Living a dual life exacts a toll

By Fernando David
Consulting Psychologist

Steve was 58 years old when he was admitted to SELF for drug abuse in December 2012. He had been using drugs intermittently but because he was high functioning he had gotten away with living what was tantamount to a dual life of corporate success and drug addiction. At this point, however, even he realized that he needed professional help.


The middle child of three siblings, Steve was raised in a corporate town in Negros Occidental. His father was a busy man and spent little time with him while his elder sibling was based in Manila. So, he was left with his mother with whom he spent most of his childhood years. Being the only child at home, he got all the attention, for good and bad. He was 23 years old when his parent adopted his youngest sibling.

According to Steve, he was a good kid and obeyed his parents when he was young. However, because both of them became busy with their own careers he enjoyed a considerable amount of freedom and power early in life. This was compounded by his early exposure to politics and its associated perks and influence.

He grew up and studied in Bacolod from Elementary to College at De La Salle with relatives and affluent friends. Living in a small city with friends from influential families, he enjoyed their popularity and notoriety.

He started smoking marijuana in first year high school at the age of 13. In 3rd year high school, he and his crowd got involved in a celebrated marijuana case that led to his dismissal from De La Salle.

He transferred to a less popular school and became the “big guy” there. He enjoyed the popularity for a while until he managed to return to De La Salle after a year. By this time he was already using downers such as Seconal and Fadormir as well as amphetamines.

In 1972 Steve went to college. He stopped taking drugs but started drinking alcohol. At this time his father became a councilor. Their home became more public and he had to socialize more and drinking became the norm. Then, during the ensuing summer vacation, he relapsed to using drugs (Ekis Pinoy, Madrax, Dormicum).

All told, he relates that he enjoyed a privileged life during college. He was indulged by his parents, given a brand new car as well as a Rolex watch. He graduated on time in 1976 and said he managed this despite the drugging, drinking, womanizing and partying by talking his way out.

After graduation, he worked in a Petron Gas station owned by his uncle. He had two girlfriends and continued drinking and abusing downers and only paused when there was no supply.

In 1979 while heavy into using syrup he impulsively got married to a girlfriend. In 1980 he started main lining (Nubain). According to him, that’s where he got his Hepatitis C because he was sharing needles.

In 1982 he went to Manila and got involved in the anti-Marcos campaign in preparation for Ninoy Aquino’s return. He stayed away from Nubain and got back to using cough syrup. From time to time he would go back to Negros when he got in trouble in Manila and to rest from drugging.

In 1984 he tried Shabu and liked it.

In 1986 he had three girlfriends and eventually one of them became his common law wife. That same year, in the wake of the ouster of Marcos, he ran for mayor in a town in Negros and won. He continued drinking and using Shabu occasionally.

He would go to Manila every month and use his influence to solicit funds and investments for his town. He says that he worked hard as a mayor and felt a sense of accomplishment.

In 1987 he eluded an attempt on his life due to political rivalry. He was in Manila when 19 of his supporters were killed in an ambush. As a safety precaution, he stayed in Manila and did not campaign for reelection.

He lost the election but the Comelec upheld his protest when he won in the recount of votes. However, his father prevented him from assuming the mayoralty seat to avoid further threats to his life. After this, he quit politics for good.

In 1988 he was caught with his friend in possession of paraphernalia and was jailed. He was clean at that time but while in jail he used Shabu again. That same year his wife became pregnant with their first child. To secure money for his wife’s delivery, he tried selling Shabu but lost money instead.

In January 1989 his first child was born. He stopped pushing drugs and applied for a job. He started working in a bank and lived a sober life as a father. He recalls that at this time his life with his wife started becoming turbulent.

In 1992 they had their second child and he was doing well in his job as a “big guy” in the insurance business. In 1999 his company was acquired by another company. He saw this as an opportunity and in 2000 he set up an insurance company, taking his people with him. The company in which he took a 40 percent stake continues to operate till today. It was also in 2000 that he met Liza and had an affair with her.

According to Steve, he enjoyed his new corporate life at that time but also started using Shabu again intermittently. In 2008 his relationship with his wife became more chaotic because of his womanizing. She asked him to leave their house and that ultimately ended their marriage. It was then that he met a group of drug using friends from Makati.

In 2009 his family learned about Liza and their relationship became more open. However, at this point he was getting deeply involved with the drug pushing activities of his friends from Makati and was also going back to heavy drug use.

In 2010 he was caught by authorities with a huge amount of cocaine in the trunk of his car. He had to stay in jail for 10 months and it cost his siblings a huge sum and some political influence to bail him out.

When he got out of jail in March 2011, he went on a one week drugging binge that understandably angered his family. As a result, he was forcibly placed in a rehab center. His company placed him on sabbatical leave while he was in treatment.

