Column: Native man helps his people recover

"If life had been dark for Edward Grijalva once before, the blackness had become impenetrable the second time around.

He had returned to a scourge that had earlier eviscerated his life. Grijalva and heroin became inseparable again.

This time he was in state prison, away from his children and further removed from his wife, from whom he was separated.

Grijalva, who had previously kicked his heroin habit, had been given a second chance, but wasted it.

Grijalva has a gentle voice. He exudes patience. His black hair is peppered with white and is neatly twisted into a long, single braid. It's his mark of his Tohono O'odham and Mayan indigenous roots.

He began abusing drugs as a high-school dropout and took up heroin while fighting in the Vietnam War. Ten years of continued heroin use, arrests, jail time and divorce from his first wife followed.

While incarcerated he took up an offer of residential treatment. He was put on probation and started a drug-free life with a new wife and two children.

His past seemed to be fading when Grijalva relapsed. He started using again and attempted suicide several times.

A drug conviction sent him to prison, where he had his reawakening.

Grijalva's vivid story goes a long way to help others recover. His cultural understanding and bilingual skills also serve as powerful tools in his work.

He directs cultural services for Compass, creating diverse recovery programs. And he works closely with the Tohono O'odham Nation to provide culturally sensitive recovery services. He incorporates sweat lodges, talking and drum circles into contemporary 12-step programs "

Get the Story:
Neto's Tucson by Ernesto Portillo Jr. : Former heroin addict espouses respect as a recovery specialist (The Arizona Daily Star 9/21)