Based on a True Christmas Story
Clinical Effects of Shabu
The entire family is on the way to the Mother Ignacia Healing Center in Novaliches to visit Sr. Raquel, the so-called ‘cancer-healer of the Lord’. There is heavy traffic. Outside, they can see Christmas lights for sale lining the sidewalks. (Names have been changed, dialogue reconstructed.)
JENNIFER (eldest daughter, 20 years old) – Pay me back the jewelry you stole, otherwise I will call the police.
RENE (only son, 18) – That’s only jewelry. Gold and diamonds are nothing.
Jennifer grabs Rene by the hair, who is seated up front. Rene does not resist. Monica (youngest, 14) tries to stop her. Jennifer let’s go, and sobs loudly.
JENNIFER – (While sobbing) Just kill yourself. I have no brother.
MOTHER (affluent businesswoman at 50) – Stop it. Jennifer, fix your make up. We’re almost there. (Jennifer wipes tears darkened by eye shade. She keeps on sobbing.)
RENE – Why is it that I have to quarrel with the three of you? I am always alone, even in the house. It seems I am not part of the family.
JENNIFER – Yes, you are not part of the family. Just go away. Leave us. We can’t stand you anymore.
MOTHER – Stop it. We’re here. (They go down the van. Sister Raquel approaches.)
SISTER RAQUEL – Merry Christmas everyone. I have been waiting for you.
MOTHER – Merry Christmas, sister. This is Jennifer, Monica, and Rene. Jennifer and Monica are studying at La Salle, and Rene at Ateneo.
SISTER – Are you all honor students by any chance?
MOTHER – They’re all honor students, sister. Rene was formerly first honor, top of the class, until he joined a shabu gang, and then, no more honors.
Rene bows his head and turns away in shame, mumbling in anger. He tightens his belt as his pants are falling down.
SISTER – (To Rene.) Oops, sorry, wrong question. You know, honors are really not that important. That’s only brains. The heart is more important. Do you have a heart, Rene?
RENE – I have, sister.
MOTHER – Rene, go first to the chapel.
RENE – Why, am I not part of the family?
JENNIFER – Just follow mommy’s order. You will join us later.
MONICA – Just give us a chance to explain.
RENE – Okay, gang up on me again. Sister, I’m going home.
SISTER – Wait. I am your ally, if everyone is your enemy. Rene, we can have a one-on-one later. Let me first get your mom’s side. Is that okay?
RENE – (Hesitating.) No problem, sister.
SISTER – You can wait at the adoration chapel. Talk to Jesus. Bring out all your ill feelings to Him.
RENE – Okay, sister. Just call me. (He goes to the chapel.)
MOTHER – Rene has been a shabu addict for three years now, advanced stage. We can no longer cope up with him. We were thinking you could heal him. If you can heal cancer, drug addiction should be simpler.
SISTER – I am not the one who heals. Jesus heals. He am just a bridge. I don’t make the decisions.
MONICA – Sometimes he does not sleep and eat for two and a half days, when he is on shabu.
JENNIFER – When the drug wears off, he sleeps for two days. When he wakes up, he drinks a liter of water. He is so thin. He keeps tightening his belt. He looks like 30 when he is 18.
SISTER – Wow. Is that the effect of the drug?
MOTHER – Last week, our TV set disappeared. Later, we found out he sold it to buy shabu. He would disappear for one week, then come home when he rans out of money. He would look as if he went into a hunger strike for a week. We don’t know what to do, sister.
SISTER – (Placing a hand on the mother’s shoulder) Your anger or sermons will not do any good. Give him some space. He is taking drugs for a reason. We have to know why.
JENNIFER – Bad company, sister.
SISTER – There is a deeper reason.
MOTHER – Last week, he asked for money, but I didn’t give it. He went down on his knees, weeping dramatically. I ignored him. He threatened me with a knife. I had to give him money. He came home after 5 days, crying. I did not want to face him. These two girls ganged up on him. Jennifer wanted to call the police. I just stopped her.
MONICA – We said that if he does not join us to see you, he goes to rehab. He agreed instantly. He is scared of rehab.
SISTER – Okay. Stay here. I will talk to him. (She goes to the chapel.) It’s our turn to talk, Rene. Speak up.
RENE – I started taking shabu when my family began ignoring me. They talk among themselves. They don’t talk to me. I don’t feel any love from them. (Rene is now in tears). It’s like I don’t have a family.
SISTER – (She puts a hand on his shoulder.) Okay, let’s pray. Jesus is here with us. He is looking at you. He knows your problem. He will fix it for you. Follow after me – “Dear Lord Jesus (Rene echoes the prayer while sobbing). Please help me get rid of my addiction. (Louder sobbing). Please help my family to give me love. (Slowly, Rene calms down.) If Jesus is on your side, even if the whole world is your enemy, everything will be okay. So stick to Jesus. I will go ahead and talk to your family. I will give you a signal when to join us.
SISTER – (To the three women.) Don’t be angry, but you three are the ones who need healing.
MOTHER – (Shocked.) What do you mean, sister?
