Addiction…why talk about it?
Why talk about addiction? As a community we try to encourage constructive development and promote positive values for all our people, so the subject of addiction may seem counter-productive or at the very least uncomfortable even annoying to some. Let’s face it there is a stigma attached to substance use and abuse. Opinions vary widely on substances, whether they are “legal” or “illegal” or we may have totally different attitudes toward different users. For example, a middle-age rock star usage seems almost “normal” or not threatening since he/she has the money to pay for the addiction and rehab. We may not be so lenient thinking about people experiencing substance dependency in the city core, we worry about the social cost and criminality that may result. I have to acknowledge that the two examples I just used may reinforce stereotypes and as such, are not a reliable picture of the problem of addiction. In reality problematic substance abuse exists in all socio-economic classes, cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
Truly it is not an easy topic to handle. People have differing opinions and different degrees of tolerance, prejudice and discrimination towards people who use substances. This stigmatisation and the feelings of shame and guilt often become a significant barrier to treatment and recovery for the person living with substance dependence.
We also have to acknowledge that our community members are subjected to the same circumstances that contribute to substance abuse in the general population: stress, depression, mental illness, loss of employment, physical pain, family problems, life-altering changes and a family history of substance abuse to name a few. Our children and grand-children are influenced by popular culture and may also experience peer pressure. For all these reasons it is valuable to get a better understanding of the problem of substance use and misuse so we can be better prepared to deal with it in a positive and effective manner.
The following podcast and article are quite enlightening to understand the reality of addiction and the pervasive nature of stigma.
Please send in your comments so we can have a lively discussion. For those who want to probe more deeply I would recommend this publication from Canadian Mental Health Association.
Substance Use during COVID
Canadians drinking their way through the pandemic are far from alone. Alcohol consumption has soared in many parts of the world — and the uptick has some experts concerned that misinformation is playing a role.
Addressing several myths that have been circulating, the WHO counters each of them in its factsheet. “Consuming alcohol will not destroy the virus,” it states. As other health authorities have similarly emphasized, drinking alcohol can actually weaken the immune system, making you more vulnerable to illness. Additionally, “consumption of alcohol will not kill the virus in the inhaled air,” and neither will it purify your mouth or throat.
The WHO also dispels misconceptions around drinking and stress relief. While you might pour a glass of wine thinking it will help you relax, alcohol is known to amplify symptoms of anxiety, depression and other mental disorders. “At times of lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, alcohol consumption can exacerbate health vulnerability, risk-taking behaviours, mental health issues and violence,” it said.
by Eveline Stewart
About the author
My name is Eveline Stewart. I am a French-Canadian who has lived in Hamilton since 2002. My husband David and I have been attending many of your functions over the years. We truly appreciate the love for the family and the community cohesiveness we experienced with you. We have been promoting those values in our work with the Universal Peace Federation and Women’s Federation for World Peace over many years.
I decided to go back to school in 2016 to complete a diploma of Addictions Care-worker through a continuing education program at McMaster University. Additionally, I volunteered at a community treatment program for two years and did a practical experience course at a residential treatment facility. This formation helped me gain knowledge and enhance some skills but I must disclose that I have not acquired the official certification (CACC) from Canadian Addiction Counselors Certification Federation, the addiction workforce regulation body.
I have been inspired by what I have learned and the different approaches used to help individuals overcome this very persistent, problematic predicament. By opening a conversation on the subject we could deepen our understanding and recognize the factors that can improve our community resiliency.
My hope is to submit short articles and different links as a starting point for conversation. This would enable us to have a more informed exchange. I would also like to invite anyone in the community to contribute your knowledge, experience, expertise or questions for the benefit of all. I believe such a collaborative approach would be more enriching and meaningful.
Some additional information;
After I introduced myself I was asked some questions from the HFCC officers. I think many members have similar questions so I will try to clarify some points.
