Article Hero Image
February 2002

Look for a Drunk

I finished a treatment program for alcoholism in Minnesota in February 1985. As I was returning to the Philippines, I said to myself, "I'm going to be a model recovering alcoholic." Within four months I was back drinking. Six weeks later, ashamed and downcast because my priest companions had noticed that I'd returned to my self-destructive drinking, I decided to return to Ireland, my home country. There, I really joined AA. I went to AA meetings regularly, and got a sponsor. Thanks to the Grace of God and AA, I took my last drink at the end of June 1985.

I thought of never going back to the Philippines. I said to myself, "Sobriety is my number-one priority in life." But after two years in Ireland, where I went to as many meetings as possible, I felt an overwhelming desire to return to the Philippines. I shared my desire at a meeting, explaining that Mindanao had no AA meetings and I might be in danger of drinking, as had happened before. An older member told me, "Martin, when you return to the Philippines, look for a drunk and share with him about your alcoholism and your new life in sobriety. He'll keep you sober!"

I had a beautiful surprise upon my arrival in Manila. My superior told me that a Filipino seminarian named Bobby S. was getting pastoral training in the Mindanao area and working somewhere at a small parish in the mountains. Bobby had gotten sober in January 1987 after attending his first AA meeting at a medical center in Makati. Paddy M., an Irish priest and AA old-timer, told Bobby that there would be a returning AA member, and on the very day I arrived back in Cagayan de Oro, Bobby came down from the high mountains to find me. He rushed with enthusiasm into our house and I was grateful to hear his voice saying, "Is Martin here?"

We sat together in a corner room of the house and had an AA meeting. Bobby opened with the joyful words, "My name is Bobby and I'm an alcoholic. Welcome, Martin, to the first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous in Cagayan de Oro City." So the Cagayan de Oro Group was born; since that day, it has grown in numbers and twice hosted the National Philippine AA Convention.

The meeting had only Bobby and me for the first few months. Every Monday night, Bobby took a logging truck down from his home in the mountains and traveled seventy miles to the highway; he then rode eighty miles on a bus to Cagayan de Oro to attend that Tuesday evening AA meeting. The following day he returned by a different road--forty miles on a motorbike carrying four to five other passengers. He used to take that risky trip along the rugged, stony, and muddy back country roads in order to go to any length to stay sober.

I waited for him every Tuesday evening. Sometimes he'd bring with him some tribal alcoholics from Kalabugao. He was able to twelfth-step Alex M., a Muslim logging worker, whom I later sponsored and who remains sober today. I did a lot of Twelfth Step work in the area myself. I used to take a thirty-minute plane trip to Cebu on Monday afternoons to attend an AA meeting there in the evening and come back early morning on Tuesday.

In March 1988, Bobby returned to the seminary to finish his studies in theology and was ordained a priest in September 1990. I attended his ordination together with other AA members in Manila and Cebu. He was sent to work as a Filipino missionary in Papua, New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands. Now he is in Italy for a one-year sabbatical and spiritual course. He has remained sober.

I stayed in Cagayan de Oro for some time and guided the AA group there. With newcomers coming into the group, I slowly gave up the responsibility to others. Then I moved to Iligan and started another AA group there. During the past years, we have had some achievements to be proud of. The Big Book and the "Twelve and Twelve" were translated into Cebuano, the language commonly spoken in the Southern Philippines. I'm now stationed in Ozamiz City, where the first rehabilitation center has just opened, offering great hope for the 17,000 people living here, most of whom are poor fishermen and pedal-bike drivers. I am blessed to be sober.

Have Something You Want To Share?

We want to hear your story! Submit your story and it could be published in a future issue of AA Grapevine!

Submit your Story