1st Alumni Homecoming Keynote Speech

Good afternoon, everybody. I am Macie Imperial, a graduate of SELF. I have been sober for 10 years now and I must say it feels really good to be back here again among good friends.

Today, I was given the privilege of addressing you to talk about my years of sobriety. But, before I can do that, I will need to first tell you about the nightmare of my drug-addicted years. We all have a story, mine no worse or better than yours. I grew up in a very traditional family, the eldest among five girls. Raised by very strict and conservative parents, I could not date nor party without the usual yaya to chaperone me.We were raised with very strict rules and a strong set of values — respect for elders, honesty, integrity and generosity to those in need. And, as the eldest child, I had the additional burden of being the role model and had to be responsible at all times: No smoking and definitely no drugs. I was a pretty good student and was a consistent Dean’s Lister. After graduation, I took a job in advertising and married at 24 and had a baby boy the year after. Life was good. We left for the United States during the troubled years after the Ninoy Aquino assassination, had another baby boy, and came home after four years.

It was in the late 80s when I was first introduced to shabu. And life was never the same again. My drug taking began as a weekend habit and, like most people on drugs, I thought I could control it. I know now that those were the worst lies I told myself. That I could stop anytime I wanted to and that things were under control.

So I continued to party for the next 10 years. And, boy, did my life become a nightmare. I continued to work and managed to keep my drug use a secret. But I used and used and used. It would get so bad that even in the office I would lock myself in the bathroom for long periods. I’m sure people wondered what the hell I was doing there. But I continued to perform well so no one really suspected anything.

During those times, I could still control it so that I still slept at night, using sleeping pills to knock me out so that I could go to work the next day. Then I found out I was pregnant again. It was easy to stop and I stayed drug free for the duration of my pregnancy plus a few months after, breast­feeding and taking care of my baby girl. But, like a stupid fool who never learns or perhaps because of the power of the substance, I started using again.

The next few years are a blur. I stopped working and stayed home to party my life away. My children grew up seeing me awake all the time or asleep all the time. My days were dictated by shabu. Those years after my baby girl Isabelle was born were the worst years of my life as a mother. I wasn’t there for them. I just didn’t care for anyone but myself. Drug addicts are selfish, and I was no different. All I cared for was the next hit. I was hitting rock bottom. Let me correct that. I was scraping rock bottom.

One day, in 1999, my youngest sister came to my house. I was 42 years old, messed up and wasted. She found me in bed, after having been asleep for the last four or five days and handed me a letter from my dad. He said it was time for me to get help because, and these were his own words, “You have sunk so low, sunk to the very depths of degradation.”

My youngest sister had come to take me to rehab. I went willingly. I really had nowhere else to go. This was rock bottom. But saying goodbye to my children was hell. When I gathered them and told them that I was going to be away for a long time, and told them why, I will never forget the fear and pain in their eyes. They wept and they clung to me. My daughter was six years old and traumatized.

I spent the first four months inside the facility weeping and sobbing, sober and clear headed enough to realize what I had done to myself and to my family. And with this realization came the fiercest determination to get well and beat my addiction. It was not always easy inside the facility. Everyone had doubts and we all had our fears about the power of the substance. I often wondered if I would be strong enough once I got out. So it became all the more important to just trust that the SELF community knew what they were doing. Trusting in my environment became a favorite mantra for me. I clung to that. And I made it work for me. The months went by and it started to get easier. I knew I would beat my addiction.

It is now 10 years later since my days inside. I landed a job right after graduation. I make that sound easy but it wasn’t. I was full of self doubt about getting back on my feet and entering the workplace again. I was terrified.

But SELF was adamant about us getting a job as a prerequisite to graduation so again, with my favorite mantra of trusting my environment, I set out to look for one, convincing myself that it was a necessary part of my rehabilitation. I sent out copies of my resume and, sometime after, I received a call from ABS-CBN asking me to a job interview with the chairman himself.

I got the job. I am now a Program Buyer for the cable side of the business. The job affords me to travel several times a year where I negotiate with producers and program distributors like Warner Bros, Fox, and CBS. It is a wonderful job and I thank God that I am sober to enjoy it.

My kids are grown up now. Gino is 26, Miguel is 21, and Isabelle is my baby at 16. Their scars seem to be healing well. But our journeys are never really over. There will always be something that will trip us.

But if there is something I have learned about myself and want to share with you it is this. That my sobriety is not dependent on things being good around me. I learned that even during the worst crisis, I no longer turn to drugs. There are no fairy tale endings. My life continues to have its ups and downs and, believe me, the downs can be crippling. But that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Falling down and getting right back up. Sure it’s hard, but what is it they say? Whatever does not kill you really does make you stronger. Remember, the best is yet to come!

Thank you.


Graduate 2001
May 2009