There was some worry about maintaining confidentiality, a valid concern. In the training for counseling and managing the care of people with addiction issues, the importance of maintaining confidentiality is paramount. We thought it would be better for those with questions or concerns to send their questions directly to my e-mail. This way I can address your concerns and give you proper information. If/when I talk about your area of concern in a speech/article, your name would never be mentioned.
I was also asked if I am expecting to be paid for my contribution to HFCC Facebook. The answer is No! My intention is to support the well-being of the Filipino community: elders, adults and youth. Additionally, because I have not completed all the requirements to obtain the certification from CACCF it would not be ethical to ask for payment.
Hopefully, I will provide useful information for your community, more knowledge and a better understanding of how to deal with and help those in need. I will not offer treatment but can help to connect individuals to the proper sources of care in our community.
You can reach me with any comment, question or concern at email@example.com
Disclaimer: Circulating in Messenger. Not created by HFCC. Attributed to original author.
A Beach Meeting P3
“It is good to meet an English speaker,” the man said. “We do not get many tourists here compared to places like Boracay. You’re a tourist?”
“No, I have been here for some time,” John repeated. He did not want the stranger to think that he was totally new to all things in the Philippines. The man might think that he was more vulnerable if his intentions were not good. John could not help but think that there was something more behind this meeting. It was just a feeling, but he could not dismiss it. He had a lingering sense too that the man was determining, perhaps even hesitating, whether to act upon his real purpose. Warily, John watched the man slip a hand casually into his jacket’s pocket.
“His intention is armed robbery.” In his mind, John clearly heard these words. He felt the adrenaline rising in him but relaxed just a little upon thinking maybe the hand had become cold from the sea’s chilling breeze. Even while thinking these things, John was telling himself that he was being too imaginative, which was supported by the dark loneliness of the beach. Still, he considered his physical chances against this stranger. The man was not large, but that did not rule out that he was strong and able. That and he might be carrying a knife or some other weapon.
“What do you do?”
“I am a missionary.”
John then was positive in his own mind that the next question the man would ask is ‘where’. He realized that he had stayed too long with this person and must now excuse himself and get away.
Then, further down the beach, he saw another shadow coming towards them. The man turned to face the shadow seeing that John was being distracted by something. Gradually, the shadow turned into Pastor Gabriel who had come down to fetch him. John was relieved to see the pastor. Gabriel was not a big man, but John was confident in the experience and personal authority that he possessed.
When Gabriel had drawn close to them, John even in the darkness caught the concerned look on his face. Without saying a word at first, Gabriel looked intently at the stranger. John knew right off that he was suspicious of the man’s intentions. They had some words, nothing unfriendly, but regardless, the man suddenly left to return up from the beach again, soon appearing as a shadow. John realized he would disappear in the darkness as if this meeting had never taken place at all.
Walking back to the restaurant, at first little was said. John felt sheepish thinking that Gabriel must have thought him naïve to be talking to this stranger who suddenly came out of the dark from nowhere.
“It did seem strange meeting up with that stranger,” John admitted.
“He was asking a lot of questions. On one hand, he seemed friendly, but I did sense something was just not quite right with him.”
“His intentions may not have been good,” Gabriel agreed. “Anyway, I talked to him and very quickly he showed that he was no longer interested in staying around once I came on the scene. He just wanted to leave.”
“In the end, it turned out well,” John concluded. And he was glad of that.
Sitting at the restaurant table now with Keren and Sheila was Gabriel’s wife, Elisa. The food they ordered had just been served. Sheila was taking careful nibbles from hot ‘barbecue on a stick’.
Keren announced when she spotted the two men trudging up from the beach through the dry sand: “Pastor Gabriel you were able to find my husband.”
“Oh, he was not far. He was just taking in the beauty of the night down by the shore.”
