(The last part of CDN’s three-part series on giving recovering drug
addicts hope as the worst part of a junkie’s life could turn into something good.)
He was in and out of jail for 18 years.
Alain Joseph Aliño lied, stole things from his own household and neighbors, and indulged in a life of “drugs, sex, and rock and roll.”
For a time, getting arrested, booked, and landing in prison was fun.
“My dream was to become a drug lord and to be in jail. That was life for me,” he said.
The last thing Aliño expected was to end up a staunch anti-drug crusader and head of six drug rehabilitation centers that oversee 150 recovering addicts and implement programs for their rehabilitation.
“I know how it is to be an addict. But there’s always hope,” he said, offering himself as an example.
He is the paradox of a man who had everything going for him in life and yet had nothing until he found his way back through his ordeal.
Aliño resorted to illegal drugs when he was a young boy of 13, simply to steal the spotlight away from his four siblings who were all achievers in school. He was first drawn to marijuana.
As his drug use progressed, he developed a liking for all forms of illegal drugs: cough syrup, Nubain, Valium, meth, and shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride); at times, mixing one prohibited substance with another.
Aliño’s level of addiction became severe as he continued to use illegal drugs daily.
“I had a very low self-esteem. My siblings were honor students. I was not. I thought I was different. It seemed that they all had the attention of my parents while I didn’t have it. So as a way of taking their attention, I ran to drugs,” he told CDN.
True enough, Aliño got his parents’ attention.
“Of course, I did, but in a bad way,” he said.
To earn money to support his vice, Aliño stole his mother’s jewelry, walked off with all their appliances, and got anybody’s cash.
When his family noticed his routine, Aliño turned his eyes on his neighbors and duped them one after the other.
“Aside from stealing their belongings, I also lied to them. I told them I had to borrow money because mama or papa was sick or my son was ill although at that time, I still did not have a child,” he said.
Aliño later resorted to snatching, shoplifting, and even recruiting young women for sex — all for the purpose of earning money to buy illegal drugs.
In 1989, when he was 18 years old, Aliño was arrested by the police after he tried to sneak out packs of shampoo and other items worth P10,000 from a mall in downtown Cebu City.
He spent two days in jail and was later on released after his parents reached a settlement with the mall management.
In total, he was arrested at least 30 times for a variety of offenses ranging from shoplifting, snatching, and estafa to possession and selling illegal drugs.
All the charges against him were dropped either because they were settled out of court or for sheer lack of evidence.
To help him manage his addiction, his mother brought him to a rehabilitation center in Cebu City sometime in 1996. But his stay inside the facility did not last long.
Aliño escaped from the center and went back to his old ways.
Months later, he decided to marry his girlfriend who was pregnant. And before long, their wedding gifts were not spared from his antics.
“Nothing was left. I sold everything we received,” Aliño said.
Hoping to take him out of his comfort zone, Aliño was sent by his parents to the United States in 2000.
But even there, Aliño was arrested for possession of illegal drugs. He was also held by US immigration officers for overstaying in the foreign country and was ordered deported to the Philippines.
Back home, Aliño again continued his run-ins with the law, not knowing where it would lead him.
Illegal drug wasn’t just his passion. It had become his way of life.
Aliño went in and out of rehabilitation centers six times — going through the same process over and over.
Beneath all the passing pleasure and the fleeting excitement, Aliño was not happy with his life.
“Yes, drugs covered my problem, but I was not happy. Anything I enjoyed was temporary. It never satisfied,” he said.
Lost and confused, Aliño attempted suicide by drinking and injecting a combination of prohibited drugs, but he survived.
“I thought I was so useless. I wanted to change myself but I did not know how. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how things will work for me. I was afraid that nobody will accept me. I was simply overshadowed by fear and worries,” he narrated.
Tired of dealing with his addiction, Aliño’s family left him inside a rehabilitation center and wanted nothing to do with him.
“They gave up on me. And I understood them. They were just so tired of my insanity, doing the same thing again and again,” he said.
Aliño stayed at the rehabilitation center and when he completed the program, he knew he had no family to go home to.
Hit rock bottom
Desperate and helpless, he appealed to an old laundry woman at the rehabilitation center to adopt him.
“Nanay’s response was simple: Stop all your foolishness and I will accept you,” Aliño recounted.
So as not to disappoint the woman, Aliño waged a personal crusade to get rid of his addiction. Instead of thinking about drugs, he said he made himself busy by cooking and doing the household chores.
“I had to accept the fact that I already hit rock bottom. I lost everything and I was fighting for my life at that time,” he said.
Having been accepted by someone not related to him removed all his fears and doubts about life.
“All my life, I was afraid of problems, of responsibilities. I thought no one would accept me. But I was wrong. Someone did. And I had to face every problem and responsibility. All I needed to do was to accept that I had a problem and to surrender everything,” Aliño said.
He said getting rid of substances that enslaved him for 18 years was not a walk in the park.
“It was extremely difficult. But I needed to give up what ruined my life. I needed to surrender to win,” Aliño said.
Road to recovery
The first step to recovery, he said, is to accept that one has a grave problem which needed help.
“There’s always natural happiness without drugs. Yes, having been brought to a rehab center helped. But it was my willingness to stop my endearment to illegal drugs that made the difference,” he explained.
With the help of another recovering addict and a clinical psychologist, Aliño said he managed to completely eradicate illegal drugs from his system and found a renewed sense of self.
With the help of his psychologist-friend, he later learned how to manage a drug rehab facility and became an accredited rehabilitation practitioner of the Department of Health (DOH).
Aliño, now 46, also became a member — the only associate who once was a drug addict — of the Advanced Association of Human Psychology. He was eventually hired as manager of the same rehabilitation center where he once was confined.
Aliño is now the chief operations officer of the Family and Recovery Management, a private institution that helps drug dependents confined in its rehab centers in Minglanilla town, southern Cebu; San Jose, Cebu City; Bacolod; Iloilo; Tacloban City; and Bohol.
Aside from managing the institution, Aliño also helps the government and the Archdiocese of Cebu in their programs to save drug addicts.
Aliño has been “clean” of illegal drugs for 17 years now, and is now back to his family’s loving embrace.
Never give up hope
“Miracles do happen and God never gives up on sinners,” said Aliño who was once called “Mr. Hopeless” for his worsening drug problem.
“There’s truly a God who accepts me as I am. I once was lost, but now I am found; lived in my prison but now free; once dead but now truly alive and happy. We just have to submit ourselves to God, and good things will happen,” he said.
To those who are still hooked on drugs, Aliño encouraged them never to lose heart.
“There’s always hope no matter how bad you are. Give your life a chance. There’s always a better life,” he said.
And to those who are quick to judge drug addicts as useless and hopeless, Aliño had this to say: “Take it from me. I am a living testament of how even the worst sinner can change his life.”