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I Just Started Living

Leo started out as a leisure drug user heckled by friends. He was only 15.

Leo worked in Jeddah.

Leo did not finish his studies, but because he’s a natural skilled worker. He was able to work here and there until an opportunity presented itself for him to work abroad.  He was hired as a medical instrument technician. He received training in Singapore and Thailand. He was a true asset of the company.

Leo got married and left for abroad to sustain his growing family’s needs.

            Being young and with access to money, Leo, started doing more drugs. He claimed from using it as leisure, he used drugs to become more productive. He’s efficient and more.  This was where the problem became more pronounced. For Leo, being productive as assisted by drugs was justifiable. He earned more cash.

Leo’s kids were growing-up not having him around.

            After 15 years of being away from home most of the time family relationships suffered. Leo decided to resign from work and focus on his family. However, he continued on with his bad habit. His children are so used of him telling them he will use the comfort room and they know already it’s where he burns shabu.

            For Leo, drug use had never been an issue with his family. He claimed he provides well. He’s not violent, he’s not stealing anything. He just work non-stop and his family was never in want of anything. So, stopping was never an option.

            Leo’s wife died unexpectedly due to a heart attack. Her death drove Leo to work harder, do drugs more frequently. His relationship with his children became even more distant. But just the same, for Leo, as long as he brings home some money, then his drug use should never been an issue. His employment was unstable here. He then resorted to some underground trade. He needed money to support his vice.

            However, the more he goes deeper to drugs, the harder he pushes himself to earn more to the neglect of his children. There was no weekend get-together, no family time after dinner nor Sunday mass. He was so preoccupied with his desire to have more money which seemed to be always lacking. Life seemed to be pointless.

Leo did not realize he was already deep into drug use.

            Leo didn’t realize he has changed a lot. He was not the same person his neighbors knew from way back. He’s no longer sociable, he’s irritable around his children. His temper is evident even among friends.

            Year 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte declared war on drugs. Barangay officials were tasked to identify drug pushers and users in their area. Leo was on their list. However, his barangay officials reached out to him. They asked him to surrender and submit himself to a rehabilitation program to which Leo refused. He even taunted them by buying and using more drugs. His barangay would call out to him in front of his house asking him to surrender using a megaphone.

            Leo got humiliated and this angered him more. He continued refusing their call for him to surrender. He retaliated by hurling invectives at them every time he passes in front of the Barangay hall. He felt he was untouchable. But his neighbors did not give-up on him. His barangay captain continued to visit him at home trying to convince him to surrender. He was informed their barangay will be the next target for operation tokhang. Leo is the first on the list. The barangay captain pleaded with him to try attending Sanlakbay. A church-based, community-based rehabilitation program. Leo wasn’t the only one who got invited in that barangay. But it was only him who entered the program.

Leo’s Barangay Captain did not give up on him. He helped him find his way to Sanlakbay.

            From day 1 up to the 6th month, Leo was diligent in attending. His co-drug users would even taunt him, coaxing to join their “sessions”. But Leo saw and heard something while in the program. He learned of God’s love and forgiveness. He saw hope for a changed life.

            There were days, Leo could be seen by his neighbors carrying a Bible walking to attend a gathering in their parish. Everyone couldn’t really believe what they saw. Leo, a drug dependent for almost two decades, who initially refused to surrender  is now a frequent visitor in their parish. Even their barangay captain couldn’t believe the shift in Leo’s life.

Leo finished a 6-month program with Sanlakbay.

            Five years had passed. Five years of living a drug-free life. Leo is now a co-volunteer facilitator in Sanlakbay’s Ugnayan program for recovering addicts. He works as a full-time team member in Sanlakbay. He’s now enjoying  treasured moments with his children and grandchildren. It is true, God rebuilds what was broken.

Leo is now a volunteer Assistant Program Coordinator for Sanlakbay.

            1Peter 5:10 “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ…will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”