let the addicted individual experience the negative consequences of his behavior.”

Lita*, 49, spent years putting her own life hold when her only son became an alcoholic and drug user. “I felt guilty that he might have turned to drugs because I was a single working mother who spent a lot of time out of the house,” she recalls. “When I found out he was addicted—I found shabu in his room and he confessed to have been a user for the past year—I fell to pieces. He was in and out of rehab for years because whenever he went home for weekends he would beg me to release him from the program. Each and every time, I took pity on him. Within days, he’d be back to his old ways.” Lita’s second career became nursing her son when he was stoned, paying the debts he incurred while supporting his habit and repeatedly bailing him out of jail. “I was running out of money and out of hope. But I kept telling myself, he is my only son. I am his only parent. I could only stand by him and hope for a miracle.” The misery continued until Lita’s brother, a priest, convinced her she was doing her son more harm than good. Last January, Lita finally placed her son in a one-year rehabilitation program and has pledged to see him through it. “In the beginning it was desolate,” she says. “I had no one to take care of, no one to wait up for at night. I felt alone in the world, But then I realized that after a year, with God’s help, I might have my son back—healthy, clean, sober and ready to live the life he deserves.” In the meantime, she is trying to regain her own, going back hill-time to her career.

“Drugs don’t have to mean the end of the world. It’s up to you to turn it around into a new beginning. It’s a hard road to travel, but the reward is knowing you didn’t let the addiction beat you.

Starting Over

FOR ALL THEIR POTENCY AND POWER IN wreaking havoc, drugs don’t have to mean irreversible doom. Complete recovery—defying all temptation to turn back and moving instead towards a fresh start—is still, ultimately, a decision. “It means looking at the bigger picture of your life and recognizing goals outside of the addiction that will propel you towards a brighter future,” say Dr. Dellosa.

Life to me is now a blessing that should be treasured, not just a big joyride to get kicks out of,” says Nina, whose biggest leap of faith recently was telling a serious suitor—now her boyfriend—about her addiction. “He understood and said he admired me more for being honest about it. Telling the truth set me free from any lingering shadows of the stigma of being an addict,” she says. “Drugs don’t have to mean the end of the world. It’s up to you to turn it around into a new beginning. It’s a hard road to travel, but the reward is knowing you didn’t let the addiction beat you. That you were the stronger one in the end,” she smiles. “And that’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance you can’t pass up on.

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