SISTER – Is it hard to understand that you are the reason he went into drugs? He felt that you did not love him. He took shabu to deaden his pain, the wounds of being un-loved. He feels rejected by the whole family, alone in the world.
MOTHER – But, sister ….
SISTER – Then, the more you showed him you did not love him in your anger, the more he took shabu. It became a vicious circle. You drove him to addiction. (All three are silent, bowing their heads in shame. Monica starts to sob. Jennifer follows, then the mother.) Think hard of the past. Before he started taking shabu, did you ever …
MOTHER – (In tears) It’s all my fault, sister. I put all the attention on the girls.
JENNIFER – (In tears) We never thought of that. We have been so blind all these years. It’s also our fault, mommy. We created a world he was not part of.
MONICA – (Running towards Rene, shouting) Kuya, kuya, forgive us. Forgive us.
Rene embraces Monica. Jennifer and the mother join them. They all embrace. They shed a Niagara Falls of tears. It is an instant catharsis of an entire family.
SISTER – It is so simple. Love is the cure for drug addiction.
RENE – Thank you sister for returning to us our lives. This is my happiest Christmas yet. I thought I was really going to die. Shabu is slow suicide. I promise you and mom to go to rehab. I will remove this poison in my veins. Please pray for me, sister, because rehab is hard.
SISTER – What is this rehab anyway?
RENE – Rehabilitation Center, sister. That’s where they fix addicts like me. It is worse than jail. Rehab counselors have a whip. They look at us as criminals, garbage, that’s why they are cruel. It takes years of rehab to get out of shabu.
SISTER – So how will you get healed if you’re facing a whip?
RENE – There are also good counselors, but rare. For most, it’s just a job. Their hearts are not there. They hate us because we make their lives miserable. We are weirdos.
MONICA – But you can do it, kuya, right?
RENE – What do you think, sister?
SISTER – Nothing is impossible if you ask the Lord.
RENE – My friend Ruben was the most admired Executive Producer in a big ad agency. When the agency discovered he was a shabu addict, they kicked him out. After a year in rehab, he got well. The agency took him in again. Everything was fine, until, one day, after six months, they had a location shoot in Baguio for a TV commercial. He decided to take just a little bit. It was cold. It was nice to get high. He didn’t know he had an overdose.
SISTER – Overdose?
RENE – It’s like this, sister. You develop tolerance. At the start, you need only 2 grams to get high for one whole day. After six months, you need 8 grams to get a high for half a day. That’s tolerance, the way your body adjusts to poison. In the end, Ruben was doing 12 grams a day for a three-hour high. He did not know that if you don’t take it for a year, the tolerance disappears. He needed only 2 grams but he took 12. Wham! Overdose. After a year of shabu, your highs become lows. Euphoria turns into madness. You are easily angry. You can kill without thinking. I took shabu because my depression disappeared instantly. You don’t care. You become numb to pain.
SISTER – So it’s not physical addiction, but psychological. So what happened to Ruben?
RENE – In Baguio, during the shoot, he was at the set at . He was castigating the crew left and right when they came in at . When the VP of their biggest client, accounting for 60% of the agency’s gross income, arrived at 830am, Ruben screamed at him for being late. The agency kicked him out on the spot. Eventually, he committed suicide. Two of my friends also committed suicide. Three were in and out of rehab. I know only of one who really got out of it, Jackie, me ex. She’s been off shabu for five years now. But I am not sure if, one day, out of the blue, she goes back. Sister, I am afraid of rehab. Please pray for me.
SISTER – You can do it, Rene, if you ask Jesus for help. Now that love has conquered hate, your deepest anger will vanish. Let us all pray.
They form a circle, holding hands. There are sobs during the prayer. They go home in silence, absorbing the lightning bolt sister gave them. After a week, Rene calls sister.
RENE – Hello, sister, this is Rene.
SISTER – Oh, how’s everything?
RENE – A miracle, sister. Thank you. I’m healed.
SISTER – You said you will go to rehab, right?
RENE – I stayed in church until , just sitting there. I felt a warm mist envelope me. I don’t need rehab. The Lord has healed me. My addiction has suddenly vanished. Cold turkey. I don’t care for shabu anymore. I don’t know why, sister. My healing is instant.
SISTER – The Lord embraced you in the church. Is it possible you go back to shabu someday?
RENE – No way, sister. I am strong now. My rehab counselor is the best, Jesus himself.
SISTER – So you go back being number one in class?
RENE – (Laughing) Easily. Thank you for healing me, sister.
SISTER – I’m just your bridge to the Lord.
RENE - Oops, sorry. Thank you, Lord.
Let us pray for the victims of shabu, the poor farmers and tricycle drivers who went into it when an oversupply made prices crash. All over the nation, tens of thousands of men of goodwill were turned into monsters. They now begin to kill and rape. Families are dying in our countryside. May the Lord have mercy on their souls. They will not avoid drug dens, even if they know they can be killed, because addiction is overpowering.
Email the author for information on the Healing Ministry. Bernie V. Lopez, firstname.lastname@example.org