Marianas Variety

SAIPAN, CNMI (Jan. 3) - Alexander "The Colonel" Sablan is a local household name. As a radio announcer, disc jockey and recording artist, his voice used to be heard all over the islands on Sundays - in homes, at family gatherings and barbecues on the beach. I used to listen to his show, and most of time I didn’t even know what he was talking about. But he played only the finest local songs and although his voice wasn’t exactly basso profundo, it was warm, waggish and whimsical. Just about right for a carefree sunny Sunday afternoon.

The Colonel is now 48 and a person with a disability. He no longer rides the airwaves but he still makes his presence felt through letters to the editor regarding the raging issues of the day. And in this holiday season, in these bitter times, he says he wants to offer a message of hope to the people out there who are struggling with addictions.

Alex is a recovering drug addict. His drug of choice was crystal methamphetamine -- a.k.a., tina, meths, krank, tweak, shabu, ice. The stuff is made of "highly volatile, toxic substances (based on such chemical ‘precursors’ as methylamine and amylamine) that are melded in differing combinations, forming what some have described as a ‘mix of laundry detergent and lighter fluid.’ " Smoked in a pipe, ice "results in an instantaneous dose of almost pure drug to the brain, giving a huge rush followed by a feeling of euphoria for anything from 2 to 16 hours."

Alex was hooked on ice from1987 to 2001.

"The craze then was to be in shape, to lose weight quickly and easily," he says. "I’ve been overweight all my life and me and my friends believed we could lose fat by smoking ice. Well, we sure lost something - our money and our dignity and self-respect, but not our weight."

He says, "the joy of the high is not worth the gloom of the dry." And "dry" is when you can no longer afford to buy ice, which will eventually happen to those addicted to it.

"Because no matter how good you are on your job you’ll lose it if you keep using ice," says Alex. "Ice will keep you awake for three days and how can you be a good employee, a good businessman or a good parent if you’re punishing your body like that?" He adds, "I’ve known friends who lost their jobs, their businesses, their families because of ice. A lot of bad things happen to you if you’re on ice."

Alex says he decided to stop for the sake of his family. "I was ashamed," he says. "I remembered I have family and that I didn’t want to destroy it and through prayer I succeeded in getting away from ice." Whenever he had cravings, Alex says he would buy something else - something for his family; a bike for his son; a watch for his wife. "When I was on ice I thought I was happy," he says. "Now, I know I’m joyful, blessed."

Alex says he quit ice before he suffered massive congestive heart failure. "It could have been much, much worse if that happened to me when I was still an ice addict," he says. He remains on oxygen therapy 24/7 but he says he feels way better than when he was still smoking ice.

"No matter what your addiction is -- poker, ice, alcohol," he says, "no matter the trials you have to face in your life, if you will just admit that you have a problem and decide to do something about it, then it’s never too late to have new and better life. I have a friend, Mona Duenas, who also succeeded in quitting before it was too late, and if Mona and I did it, we all can. And that’s our message -- quit for yourself, quit for the ones you love."

Alex says ice remains "out there, destroying people’s lives." He hopes the government will do more to educate the public, especially the youth, about the dangers of drug addiction. But he also admits that change has to begin with oneself.

"It’s never too late," he says, "to do something good for yourself and your family and to try to restore the dignity within you -- but you have to be willing to do it."

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