- Associated Press - Monday, May 29, 2017

GALLUP, N.M. (AP) - One year ago, Pernell Manuelito was released from Gallup Indian Medical Center after spending three days suffering from alcohol withdrawal symptoms. For 10 years previous to that stay, Manuelito had been dealing with an addiction to drugs and alcohol that started when he was 13.

Manuelito was born and raised in Gallup with family in Window Rock, Arizona, and Tohatchi. Growing up, he said he was exposed to domestic violence, sexual abuse, serious family dysfunction as well as alcohol abuse in the home. He said this upbringing contributed to the early start of his addiction. Manuelito described the addiction as layer upon layer building on top of who he was. He put on a facade for those around him that he was happy and fine, but underneath he lost his faith and the truly happy, passionate person he thought he once was. As the years and partying went on, Manuelito’s addiction started to affect his health.

“I was tired physically,” he said. “I was tired mentally I didn’t know what to do anymore, I was lost, I was hurt, I was lonely.” He began to become more withdrawn and introspective. He began to think about his younger self who was passionate, thoughtful and kind. He wanted to get back to that and back to himself, but he didn’t know how, so he began drinking alone and just enough to keep the sickness of withdrawals away. This is what landed him in the hospital the last time. In an attempt to become sober, Manuelito became ill from alcohol withdrawal and had to be put in a hospital in Albuquerque for a short time. His grandfather then picked him up and brought him back to Gallup and to GIMC. During the ride back home, Manuelito said he made a promise to his grandfather - to seek help and move past his addiction.

On June 2, 2016, Manuelito checked himself into the Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital Residential Treatment Center. He was the first of his immediate family to receive treatment for addiction.


A year later, Manuelito is celebrating a year of sobriety and huge changes in his life. He talked of the time he was using as if he had gone away from the world and was now just coming back with new experiences and knowledge.

“I always tell it like I had gone out to battle and I am coming back as a warrior with knowledge and experience,” Manuelito said in his office at the RMCH Behavioral Health Services campus. The experience and knowledge Manuelito discussed played a huge roll in his new job as patient advocate at the treatment center. Manuelito began working at the center while he was still undergoing treatment as a part of the program’s 20/20 and 120-day work rehab programs, both of which Manuelito was the first graduate.

Manuelito said staff at the program, especially Special Programs Director Bill Camareta, spend a lot of time with the clients to discover what they are passionate about and what skills they have. They then use that knowledge to begin putting the clients back to work and back into normal lives.

Manuelito’s strengths include his ability to help individuals seek help for their addiction as well as being a support system for people battling the different stages of addiction therapy.

“It’s all good and well to rise to the top, but what good is it unless you bring the rest up with you?” Manuelito said.

Making meaningful connections and really communicating to people is what helped Manuelito through his treatment, and that is what he tries to provide to the clients moving through the program. He also said changing the way individuals think about their addiction can change their outlook, as well as change the way they see themselves, how they see the demons they’ve created, and how to move past them.

Manuelito credits his recovery firstly to strong family support, including his mother, grandmother and grandfather. He also gives credit to the treatment program.

“I don’t know where I’d be if it weren’t for the treatment center and certain stellar, inspirational individuals,” Manuelito said, referring to the staff who guided him through the program. “I have a lot of faith in this place, and I have a lot of faith in this community.”

The RMCH Residential Treatment Center has 40 beds and is in the process of expanding to 50. They are also growing their transitional housing capacity and work rehab program. The program is offered to New Mexico residents at no cost and is completely voluntary.


Information from: Gallup Independent, https://www.gallupindependent.com

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