Recovery: “Substance use is just a symptom of my illness,” says recovering addict | Guam News

In the large conference room at Governor Ricardo J. Bordallo’s complex in Adelup, health officials, recovering drug addicts and representatives of non-profit organizations lined up to proclaim September Recovery Month. But, for those who have battled the disease of addiction, every sober day is a victory.

Recovery is unbroken and, for some present at the proclamation signing on Friday, it was a long journey, which individuals like Jeremiah Santos, a peer recovery specialist at New Beginnings, are now using to help others recover from active addiction.

Santos was trapped in the world of drug addiction for 23 years, he said, his drug of choice: stimulants.

“Oh yeah, addiction in general, behaviors, personality and so on, all the years, substance use is just a symptom of my disease. I think I had this disease before I even started to consume when I was a kid,” Santos said. . “I found a lot of comfort in using stimulants, different types, all types, as well as prescription drugs, opioids. I just waited for the brain to choose the drug.

Santos has been sober for six years, he said, noting that drug addiction, for many, is a hole that is hard to climb out of.

“Everyone’s butt is different. You hit rock bottom when you decide to put the shovel away,” he said. “Everyone’s story of what their bottom is is different. I don’t think I lost everything, everything is still there, it’s just that I lost control of what was outside of me.

Like many addicts, Santos said, he had a false sense of control over his addiction.

“There was a point where I thought I was capable of using in moderation and that seemed to be the case at the start of my active addiction. Then it got to the point where I was using and even though I wanted to quit , I couldn’t. I just didn’t know how,” he said.

It wasn’t until he was arrested that he had his “aha” moment.

“I think when I finally got arrested it was like a blessing in disguise. Through the court system I was able to be guided to the services. New Beginnings, Adult Drug Court, they put me in touch with outside social supports and the 12-step programs,” Santos said.

Santos said there is no diet plan for recovery, nor can you fake it until you do.

“There’s no pretense, it’s either you choose recovery or you don’t. In programs like the 12 steps, at the beginning we can try to find an easier way to do it. do where they try to practice using in moderation. But, if the person is really a sick and addicted person, moderation does not exist,” he explained. “All the programs work. It’s about whether you’re ready to make the programs work for you. Everyone’s recovery is different, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.”

As a peer recovery specialist, psychiatric technician and addiction counselor, Santos said he uses his 23 years of active addiction experience to connect with those he now helps.

“I’ve been there before, I look at my life today and I never forget where I come from. It’s me who puts myself where this person is and meets him where he is. For many people who are not recovering from addiction, it is difficult for them to be where they are. It helps me to be empathetic,” he said.

Empathy is often lost on drug addicts because the power of addiction can lead to the end of relationships and family support, he said.

“Addiction is a disease and often families can feel like they just want to give up on the person, but family support is very important. Don’t give up on them,” he said. “When a member of the family is dealing with a family member in active dependency, it is always your brother, your sister, your daughter or your son. What you see is disease, but they’re still there.”

Families are an important part of the recovery, he said. And while family support helps an addict, empowerment does not.

“It’s a huge difference, with the enabling part, nothing is going to improve, with the support, changes are made,” he said. “There is always hope. The recovery community on Guam is really big, considering our population and the size of the island. There is hope and you can always get your life back, you reinvent and be better than they have ever been. Many people in recovery have become people who set goals and achieve those goals that they never even dreamed of before in an active addiction. Now everything is real.

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