Editor’s Note: After graduating from the SELF Program, Paul pursued a course in BS Psychology at Southville University. In his article, he recounts his experience in taking his final examinations in sobriety.

I woke up at 6:00 AM. It was dark, quiet and everyone was asleep. I made myself a cup of coffee and grabbed my textbook to study some more. I had already covered the chapters that our class discussed but, somehow, I was dissatisfied. I had an exam in three hours and though I felt I was quite ready I wanted to be sure.That morning, I had butterflies in my stomach. It was like being in the presence of a lady I fancied. I knew exactly what I had to say but felt unable to bring myself to say them. I was unshaven and didn’t sport a new haircut. I was, however, armed with a good night’s sleep, a detailed reviewer, and a big prayer. So, I reminded myself that I was not in pursuit of a lady but good grades and it somehow helped me soothe my anxieties. I was further consoled knowing that there were people rooting for my success.

As I peeked through the window of my classroom, I saw familiar faces and several empty chairs. Quietly, I approached the proctor and showed him my exam permit. Take a seat, he said as he gave me the test papers. I chose to sit in front as I usually do now. I took a deep breath and scanned through the pages and written instructions. I needed to get to the questions fast as I was afraid I would forget what I had studied.

As I began answering the questions, my anxieties went away and my stomach felt much better. In the end, I breezed through the exam and realized there was nothing to be worried about. I felt good and knew then that I was actually doing well. And I did! I not only passed the test but even made it to the Dean’s List.

It was then that I recalled the common questions the residents would ask me each time I visited the facility. Kumusta school, Kuya Paul? to which I always answered Okay. Each time I said so, I never sensed any doubt in their reactions. It was as if they were sure that I would do well in college. If only they knew what I had just been through.

I noticed that the residents were mostly composed of adolescents and chances are most of them would go back to school after their Program, just as I did. With my recent accomplishment, I felt that I could prove to them that every graduate of SELF stands a good chance of gaining great victories. SELF taught me to be patient and to appreciate my learning process. If I begin with valuing myself, I can learn to value other things.

Today, I feel I have indeed gained this worth as I now feel that I can finish my education. I once read that a man’s character is never judged by the things he has started but rather through the things he has completed. From now on, there will be no more half-finished ventures for me. It is through this resolve that I am driven to succeed and through touching base with residents in the facility that my conviction is reinforced. I owe this new ambition to SELF. Finishing the program was not easy but it educated me about the value of working hard in order to achieve goals. As we say in the TC, No Free Lunch!

As I reclaim my place in society, this newfound wisdom shall be my strength and guidance.


Paul Villarin
Graduate 2007