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Family Circle - Testimonials
Seagulls Flight: Healing Broken Wings
by Elizabeth A.

I am not good at writing or speaking about personal stuff.  It takes a lot from me to put experiences and feelings into words. Somehow, it’s like baring one’s soul, totally revealing one’s self – things that I have great discomfort doing. When I agreed to do this piece, I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but just the same, I needed no convincing and accepted.

The time I went to seek Seagulls’ help for my son was one of the lowest points of my life. I felt helpless, betrayed, angry, worried, sad, tired, perplexed, all at the same time. Perhaps it is the same with other parents and families who come knocking at Seagulls’ door. We knew we had to do something but didn’t know what.  We had a lot of questions, but there were no answers. We all needed help.

Going to Seagulls was an acceptance that things were so wrong, and that it was time to let others take charge.  And take charge the men and women of Seagulls did.

Being in the program was not easy. Zab, my son, was not the only one undergoing it. We all did, in different ways. I admit, it was not as I thought it would be. Initially, I was under the impression that the program would deal with him only, because after all, he alone was the problem, or so I thought. Later, we realized that the program is for the entire family. It makes sense, because now that we know better, we were part of the problem, even if unknowingly.

Being in the program was like rebuilding family relationships step by step. Relationships that were destroyed through years of selfishness, insensitivity, disrespect, lies, abuse, lack of communication and simply refusing to confront problems. It didn’t help that marijuana and alcohol were easily accessible. A relationship with a girl who had her own set of complicated problems was the final straw. Zab’s life was almost ruined.

The program gave us time to prepare to reach out to each other. It gave us the space to rethink and realize things. We were equipped with the knowledge we needed to better understand what went on and why things happened the way they did.  We were guided by the facility on the steps to take. Eventually, we reconnected.

First, it was through letters, then phone calls. It was like rediscovering my son, the one who used to give me flowers from the neighbor’s garden when I woke up. The family dialogues were difficult but crucial to surface, confront and discuss issues. For parents, it could be surprising to know that things we would not even consider as problems were actually issues or sources of difficulties for our children. At times, it was hard to accept that things we thought were simple and easy made life difficult and complicated for those we love.

Then came the visits, the day-offs, and the time to be back home for days at a time. After almost a year of being in the facility, the homecoming was difficult, even scary. The feeling of uncertainty returned. What if nothing changed? What if something happened and we were unable to handle things?  Were we ready? How were we supposed to do things? Slowly, the uncertainty vanished as we re-learned being comfortable with each other. At this point, we had to plan and decide Zab’s next steps. I was just too happy to know that he wanted to go back to school.

The process required a lot. Time, vigilance, patience, emotional investment, discipline, etc. But I can say that it’s worth everything. My son has come back home literally and figuratively, with wings that are starting to heal.

Zab, after 24 months is graduating from the program. I remember that during his first months in the facility, one of my major concerns was that he had to stop schooling for one year. Before Seagulls, Zab never stopped being in school. He’s very smart and went to the best schools: Philippine Science High School and University of the Philippines. But, now I realize, he was in school but was not getting the education he needed.

In one of his earlier letters, he said that I should not feel sorry for the time that he was out of the university. He said that I should not think that he was not in school but rather, that he was going through the university of life. That turned out to be true.

I like to think that my son is graduating from the program because he has acquired important life lessons and skills. That he is better equipped to face the challenges of the real world – outside the facility.

I can say that he is better now. Besides staying in the program, the past year was spent in school. He has since regained his drive to study and with grades that will make any parent very proud.  For the two consecutive semesters that he’s been back, Zab garnered the highest grades in his entire school. Not bad for someone who has yet to graduate from the Seagulls program.

His relationship with our other family members is also much better. I particularly am happy that he and his brother are again in good terms. They were the closest of brothers and it is my hope that Zab continues to be a good kuya to El.

This is not to say that everything is perfect though. Problems, small and big crop up. There are still wrong choices made. But the good thing is, now, we communicate. No matter how hard, he comes to us, tells us and we discuss our options. By now, I hope Zab knows that we are here to help.

This graduation is not and should not be the end of Zab’s and our relationship with our bigger family – the Seagulls family.  It is reassuring to know that we can turn to his brothers and sisters in Seagulls if or when we need help. Ed, Chit, Jun, Christian, Daisy, Dencio and all the staff, you have our deepest gratitude for helping Zab and the other graduates start healing their broken wings. We know that the process continues after graduation and the years beyond. But for now, your guidance gave them the ability to fly again.

To Zab, we love and support you. We know you have what it takes to succeed in whatever direction you choose. Remain focused and responsible to the program, continue to work hard and a bright future is yours.  You owe, thus, I would want to see you give back and help others heal. 

To the co-deps, the program needs us. It is not easy but it works if we allow it to. Draw strength from each other. Be vigilant in taking care that our loved ones and we do not return to the same patterns that brought us to Seagulls. The object is to correct the mistakes and change, not to return to our previous lives.

To the residents, take your program seriously for the program is only as good as those who are in it. You are lucky to have this chance to pick up the pieces and start anew. While everyone deserves a second chance, you belong to the few that actually have it. If you learn your lessons well, you too, will fly again.

To all the graduates, you have to be well. Stay connected. Stay vigilant in protecting your sobriety. And in the future, let us see you soar!

Seagulls Flight, thank you for healing broken wings.



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