By Lea Tumbado
Program Director

Ulysses was 26 years old when he was brought to SELF on October 21, 2011.

He had been a substance abuser for 10 years and was then on the brink of incarceration or death, with two active criminal cases in court and a lethal threat from a gambling syndicate he had messed with.

His family had to sweep him into SELF before it became too late.


Ulysses is the youngest and only son in a family with three children.

He remembers his childhood to be happy. They were an average and close-knit family who regularly went to Sunday mass and dinner after.

Early on, he and his siblings were taught the importance of hard work and family ties.

He was closest to his father and eldest sister and was very spoiled by them.

His mother was stingy whenever he had asked for money and had favored his eldest sister the most.

Growing up he did not show any interest in studying; instead, he was more into socializing and sports.

He was kicked out of high school twice for smoking marijuana.

By 3rd year he was taking “shabu” and pawning things from home to support his habit and treat his friends.

He was eventually sent to Manila to join his siblings where he did finish high school and go on to college.

Basketball was Ulysses’ favorite sport and he had been a varsity player since elementary school.

In college, he got to play for the school again. Unfortunately, he got involved in a fraternity war and when his coach found out he was dismissed from the team.

He claimed that he was simply friends with people from a certain fraternity and happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

However, since he was at the scene, Ulysses became a target too.

Out of anger and frustration, he eventually wound up fully initiated into the fraternity and never made it past freshman year.

Having stopped schooling, he spent more time with his girlfriend and it wasn’t too long before he got her pregnant.

His family was there to save him again and helped him get married in the hope that his life might turn a different course … but to no avail.

He was more into his vices than raising a family and soon separated from his wife, even after his eldest daughter was born.

Ulysses continued to be a bum and a junkie. He started a live-in relationship with another woman and had a son with her.

But this too was tumultuous, marked by constant fighting with his addiction as the perennial source of conflict.

It was around this time that his addiction to shabu peaked. To occupy his extended waking hours he took to gambling, including cockfighting and on-line gaming.

In 2009 Ulysses found employment in a casino, starting out as a dealer.

Due to his hard work, he was promoted — first as a watcher, then a supervisor, and finally as a pit boss.

He worked there for two years. In that time, he perfected ways to cheat so that they could get more money out of the gamblers.

Eventually, together with a couple of associates, he formed a gambling syndicate.

They would fly to Macau where, dressed in a tuxedo to pose as a rich player, they would connive with local contacts and cheat the other players out of large sums of money.

After a three-day sortie, they would earn some P3 million.

Once back in the Philippines, he would use his share to get high and bask as a big time player in cockfights without really understanding the sport.

In 10 years time, Ulysses had become so addicted and uncontrollable that his family began to fear for their lives and for him as well.

His sister filed a robbery case against him when he literally ran off with her safety vault.

He was eventually arrested, but not for the robbery but for use and possession of prohibited drugs.

His family bailed him out yet again. However, his life now was in grave danger for he had run the same gambling scam on his employer when the casino failed to give him his share of the illegal proceeds.

Treatment and Rehabilitation

Ulysses’ first taste of rehab was back in high school when his family first discovered his taking drugs.

He was confined in the Laguna Drug Rehabilitation Center for six months in 2002.

However, he immediately indulged in drugs on the same day that he got out.

He had learned nothing and felt it was just a “rest and vacation” that made him miss doing drugs more.

When he was admitted to SELF in October 2011, his eldest sister had made him believe they were only going to Makati Med for detox.

Then he noticed that the ambulance ride was taking so long and he realized he was going to rehab.

Feeling duped, he started his program with no motivation.

He was very passive, arrogant and self-righteous. He dragged himself around everyday, with no sense of purpose.

When confronted, he showed no remorse. He was invariably grumpy and easily disconcerted.

The facility psychiatrist prescribed Fluvoxamine and Seroquel to address his depression and impulse control.

After a while he learned to be compliant and went with the flow so well that became quite friendly with a number of residents.


In February of 2012, Ulysses was put on Reflection status after being found out to be the mastermind of an escape plan.

He had bailed out at the moment of implementation but his accomplices pushed through anyway.

Confronted for suspected involvement, he adamantly denied his involvement but was made to sit anyway.

The next day he was completely aghast when all the escapees were captured and brought back to the facility.

Seeing the group trooping down past the green gate, he surrendered to the thought that he would have to pay big time.

It would at least be twice as hard because of his initial denial and now he was caught red-handed as the group pointed him out as the mastermind.

After two weeks in the Reflection Chair, Ulysses surrendered, owned up to his accountability, and served his “piyesa” status.

However, to the dismay of the community, less than two weeks after getting reaccepted by the family he pulled another sneaky stunt.

This sent him back to Reflection status and a much more exacting process than what he got for his escape plan.

Ulysses stayed in the Reflection Chair for over a month.

This was the time that he started to acknowledge his problem with addiction and finally resolved to straighten his path.

He began to take his recovery seriously and invest in the program.

He practiced honesty and openness, which helped him ascend the Chain of Command.

When he earned Senior status, Ulysses enjoyed the associated privileges, especially days off and visitations.

At this point, his family was able to check whether his attitude had indeed changed for the better.

In one day off, he complained about being brought to cheap and non-branded stores for the belongings he had requested.

Upon his return, he was processed and confronted and made to realize how entitled he still felt.

This was reinforced by another incident in Pre-Reentry when he declared that he would only join the biking club if his family bought him the latest bike and gear.

After a series of dialogues and peer confrontations, he realized that he had been really a spoiled brat and needed to get rid off his sense of entitlement.

Turning Point

Ulysses finally achieved a major breakthrough in life at SELF when his legal wife surfaced to seek financial support for their eldest daughter’s schooling.

The dialogues that stemmed from this created feelings of confusion.

He was torn by the fact that he was still in a relationship with his live-in partner even as he was very much married to his wife.

With the help and prodding of the program, Ulysses made a fateful decision.

He chose to do what was right according to the program and his recovery process: he reconciled with his wife and effected a gracious separation with his live-in partner.

In the Reentry phase, he successfully reintegrated with his family and started to have days off with his wife and parents. He gradually made arrangements to live with his wife and before reaching Aftercare they had successfully moved in together.

In support of his program, Ulysses took on the Supervised Practicum Internship Program for his Aftercare phase. Before graduating, he was fully off his medication. This made him more capable of taking on the challenge of becoming a full time staff, which he had decided to pursue.

In his first year of work, Ulysses’ wife got pregnant and this further sealed their reunification. At this time too, his two drug cases were reduced to one, which is now also set to be dismissed. As for the robbery case, this was dismissed when his sister dropped the charges against him.

For Ulysses, it has become clear that walking the right path may not be easy, but it is the only way through. Besides, the rewards have certainly been fulfilling. At long last, he has succeeded in getting the game right.

Blessings continued to manifest in his life.

Very recently, he conquered his fear. He applied for and got an NBI clearance and subsequently secured a passport. He can now legally travel outside the country again.


The case of Ulysses is quite inspiring for it affirms the importance of the three pillars of treament and rehabilitation, i.e., the program, the family and the resident.

When these three collaborate they reinforce each other and make it impossible not to succeed in the bid for recovery.

Ulysses is now one of the longest serving staff occupying a major post in the SELF TC who is a recovering dependent.