Editorial: One day at a time

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Monday, May 3, 2010

DURING the Mass of the Resurrection offered for the repose of Fr. Paddy Martin, C.Ss.R., last April 30, not a few of those gathered at the Redemptorist Church remembered the long mission spent by the native of Dundalk, Ireland in the Philippines.

Since 1964, when he began work as a missionary in the country, until a few months before his death, Fr. Paddy worked among the urban and rural poor, including a leprosarium community.

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But the former rector of the Redemptorist Church was also known for ministering to a different kind of need. After succumbing to alcoholism and then recovering, Fr. Paddy was active with the local Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

In 2004, when Sun.Star Cebu covered the AA, the group offered a viable and sustainable alternative to those who suffered from an addicting compulsion for liquor.

The Redemp-torist Church still hosts AA meetings for those seeking to recover from alcoholism, as well as other addictions like drugs and sex.

But as Fr. Paddy stressed when he was interviewed for Sun.Star’s March 8, 2004 editorial, alcohol addiction is more insidious, causing greater harm to victims and their dependents in a subtle or stealthy manner.

Insidious evil

Unlike addictions to illegal substances and extramarital relationships, which society rejects and penalizes, drinking is tolerated, even accepted by many Filipinos as a social ritual, indispensable for affirming machismo, bonding, relaxation, and daily coping.

According to a paper written by Joyce P. Valbuena of the Health Action Information Network and uploaded in the website of the Global Alcohol Policy Alliance: “Filipinos’ wine consumption increases by 10 percent each year. In 1995, Filipinos were seen to be the number one wine drinkers in Asia, consuming a total of 146,000 bottles of
wine that year.”

Yet when abused, liquor is at the root of many index crimes, such as homicides, physical injuries and sex-related offenses.

Driving under the influence of alcohol is a cause behind the rising statistics of road accidents, deaths and injuries.

Alcoholism scars families, with addicts and abusers rationalizing their habit of “social drinking” and denying the pleas and suffering of traumatized spouses, children and even parents.

Changes in work patterns, lifestyles and norms encourage the young to drink. Poor enforcement of a liquor ban for minors in nightspots and establishments near schools exacerbates the problem. Images of men and women drinking proliferate in advertisements and other media content, preconditioning a more permissive attitude to a “harmless” sip or more.

Valbuena cited a 1994 survey by the University of the Philippines, which showed that “60 percent or 5.3 million Filipino youths are said to be drinking alcoholic beverages.

About 4.2 million of them are males and 1.1 million are females.”

Back to the drinker

Yet, if the underaged can easily buy liquor from neighborhood stores, it is a different story when professional help and the rehabilitation of the alcoholic are sought.

As the Sun. Star Cebu March 8, 2004 editorial enumerated: “government rehabilitation facilities… are already strained in their capacity and expertise; private facilities’
charges… are beyond the means of average families; little knowledge in the Philippine medical field (focuses on) addiction counseling; and criticisms (continue) that the Pavlovian approach of punishment and reward adopted in government facilities is not 100-percent effective.”

In contrast, AA membership has only one prerequisite, said Fr. Paddy during the 2004 interview with Sun.Star. It is the alcoholic’s recognition of his addiction and desire to stop drinking.

AA membership is open to all genders. There are no fees or dues. The local AA groups are sustained by members’ contributions, in kind or in deed (such as helping to clean the room after meetings). The AA is not allied with “any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution,” stressed Fr. Paddy then.

Since its formation in 1984, the Cebu group has started other AA groups in Cagayan, Ozamiz, Davao, Iloilo, Bacolod and Dumaguete. The Oza-miz group translated into Cebuano the AA book that spells out the 12 steps to recovery.

With the help of other alcoholics and God—as “each AA member understood Him,” qualified Fr. Paddy in 2004—an alcoholic can stay free from drink “one day at a time.”

Editorial one day time

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