The journey to become an Addiction Recovery Specialist

By: Cris Evert B. Lato-Ruffolo February 16,2018 - 09:17 PM

Surrender to God (SuGod) program co-founder Fe Mantuhac Barino hugs a former substance abuser in one of the sessions.
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

LOVING THE ADDICT

At 60 years old, Fe Mantuhac- Barino could have been retired, blissfully spending her days at her quiet home in Liloan, Northern Cebu, while reminiscing the last 30 years of her life. She and husband, Rafaelito, had grown a business from scratch into what it is today — a large group of companies involved in construction and real estate.

But instead of resting on her laurels and relying on her achievements, on a quiet Wednesday morning, Barino was seated in a room, listening to a lecture on drug addiction along with 25 other people. This accomplished businesswoman wants to steer drug users away from the problems and perils of substance abuse.

Her current mission at 60: To become an Addiction Recovery Specialist. “To me, addiction is not just a brain disease. It is also a spiritual disease, “ Barino told Cebu Daily News. Barino started Surrender to God (SuGod), a community-based outpatient drug recovery and renewal program in August 2016. Seven hundred individuals from 12 batches have since graduated from the program which is based in Barangay Yati, Liloan town.

“During the last quarter of 2016, we thought about having an after-care program for sustainability. We started by sending them to Narcotics Anonymous meetings, “ she said. “By early 2017, we established the SuGod Continuing Care Program (SCCP),” she added. Under the SCCP, SuGod graduates who do not want to return to their homes, can stay in a temporary half-way house where life is brought down to basics with no electricity and no internet access. “There are those who prefer to stay there because home for them means going back to their old ways,” said Barino.

Addiction as a Disease

At the half-way house, which can accommodate 10 to 12 people at one time, activities include a daily Mass, morning and afternoon prayers, Bible sharing, motivational sessions, psychological education, and skills training. Barino said that because recovery from drug addiction follows different pathways depending on the individual, different activities are introduced. Recovering individuals also engage in physical work such as planting vegetables, Bermuda grass and ornamentals at the halfway house. “We give them the opportunity to stay there for free. They plant, they look for firewood, they help out in construction. We don’t give them cash so they will not be tempted to buy drugs,” Barino explained.

By March 2018, SCCP will move to a a two-hectare property which will be called SuGod Village. The village will initially have two dormitories made of nipa and bamboo.

“It is important to address addiction as a disease. Every individual requires an individual treatment plan,” said Barino. Barino said there is no one-size-fits-all treatment plan. “If given the right treatment, the tendency of a relapse will be minimized. This affirms my belief that every soul is important in the eyes of God,” she said as she sat through several hours of training from February 2 to 13 to specialize in the field of addiction recovery. STUDIES The course — International Certified Addiction Recovery Specialist (ICARS) program — held at the Trillium Residences on Molave St., Lahug, was offered by the Asian Metropolitan University in Malaysia, in partnership with Emeritus Addiction Studies.

Participants of the course were taught case management, crisis support, recovery management and recovery enhancement skills. They also studied the roles and ethics of a recovery specialist and the brain mechanism of an addict. “The trainings and education about addiction and its recovery helped me to understand the behaviour of drug addicts.

That is why I enrolled in this course,” said Barino. When she started the SuGod program in 2016 with a childhood friend, former recovering addict Rene Francisco, Barino said she was scared because she did not know that drug addiction was a disease. Francisco’s sister, Malyn Cristobal, helped Barino in setting up SuGod. Cristobal is an internationally certified addiction professional, a certified recovery specialist and a global trainer in the field of addiction.

“The certificate course is like a diploma course offered by Asian Metropolitan University of Malaysia. This is to certify those who are in the field of addiction, as addiction recovery specialist, to guide and assist individuals who have substance use disorder to recover from their disease,” she said. Cristobal said the course gives participants knowledge and skills, based on evidence and studies, to properly help people sustain their recovery.

Addiction Recovery

Cristobal has been in the field of addiction recovery since 1995 as she saw many families, even her own, in need of it. Her brother, Francisco, who now runs the IT WORKS! Chemical Dependency Treatment Center in Ozamiz City and co-founder of SuGod, was once an addict. He is also co-founder and program director of FARM-IT WORKS! Balay Kahayag Chemical Dependency Treatment Center, in Baclayon Bohol. In an earlier interview with CDN, Francisco fondly recalled how Cristobal “tricked him” into going to Makati Medical Center for a drug test only to end up in the hospital’s psychiatric ward and detox facility.

After the detox treatment, Francisco was sent to an outpatient rehabilitation facility, where he eventually found his true calling of helping drug users fully recover from their addiction. HOPE Fr. Erwin Prado Obias and Fr. Richard Lagos of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’ (CBCP) Office for the Promotion of New Evangelization (OPNE) were among those who attended the course. OPNE runs CBCP’s HOPE (House of Prayer and Evangelization). “The HOPE project extends its reach to young people with substance use disorder.

The learnings from this training can be cascaded to the lay faithful in the Archdiocese of Caceres through formation program initiatives,” said Obias who is also the director of the Lay Formation Institute in the Archdiocese of Caceres, Camarines Sur. Obias, who became a priest in June 2010, said the skills he learned from the course can be used in helping young drug dependents. “We all have different stories of inspiration and principles that we believe and follow. What I hold on is the opportunity to serve others.

The mere thought that I can do something to create change in the lives of people or work for their cause is enough to energize me,” he told CDN. He said he was moved by the testimonies of acquaintances in their struggle for recovery and healing. “This gives me the inspiration to work … that chance to help discover hope for them,” he said.

Way Forward

After receiving their Certificate of Professional Achievement in the ICARS program last February 13, Barino immediately set into motion the creation of the Association of Certified Addiction Recovery Specialists of the Philippines to spread the message that there are addiction recovery specialists in the Philippines.

The group aims to advocate for lawmakers to recognize the practice of the profession so that drug addicts will be given proper care and treatment. “This is to professionalize the practice as addiction recovery specialists in the country.

The selected officers are those in real, genuine drug recovery service and not running rehabs for business,” said Barino. Linda Tuason, a SuGod facilitator and head of the Redemptorist Family Counsellors, was elected the first chairperson of the board. “We hope to motivate the recovering persons running rehabs that there are people with hearts and passion to practice the profession,” said Barino.

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