A Beach Meeting P2
That thought was quickly dispelled when John became aware of something coming towards him from out of the dark above the beach. At first, it seemed mostly a shadow. Drawing closer, it was seen to be a man. John could just make out that he was wearing a jacket opened at the front. In the darkness, it had no colour. John wondered why he seemed to come out of nowhere and apparently specifically to meet with him. The man kept coming until he stood before John but kept his distance. He appeared to be reasonably well dressed. John did take a passing glance at the flipflops worn on the man’s feet. Flipflops or not, he was unlikely to be a poor fisherman living in the area. He saw that he was not a large man, rather thin, but typical in size for a Filipino male. The man’s general appearance gave no cause for John to feel intimidated. However, he still felt uncomfortable.
“Hello,” greeted the man. John returned the greeting while assessing that by all appearances the man seemed legitimate and friendly. But, could he be something more than that? John thought warily. Why did he come out onto this now dark deserted beach? He sensed that the man was sizing him up too. ‘But what for?’ wondered John. Some star light broke through a short-lived opening in the clouds and he had a glimpse of the man’s face. It was high cheek-boned and his eyes dark. His face did not reveal anything amiss.
“You are an American?” he asked softly.
“No, a Canadian,” John responded evenly.
“Have you been in the Philippines for long?”
“Oh, fairly long,” John said somewhat evasively.
“Do you like it here?”
“The Philippines is a very beautiful country.”
“There is a lot of poverty though,” the man stressed.
“That is true.”
“Where do you stay?” he then asked.
“Near the city centre,” John again being ambiguous. He was being watchful in what he said, however, he also realized that Filipinos will in friendliness ask such questions. It shows that they are really interested in the person that they meet. However, it still seemed a strange setting to be communicating with someone you had never met before on a lonely beach in the darkness. And where did the man come from? He seemed to come out of nowhere.
Perhaps, some of you have had an unexpected meeting with a stranger in a place that leaves one questioning the motive intended by that person. That thought still came into John’s mind long after the happening.
It was getting dark. The cloud cover parted just long enough to let the evening stars have a peek at the earth below. The wind coming off the ocean felt a little on the cool side, which was welcomed after the tropical heat of that day. John and Keren with her niece, Sheila, had arrived at a small restaurant just above Baybay beach and alongside the road leading to the city’s port. Sheila had arranged a supper meeting with a ministry couple, Pastors Gabriel and Elisa De Juan to discuss the idea of forming a mission partnership. They had not yet arrived, so John thought it would be good to go down to the beach while there was still an inkling of light.
The beach extended for kilometres. It was narrower now because it was high tide. When low tide, the retreating sea made the beach grow quite wide.
“Keren, I will go out onto the beach until they come,” John said.
“Don’t go too far. You will need to hear our call when they arrive.”
“I’ll just be out front.”
“Be careful. It is already getting well past dusk.”
John pointed to a slight break in the clouds. “See? The opening lets in light.”
“How long do you think that will last? It gets dark quickly here in the tropics. Just be careful,” she repeated.
The restaurant was completely open except for having a roof to shelter from sun and rain. There were several high concrete steps leading down to the beach. From these, John stepped out onto the fine soft sand of the higher beach. It parted under his shoes causing them to sink down at their sides with each step taken. The awkward difficulty of walking through this dry sand reminded John of walking through freshly fallen snow in Canada. He plodded directly towards the sea where the beach would be wet and firm beneath his feet. To keep his shoes dry, John stood a safe distance from the water that rose and ebbed at the shore. He listened in the forming darkness to the breaking of a wave as it came crashing towards shore. It flattened out flowing as high as it could onto the beach before being inescapably drawn back to the sea. He could see the white of another breaking wave making its way to shore.
John looked back towards the restaurant. He could see from the light there that Keren and Sheila were still seated alone at a picnic style table. He decided there was time to walk further down the beach. He reasoned that he would only go a short distance. After awhile, he stopped to listen. The only sound was that made by the sea. When he turned his eyes towards the road above the beach, he saw no evidence of lights from vehicles travelling it. There was only the dark silhouette of closed buildings hugging closely along the roadway. He could feel a slight chill from the light sea breeze and wished that he had worn his old hockey jacket over his short-sleeved shirt. For the meeting with Gabriel and Elisa, he did wear long pants and he was glad of that.