Steve stayed in rehab for only five months because he was needed to run the company. He got back to work, stayed clean and had regular outpatient counseling. He stayed sober for another seven months and but relapsed in April 2012 after one year of being clean. He strove to quit drugs but it eventually got worse in the last quarter of the year. He relates that deep inside he knew he needed help and was not surprised when he was taken again for treatment to SELF.

Rehab Process

Prior to admission in SELF, Steve had been trying to recover on his own, in the belief that he could like he used to in his younger years.

He kept promising that he would quit abusing drugs and tried to prove that he was still in control, which was his default mindset.

Being an independent and accomplished corporate person, it was hard for him to accept that he was addicted to drugs. Thus, at one point, he tried to live the dual life of a corporate man and a drug user. In his arrogance, he thought he could pull this off.

However, the last four years prior to admission proved otherwise as he continually spiraled down and progressively became unable to manage his affairs. His company and his siblings finally had to act. They called Aeromed and had him brought to SELF.

Steve was admitted to SELF primarily for his drug addiction, but it soon became clear that he needed help to address the other life areas affected, particularly his marriage, his job and his deteriorating health.

He was initially diagnosed with depression and possible Bipolar disorder that could account for his history of recurring recovery and relapse. However, he did not agree to take medications.

In the beginning Steve had an easy time adjusting to the program and used his social and leadership skills to gain acceptance of the community.

He was a good worker and acted like an elder to other residents. He thought he could play “politics” to get through the program within the soonest possible time.

He was participative, assertive and gave very good concerns. But as the days went on, it was becoming obvious in his face and posture that the life in TC was taking its toll on him.

Still, he continued to maintain the “I’m in control” stance. His arrogance and tendency to rationalize became more apparent but somehow he managed to keep it down.

Turning point

Steve reached Senior phase in eight months after going through the motion of having dialogues with his family. He even resolved with his wife and formalized their intention to legally separate.

On the 9th month, he had his Family Day. At that point he began to get impatient and expressed the desire to be visited by his girlfriend right away. Thwarted, he started to regress and, pre-occupied with outside thoughts, began committing a lot of lapses.

Then there was an incident where he was confronted for being arrogant and disrespectful. As a consequence, he was put under short reflection for the first time. He came out of the process after a few days and was given a chance to work his way up which he did.

On the 10th month he was reinstated back to coordinator status but he did not appreciate the promotion because apparently he wanted to become a senior to be able to see his girlfriend.

At this point, he showed his true colors. He became non-caring, arrogant and defiant during confrontations. He assumed a “sour grapes’’ attitude in comparing his process with others. As a result he was made to sit in the Prospect Chair like a new resident to restart his process of acceptance of the program.

Steve has a history of relapsing between 8 to 12 months after being clean. Taking this into consideration, he was urged by his counselor and psychiatrist to take medications as he was suspected to be in a cycle of depression. At this point he agreed to do so.

Two weeks in the prospect chair proved to be a significant experience for Steve as he was able to confront his demons and came to terms with his reality.

He came out with humility and related how he had masked his feelings of fear and insecurity with pride and arrogance.

From then on, he worked his way up again with enthusiasm and cruised through the program until he graduated. He even joined the Facilitators Training to further embrace the help he had gained and be able to share it with others.


During the defense of his Transformational Autobiography, Steve showed that he had managed to clearly understand the dynamics of his behavior.

He identified that he always had feelings of rejection and inadequacy which he tried to mask with an image of being the “Go to Guy”.

He was a people pleaser who couldn’t say no for he found comfort in being needed.

He remained unsatisfied with what he had and what he had accomplished because of his desire to be appreciated by others.

Because of this core issue, he ran away at the first sign rejection and numbed the pain it caused with drugs, alcohol, women, etc.

It was only in his recovery that he discovered that the appreciation he needed all the while ought to come from himself.

At that point in the program, Steve gained serenity and became relaxed and in tune with his reality.

He accepted his limitations as a retiring executive, was more cautious about his health, set clear boundaries with people, and established a realistic life plan.


Steve went on to graduate without further incidents. He soon retired from his job and relocated to a peaceful village with his old mother, close to his girlfriend who is very supportive of his recovery. He took a consultancy job from his old company with minimal stress and enough income to sustain him.

To support his recovery, he regularly attends aftercare and

informal meetings with recovering friends. He also adheres to a health regimen and keeps in touch with his counselors and psychiatrist.

Steve has finally come to understand and accept himself. He now knows what he can and cannot do.

He has learned to love himself and manifests this by taking good care of his health.

What is most important, however, is that he has forgiven himself for his previous lapses and developed a sense of spirituality that gives his life ahead new meaning.

Steve has been sober for more than three years now.

By | 2018-04-02T11:42:34+08:00 April 2nd, 2018|Categories: Clinical Case Studies|0 Comments

About the Author:

Leave A Comment