Hope Springs Eternal

Omar Aleman, Aleman & Associates

“A college diploma doesn’t stop a bullet.” That was one of my “go to” comments many years ago when interviewing candidates who were seeking a federal agent position and who felt aptly qualified due to their academic excellence. Although the “proud” owner of three separate sheepskins myself, it became very obvious early in my career that if I desired to remain alive, it would be best not to put much credibility on thesis.

As a young Criminology student I was taught the theory of phrenology, whereby certain bumps present on a person’s skull could dictate a penchant for wrongdoing. Also Cultural Psychology was discussed, applying reasons as to why certain people groups would be prone to violence. One of my graduate degrees is in the field of Criminal Psychology where the behaviors and motivations of criminals are put under the magnifying glass. Sadly enough, all that training went out the window as soon as I found myself breaking down a door with my fellow agents and entering the home of a dope dealer not knowing what to expect on the other side.



But the lack of useful training is not relegated to academic institutions. Prior to getting my badge, I spent 12 weeks in Washington, D.C. learning self-defense, the proper use of weapons, surveillance methods, criminal codes, testifying techniques and drug identification, among others. Upon graduation, I felt prepared to “hit the streets and get in the game”… not so fast!! Upon my return to South Florida in the summer of 1971, I was assigned a partner with 20 years of experience who provided me “on the job training” our first night together. We went to a “seedy” area of Overtown near downtown Miami and entered what appeared to be a shack more than a home. Inside we were engulfed by cigarette smoke, urine and vomit stench, dilapidated furniture and two lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling. At least a dozen men and women stood with glazed stares within the premises.  In a corner, an old man cradled a dying cigarette between his fingers and allowed it to burn through them without manifesting emotion or pain. His swollen hands revealed that this was a daily occurrence.

hopeMy senior partner let me know in no uncertain terms that what was taught to me in the nation’s capital only made me a “half agent.” I knew enforcement, he said, but I needed to understand drug abuse intimately before tackling the job. The training that evening consisted in visiting one of the many “shooting galleries” in the area where addicts would congregate to inject heroin in their failing veins. The “old gentleman” was in his early 40’s but had been “mainlining” for several years; he probably did not last another six months. We caught him in the middle of the “nods,” which occurs a short while after injecting the drug. In this state, the individual is so anesthetized that he feels no pain and is totally docile; he is in a total stupor, unable to do for himself. But when withdrawal occurs, the person will suffer a combination of heightened reflexes, severe bone pain, sweating, nausea, goosebumps and muscle spasms. At this time, with no financial means at his disposal, this individual would probably commit petty larceny to acquire his next fix… until the numbness subsided, and the vicious cycle replayed itself. This scene impacted me to this day and became the catalyst for my shift from enforcement to drug abuse education during the latter part of my career.



After twenty years of covert national and international operations, dangerous episodes and interagency quarrels, it became apparent that enforcement was not the only answer to the substance abuse question. As soon as a cartel was dismantled, large amounts of drugs were seized, and numerous kingpins arrested. Almost overnight others took their place. As long as there was a demand willing to pay the tab, there would always be a willing supplier. Thus, the last twelve years of my government service were spent decrying demand practices throughout three continents while toiling for an enforcement entity. Besides hundreds of speeches, we organized “parent tours” to hospital emergency rooms throughout the country, particularly on weekends, so they could personally observe the ravages of drug abuse among the youth and warn other parents in the community. Likewise, we offered “morgue tours” for those willing to join us in our crusade; watching the autopsy of a teenager who passed from substance abuse is a game changer. Accordingly, after my retirement, the bulk of my consultant work was mainly devoted to this endeavor, in which I spent the better part of my post government contributions. Chemical abuse is not relegated to certain social classes, races, genders, religions or financial standing; it affects us all equally.



The third leg of the drug abuse resistance issue, rehabilitation, was seldom on my radar. In my decades in the business, I became aware of not only the high rates of recidivism but also the many centers who provided ineffective treatment as well as industry insurance issues and regulation problems. This approach seemed messy at best, counterproductive at worse. Then, several years ago, I was introduced to Calvary House, a local residential recovery program which features Jesus Christ as its main foundation for success. In time, I was privileged to address the men housed there about my experiences in the substance abuse field. Their daily routine, which includes Bible Study, prayer, work hours and counseling was certainly impacting, as were the staff, facilities and program outline. Their approach to battling addiction, the provision of best practices to both the participant and the family and their tough but honest perspective toward fruition was both refreshing and extraordinary. And to top it all, it was free!!

Hope Springs Forward and Eternal

Last week my wife and I were invited to the Calvary House yearly graduation event for both men and women. Held in a church, the occasion would be a “sober” reminder to the nine graduates and their kinfolks featured during this festive display. Through the years, I have been privy to numerous sermons at this sanctuary provided by many savvy and knowledgeable preachers. Yet, as each graduate presented their often sordid testimony, the combination of rawness, realism, resolve and restoration, buttressed by their individual stories regarding how Jesus changed their lives, rivaled many of the exhortations delivered at this chapel. As I walked back to the parking lot accompanied by family members, it struck me that true rehabilitation can only occur when one experiences the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Just like those nine brothers and sisters, I was totally addicted to sin and all attempts by my family to prevent me from relishing in it went unanswered. After decades of harming myself, my family and friends with my trespasses, it became obvious that only serious intervention could set me straight. This became a reality when I accepted Jesus as my Savior. However, much like in the substance abuse arena, relapses often occurred in my life. But He did not abandon me, but rather admonished me and took me back… time and time again. Just as Calvary House provides hope and freedom for its clients, the Lord provides the same for all of us. He shed his blood at Calvary so we may have eternal life, and He is now in Heaven building a Home for us. A table must have four legs to remain sturdy and not collapse; when it comes to tackling drug abuse we have enforcement, prevention and rehabilitation at our disposal. But without Jesus Christ, it will eventually topple; what a wonderful God we serve!

For more on Aleman and Associates, visit linkedin.com/in/omar-aleman-387a9015/

Read more articles by Omar Aleman at: goodnewsfl.org/author/omar-aleman/

Share this article