Curiosity led Neil Caintic to try drugs for the first time. Little did he know he was being led into a trap – one that seemed to have no escape.
Drug use and abuse was common in Neil's home in the Philippines, and as a young boy of 14 he graduated from cigarettes and alcohol to illicit drugs.
"I always wanted to fit in with those around me and get along with the people in my neighbourhood," Neil says.
His hopes and dreams for a bright and successful future took a hit when his lifestyle started to affect his education.
From seemingly harmless consumption of marijuana to "shabu" (crystal meth) and other prohibited drugs, Neil became a self-confessed "menace to society".
Neil knew his lifestyle could not go on, and a customer of a relative who sold Bonsai plants showed him the solution.
This Singaporean customer happened to be involved with a Christian drug and alcohol rehab centre House of Hope, which Neil signed up to in 1998.
"Everything went smoothly during the year of rehabilitation," Neil recalls. "Broken relationships with my loved ones were reconciled.
"However, getting to know Jesus Christ and having a personal relationship with Him was the greatest thing I learned."
Feeling like a new man, Neil set off to encourage people and spread the good news he had heard about Jesus Christ.
But behind the scenes he continued to do wrong, succumbing to lying, lust and gluttony.
"Lust and pride seemed to always be present and often I fell to their allure," Neil confesses. "When I left the centre I returned to my old ways and within two years was worse off than before."
“I have no interest nor any joy in thinking about drugs now”Neil re-admitted himself in 2001, refusing to give up, this time giving everything he had to the Lord.
He was determined never to return to the man he had hated being, pressing forward towards a better life.
This was no easier feat the second time around, but Neil was aware of the support system that surrounded him.
"God provided people that would inspire me and helped me get back on track," he says. "Through the Bible, they helped me grasp again the truth and brought back the joy of my salvation."
Upon finishing the program in 2002, Neil felt called to help others dealing with the same things he had and became a volunteer for the organisation.
Now 16 years in sobriety, Neil is a mentor and liaison officer at House of Hope, and the head teacher of the centre's day-care ministry for children.
"Drug addiction is not a lifetime struggle," he says confidently. "I have no interest nor any joy in thinking about drugs now. What is constant is the fight against sin, such as with lust and pride."
When he is tempted to sin Neil says that he sets his eyes on Jesus "the author and perfector of our faith."
"God is always faithful. His eyes is upon me, guided me and let my eyes see upon the perdition of this fallen world. I drag myself back to Him," he says.
"The Lord has been faithful in answering my prayers all these past years. He has enabled me to stand firm from temptations through the grace of Christ.
"I thank God in Christ for his mercy and his gift of salvation given in Christ," he adds. "His joy is my strength."
Married to "a God-fearing Christian lady" Neil says he is grateful they have been "gifted with two kids, a son and a daughter". •