*Stacy, back to camera, speaking to writer Lorraine Waldropt-Ferguson. Photo Micheal Bruce

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Breaking the chains of addiction

By By Lorraine Waldropt-Ferguson

Trinidad and Tobago may be a paradise but it's not the best climate for someone who desires a life without alcohol. "Take a drink of this, take a drink of that, our society doesn't cater for alcoholics who want to make a change in their lives and become alcohol free," says *Stacy. She would know as she is a rehabilitated alcoholic and programme director at the Palo Seco Women's Centre, a branch of the New Life Minstries Drug Rehabilitation Center.

After three months of rehab and a further 21 months of follow-up sessions at Mount St Benedict branch of New Life Ministries which was recently converted into a men's centre, *Stacy has cleaned up her life and is dedicated to assisting others on their road to recovery. The New Life Ministries Drug Rehabilitation has been existence for the past 20 years and has been conducting a two-year rehabilitation programme for persons addicted to drugs, alcohol, nicotine and other mind/mood — altering chemicals/substances.

The Centre's target audience also includes individuals who are addicted to prescription and non-prescription drugs and/or who have a gambling problem. *Stacy is a graduate from the programme through her own trials with addiction. The Centre's multi-fauceted workshops focussing on self-esteem, health care, stress management and relapse prevention to name a few paved her pathway to recovery. Her remarkable strides courtesy the programme's modules render her the best person to minister to people with problems of addiction.

When you hear her story you realise that alcoholism goes deeper than a few casual drinks, deeper than a few Carnival stints with cocktails, deeper than a few weed brownies. "Most people who have problems of addiction had experienced some type of hurt growing up. For me, my mom got a nervous breakdown while I was sitting my Common Entrance exams, I was an A student and I had my hopes on passing for Holy Name Convent. Because of the stress of my mother becoming an inpatient at the St Ann's Hospital, her escape to live on the streets, my sister and I had to live with my stepdad and I passed my exams for a Junior Secondary School. I couldn't cope with life anymore, I became wayward in school. I used to lime everywhere and drink everything until I pass out on the streets. I left school early and hooked up with a man who abused me. I tried to take my life so many times but I was always too high to succeed," she remembers.

*Stacy takes the painful journey back to one occasion where she tried to hang herself but was too drunk to tie the knot and other times when she tried to slit her wrist and take an overdose of tablets.

"I used to smoke weed and drink almost everything. I would sleep on the streets when I passed out. I had good jobs as administrative assistants in offices and I left all of them to work on a construction site where I could smoke my weed in peace. I thought that I was a grown woman and that was my passport to do what I wanted including destroying myself. I never listened to the advice of my family and friends. I sold anything I could get my hands on to support my addiction. I was almost at a place of no return when my sister told me about cleaning up my life and seeking rehab".

Stacy took her sister's advice and enrolled in the drug rehabilitation programme at the New Life Minstries Drug Rehabilitation Centre in Mount St Benedict, St Augustine. She didn't know what to expect but in her heart she knew that it was the right choice. She went through the sessions and eventually her rehabilitation began.

"A doctor at the Centre evaluated me and diagnosed me with Clinical Depression. The personnel in the programme got to the root of my problems and explained the 'whys' in my life with respect to my addictions. I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I felt like I had found a new family in the peers I connected with at the centre. It wasn't an overnight process, very gradual but positive strides!"

Upon graduation *Stacy was asked to stay on the programme to work as a nurse and just recently she earned the elite position as programme director at the Palo Seco Women's Centre after completing her studies at the University of the West Indies in Caribbean Regional Addiction Counselling.

Today, eight years since her first day of rehab, she is now pursuing her degree in psychology. "I am amazed at my academic prowess even after my rocky early years. I feel so proud to have accomplished something in my life and even better to be working at the Centre and counselling people. Clinical director Hulsie Bhagan is an inspiration to me, she is my motivator to succeed and I am grateful to her for giving me a chance at life,"*Stacy avows.

Looking back at her metamorphosis from her cocoon of addiction now into a world of opportunity, she is happy to be alive. While there are times when life can be tough, these moments are not tough enough for *Stacy to return to the bottle or joint to solve her problems. She has purged herself of people, things and places that encourage her to return to her old demise. Very soon she will be able to withstand these temptations and hold her head strong against the peer pressure of "take ah drink nah" but for now she is taking her strategic recovery in stages.

"In this life, we drink for everything, in times of celebration, in times of mourning, when we happy, when we sad, for Christmas, for weddings, for christenings...every day, every time there is a reason to drink and be merry. Not everybody knows their limit, can we not find other ways to commemorate an occasion? While, our culture can't change overnight, my philosophy and my perspective on life will change. I chose never to return to my additive state. Everyone has a choice and I hope other women make the right one before it's too late!" she concluded.

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