Confessions of a reformed drug addict (2) | Inquirer Opinion
FLEA MARKET OF IDEAS

Confessions of a reformed drug addict (2)

After “Lino Borja” became addicted to shabu, he left his construction job. For eight years he lived in a vacant lot near the Cultural Center of the Philippines, together with his drug-dependent wife and 80 other homeless drug addicts.

He worked as a jeepney “barker,” collected and sold plastic bottles, and scavenged for food. While eating foraged food at the garbage dump outside a popular restaurant, he wondered if there would ever be a day when he could eat in it.

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Lino and his friends stole and sold electric wires, robbed uninhabited houses, and snatched valuables from pedestrians. For no reason, a building guard would beat him up every time he passed, engendering in him deep anger and a burning ambition to buy a gun in order to kill his tormentor.

As a runner, Lino was doubly compensated with shabu by both seller (a drug dealer) and buyers (construction workers). The abundant supply drove him to madness for a year. He ran naked on a busy Manila street because he had delusions that someone was after him. He beat his wife with a steel pipe because of paranoia that she was unfaithful. He fought with men he suspected of having an affair with her.

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Even when he was imprisoned thrice, he continued to use shabu supplied by gang leaders in conspiracy with addicted jail guards. The drug pushers in the communities where he roamed were known to policemen because protection money was paid.

When Lino was last released from jail, two representatives of the Center for Community Transformation (CCT) began visiting the enclave of homeless people in which he lived. The CCT is a Christian organization with extensive programs for the poor. I serve as board chair of its group which assists street dwellers.

The CCT personnel befriended the street dwellers and began a weekly feeding program followed by a Bible fellowship. Initially, the street dwellers refrained from using drugs on feeding day out of respect, but resumed using drugs on other days.

As the feeding and fellowship stretched to a year, Lino began hoping for a better life. He and his wife joined the CCT. Their Christian faith was deepened, they were weaned from drug use, and they learned hygiene and manners.

Lino has been drug-free for 11 years. His cheerful demeanor provides no hint of his dark past. He gives full credit to his faith in God. He adds: “Isang malaking bagay na nakakapagbago ng isip ay yung mararamdaman mo na may nagmamalasakit sa yo. Hindi totoo na once na addict ka, wala ka nang pag-asa na magbago. Kasi may addict na nalulong dahil may problema lang. Pero kung may papansin at magmamalasakit lang sa kanila, magbabago rin naman talaga. Hindi solusyon na patayin sila.” (A big factor that changes your outlook is the feeling that someone cares for you. It is not true that once you’re an addict, there is no more hope for change. Because there are people who get addicted to drugs only because they have problems. But if someone only shows them concern and care, they will change. Killing them is not the solution.)

Says Lino: “Noong nasa kalye ako, ang DSWD hindi sila nakakatulong dahil pinapakulong kami. Hindi nakakatulong ang kulong dahil nagiging worse ang tao sa kulungan. Ma-a-adopt mo ang ibang kultura sa kulungan. Once nakalabas ka, mas marahas pa ang magiging resulta kasi isip mo kaya mong bunuin ang pagkakulong.” (When I was in the streets, the DSWD was not of any help because they put us in jail. This does not help because a person gets worse in jail. You adopt a different culture inside. Once you are released, the result is worse because you are emboldened by the thought that you can survive prison again.)

Of the 50 street dwellers who participated in the CCT program along with Lino, 15 were rehabilitated from drug addiction. To date, the CCT has reintegrated into society 400 former street dwellers, 70 percent of whom were once drug dependents. The current war on drugs has resulted in the deaths of 27 street dwellers being assisted by the CCT.

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Lino now works for the CCT and lives with his wife and son in a house he bought. One time, he went to the Aristocrat to fulfill his dream of eating in the restaurant. When his food order was served, he could not eat because he was weeping uncontrollably.

Another time, he delivered a letter to the building where the abusive guard worked. His heart was still full of hatred, so he prayed for guidance. When he reached the building, the guard, not recognizing him, greeted him: “Good morning, sir!”

Peace now reigns in Lino’s heart.

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TAGS: CCT, Center for Community Transformation, drug rehabilitation, Flea Market of Idea, Joel Ruiz Butuyan, Lino Borja
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