The chain of drug use was weak to be felt until they became too strong to be broken.
I’m Zen from Cebu. I was born in a family where my parents got separated very early, before my youngest sibling was even born. I’m the eldest of six children. And like many other Filipino family, I carry the burden of responsibility for my family.
At some point in the early parts of my life, I lifted up the baggage of responsibility and lived the happy-go-lucky life of a high-schooler. I made friends with the wrong crowd which eventually introduced me to evils I never knew existed. I befriended people who drink, party and do drugs.
In one of our drinking sessions, I met someone. And something happened. I had sex with him. He was not my boyfriend. He was just one of those I got to hang out with during our drinking sessions. At first, what happened was not a big deal for both of us. It was an acknowledged mistake because we were under the influence of alcohol. Things only got complicated when I realized that I was pregnant. I was only 16 years old and I was in my senior year in high school.
I could’ve chosen to continue studying even after giving birth but I was too embarrassed to show myself to my classmates and to the people who know me. I dropped out and stayed at home while waiting for my due date.
Options of abortion have crossed my mind, but my conscience convinced me to choose life for me and my baby. I did not want my son to suffer the consequences of my wrong choices and irresponsible actions. But at 16, I didn’t have a mature mind or even the financial capability of supporting another life so I made a difficult decision to give him up to his grandparents, the parents of my son’s father. It was the best option I was offered with. I grabbed it and never looked back on that decision. People may judge me but I knew what I did was the best for him.
Months later, I was back to partying and drinking. I guess my brain was wired already that saying no to my peers becomes too difficult and exhausting that I easily gave in, again. I was already a high school dropout and a childless mother. At that time, I thought I had already experienced the worst, but I was wrong because I was just at the opening gates of hell.
At 17, I left home and lived with my friends who had long played with fiercest fires. I would drink with them like there’s nothing else to do. Tagay was my nickname. I have to agree that drugs and alcohol are inseparable twins. When there’s drinking, there’s always that possibility of substance use.
Ever since I went out with my friends, I have seen them “use” in front of me. At first, I was uninterested. Drinking was already enough to hush my woes away but day after day as I witnessed their euphoria every time they would use, my curiosity turned my disinterest the other way around until I finally gave in because of curiosity. “I don’t think I have anything to lose. Why not try it?”
That simple attempt out of curiosity ruined every bit of sanity left. I began to use. The chain of drug use was weak to be felt until it became too strong to be broken. I was already addicted. I became a slave to drugs and it felt like the air I breathe depended on it.
When I ran out of cash to buy my drugs, I’d go to my parents and angrily demand for money. They were scared of who I had become so they were left with no choice but to give in to my demands. But time came that even my parents’ meager money could not sustain my drugs. I ventured on extremes just to find cash.
I willingly preyed myself to perverts online and stripped off in front of the camera in exchange for money. I was far from decent but where else could I go? And what else could I do? I had already been chained to my corrupted lifestyle and I could not get out.
I partied, used drugs, and stripped. My life went on in this cycle for years until last March 14, 2019. I was caught red-handed by the police. I was with my friends taking drugs when her place was raided. I was imprisoned for six months.
My life in prison was hell on earth. I experienced sleeping beside a horrible toilet and dealt with the worst kinds of behaviors. Being there was my turning point. Day after day I’d pray to get out and that if I’d have the chance, I would change my life for the better. I don’t ever want to stay in jail for one more second.
My ardent prayer was answered. My mom bailed me out after six months. I was immediately brought to a rehabilitation facility for another six months to fully clean myself from the substance and give me a clearer vision of my life. Inside the rehab is where I met Virtualahan and there slowly, I saw a gleam of hope. I joined the digital skills training program led by Coach Maita, the Cebu Training Manager. I fell in love with the mission of the company and the idea that they believed in people like me. They are investing in my future and they don’t even know my full story and all they asked for in return is that I get a job and start a new life. What a gift!
In October 2019, I completed the intensive digital skills training and personality development session. I also underwent another course dedicated for leadership and virtual assistance. In November and December of the same year, I had me on the job training (OJT) as General Admin Assistant for the company and assisted Coach Maita in another training for Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDL) inside the Lapu-lapu City Jail. The training, the community, the chance that I was given to be part of, led me to slowly building a new life.
I thought I was a hopeless case. I never knew that I’d open my heart to learning again. I thought I could never have a decent and productive life. I thought I was irredeemable because of my hideous past, but I was wrong. There will always be divine intervention that could change a person for the better, regardless of the misdeeds and shortcomings.
As of writing, I have already finished my rehabilitation program at Safe Haven Recovery Center and I am now working as a Virtualahan staff for Project New Life- the program designed to empower recovering drug addicts and Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDL) using the Virtualahan impact formula.
Who would’ve thought I’d come this far and have this opportunity? From a lost user, now a thriving virtual assistant— I am blessed and favored! To others who think that life seems hopeless, close your eyes and trust that there is HOPE always. ALWAYS.
Cebu BJMP Project