Turning Adversity Into A Learning Experience

by Fernando Perfas

“Learning experience SZ_S17_107” | Photo by Sino-European School of Technology via Creative Commons CC BY-NC-2.0

My years of work in addiction treatment have found me listening to countless heart-rending stories of clients, some of whom have had horrendous experiences that make me wonder how they managed to survive and continue on living. Much as I can empathize with what they have been through, although not fully, my adversities compared to theirs would seem like a walk in the park.

My experiences in my youthful years had shaped my attitude towards life. Something inherent in me told me to rely on myself to “fix” whatever problem came my way. This included taking control of myself — my mind and emotions– to manage events in my life. This has been my consistent temperament since I can remember.

Due to unfortunate circumstances of childhood, my early education was beset with setbacks. Consequently, there were serious gaps in my schooling, which became apparent later in my educational pursuits. These did not deter my resolve. I made up for my shortcomings by over compensating in areas where I excelled. For all my struggles, I did quite well in high school, enough to have a fair shot at college. When I learned about my placement score in the college entrance exam, I could hardly believe it. I thought it was divine intervention that got me in.

“Something inherent in me told me to rely on myself to “fix” whatever problem came my way. This included taking control of myself — my mind and emotions– to manage events in my life.”

In college, I continued to suffer the adverse consequences of my poor early education. I remember my English teacher who was excellent in her course and who also excelled in making me feel worse about my writing skills. When I got back my compositions from her class, the pages looked like a murder scene. She dissected my essays with not so flattering comments and corrections in red ink. It was depressing to get back test paper results from her class. I was bent, however, in proving to myself that I was not as horrible as she made me feel about my writing skills. I never understood the intricacies of grammar and composition.

To this day, I still don’t know much about parts of speech, except for subject and predicate. I still fumble with my tenses. I write without following formal rules of grammar and the mechanics of composition. I write with my ears — what intuitively sounds right and makes sense. Because I’m too old to learn grammar, I read a great deal to learn how people write. I put more emphasis on capturing the feelings of the moment and putting them to words in a way that feels right.

“The clients I worked with who succeeded against all odds were using the same very thing that I learned early in life. They were capable of marshaling inner resources to turn life’s tragic twists into a winning formula.”

Looking back, it was my knack for turning challenges into life’s learning experiences that got me through. There were a lot of things I did that people told me could not be done or that I don’t have the wherewithal to achieve them. I did them mostly not to prove people wrong but to prove to myself I could overcome the hurdle.

The clients I worked with who succeeded against all odds were using the same very thing that I learned early in life. They were capable of marshaling inner resources to turn life’s tragic twists into a winning formula. They have what is now known as “resiliency” – the ability to beat the odds and turn adversity into a positive force for good.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dr. Fernando B. Perfas is an addiction specialist who has written several books and articles on the subject. He currently provides training and consulting services to various government and non-government drug treatment agencies regarding drug treatment and prevention approaches. He can be reached at fbperfas@gmail.com.

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1 comment

Roberto M Reyes /AKA Bobby M. Reyes January 22, 2021 - 12:36 pm

Hi, PDM Neighbor Dr. Fernando Perfas. Yes, you wrote a very-good “must-read” article. Perhaps eventually you can help us coordinate with interested Filipino medical experts that can save the millions of drug addicts in our homeland. Part of our OFW-led platforms for the 2022 election is to guarantee that drug addicts would not face a “death sentence” (AKA extra-judicial killing or EJK) but rehab. And one more thing, indeed Filipinos are known for being “survivors,” as many of us are resilient. But we need professional guys like you, Dr. Perfas, to help the survivors also succeed in whatever endeavor they are in. Hopefully, as soon as we officially become accredited candidates for the 2022 PH elections in October 2021, we can invite you to meet with our Medical Group to fine tune our platform of establishing our country’s first real HMO.

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