Midweek Press Article: Here to Help
As Chad Bloom can attest from first-hand experience, the Narconon rehab program can bring ‘ice' addicts back to live a productive, drug-free life
By SUSAN K. SUNDERLAND
Lari Zelinsky-Bloom is proud of her recent graduate. No ceremony or lei hail his achievement, but thanks to celebrities Kelly Preston and John Travolta, there will be many others to follow in the footsteps of her son, 21-year-old Chad Bloom.
Chad just graduated from Narconon, a drug rehabilitation center. After a harrowing nightmare suffering the effects of ice addiction (crystal methamphetamine), he arrived at Narconon weighing only 98 pounds and his body covered in sores. He admits he wasn't a pretty sight and "I had screwed up my life."
It was a turning point, and Chad says, "I knew I needed to change my life."
His mother found him on the steps of the house one day. Chad was homeless and desperate. The heartbroken parent could have easily dragged him out of his pain and cradled him with sympathy. Instead, she rebuked him and turned him away.
Chad recalls, "My mom put it to my face that I had a choice: life, prison or death. I was at my lowest point in life, and I made a choice."
It's the choice Narconon supporters Preston and Travolta hope others who need help will make. To show their support, the actors are in town to host a private benefit dinner on Thursday, May 24, at Stage restaurant in the Honolulu Design Center. Proceeds from the $2,500-a-seat benefit will go toward the establishment of the first Narconon Hawaii residential drug rehabilitation center at Kalaeloa, near Barbers Point.
Punahou-grad Preston arrived home ahead of her husband to prepare for the occasion, and to check on progress of the drug education program she helped launch here two years ago. Travolta is on a promotional tour for his new film Hairspray, which opens July 20 in theaters nationwide.
"It started with a wonderful boost because the first two public screenings broke records, and I'm very excited about that," Travolta says.
We catch up with Preston at Narconon Hawaii headquarters at Nimitz Center before racing home to watch Travolta on Oprah. Show biz doesn't get better than this, we sigh. We get to interview a beautiful actress in the afternoon, then watch her talented husband dazzle audiences on my favorite talk show.
"John will pilot his jet to Honolulu," Preston says. "He's bringing our son Jett. Our daughter Ella is already here with me."
You read correctly. Travolta is flying his own aircraft to town. A licensed pilot, he owns a Boeing 707 and operates a multitude of jet aircraft. He says he likes his airplanes big, and in 2002 was given a model 747-400ER Extended Range jet, the first of six to be delivered to Qantas Airlines. The couple has a private airstrip at their home in Florida.
Besides his love of aviation, a lifelong passion, and making films--more than 50 to date--Travolta is involved in a number of human rights and social causes, such as Narconon.
Preston also contributes much time and effort to the international drug prevention and rehabilitation organization, particularly establishing its community outreach in Hawaii. Preston's local involvement started two years ago when watching Edgy Lee's documentary on the ice epidemic in the Islands.
"That really woke me up to what was happening," she says. "I wanted to do something."
Preston met with 130 individuals, including Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona and UH coach June Jones. As a result, Preston and non-profit Narconon Hawaii teamed up with drug-prevention groups to produce and distribute free educational kits designed to help parents talk to their children about the dangers of drugs.
To date, 10,000 kits have been distributed with presentations given to more than 23,000 students in 65 schools statewide. Preston says proceeds from this week's fundraiser will help to produce more kits and broaden its distribution.
Clark Carr, president of Narconon, reports, "Analysis of initial responses from those students shows positive results. Our surveys show that 89 percent state they would never start taking drugs, or are now against drugs as a result of the Narconon presentations."
Hawaii Army National Guard recruiter Sgt. 1st Class Al Palmere couldn't be more pleased. The informational kit has been valuable in his school presentations to elementary and high school students.
"We not only talk to students about career choices, but we try to address life choices as well," he says.
As a former law enforcement officer and someone who has family members who went astray on drugs, he knows firsthand what destruction addicts face.
Young Chad Bloom recalls his own misguided journey.
"When you're using drugs, there's no realization about what it's doing to your quality of life," he says. "That's not what's on your mind. You live for the moment and what's going to get me by for the next five minutes... not what will happen tomorrow or in a week, month, or year from now."
His mother did not know where to turn for help until her daughter consulted the Internet for information on drug rehabilitation, where she learned about Narconon and its impressive success rate. Naturally, there are many worthwhile drug treatment centers and programs. Many of them sound like luxury resorts and fabulous spas, ranging in recovery settings from alluring mountain retreats to tropical beachside camps.
The Blooms spent many hours on the phone with a Narconon counselor, who described the program and guided Chad's family through the admission process. They learned that the program involved drug-free withdrawal, training regimens in communications skills, detoxification to rid the body of toxins, and a comprehensive series of life skills.
Chad went to Narconon Arrowhead in Oklahoma for his drug treatment. That's because there is no facility in Hawaii... yet. That will change in a matter of months, thanks to the community's contributions and continued involvement of supporters like Preston and Travolta.
A two-story building with 60 beds will be ready as soon as renovation to an existing facility on Department of Hawaiian Home Lands property at Kaleoloa is completed. The Zelinsky Company, Kapolei-based painting and finishing contractors, owned by Chad's family, has made a substantial contribution, reportedly valued at more than $10,000 to the facility.
"Getting help is not easy, Chad says. "You need to swallow your pride, but this program will help you rebuild that pride. You have to realize what you're going through, what you're doing to people who love you, and you need to know who your true friends are. It's a rebuilding process."
"I didn't want to tell people that I was going to rehab, he continues. "Now that I'm out, when they ask me where I was I say, 'I was in rehab.' It's done so much for me. It's not a bad thing. I can be honest because it's worth it."
His mother adds, "He needed to take care of his past wrong-doing and got wonderful support from everybody, including creditors. They respect you for getting help."
Chad says he feels "excellent now. He weights 137 pounds, with a goal of reaching 140. "I know how to take on the world now," he says confidently. "I have this new knowledge and new power."
Chad's accepted a job on a cruise line and will be going back to work soon. Some day he'd like to start his own interior design business.
He's already managed inferior design, we thought. Interior design will be a piece of cake.
Preston agrees, saying changes like Chad's situation give her hope for the program in Hawaii. Combined with a stepped-up public awareness campaign by other groups, the level of "ice" use among teens has reportedly decreased over the past three years.
Working collectively Preston states, community involvement is making a difference. Preston credits Narconon's rehabilitation for helping her stop taking drugs for good, so she speaks from experience.
As Preston looks at a framed MidWeek cover showing her with daughter Ella Bleu, published several years ago, she implores fellow Islanders to do what's right for the next generation.
She is monitoring Narconon's progress in Hawaii very closely. This is not a one-time celebrity endorsement, she claims. She and her husband will evidently be involved until there is no more drug crisis in paradise. When that happens, we should give Preston and Travolta advanced degrees in humanitarian studies.
[MidWeek mag cover, with picture of Travolta and Preston, courtesy of Getty Images]
Shocked to learn about Hawaii's 'ice' epidemic, Punahou grad Kelly Preston and husband John Travolta are in town for a fund-raiser Thursday evening to build a 60-bed teen drug rehabilitation center. As one local youth knows from experience, the Narconon program works
[From first page of article]
[picture of center]: The new teen rehab center is under construction at Kalaeloa
[top picture]: Chad Bloom, with mom Lari and Sgt. Al Palmere, receives congratulations from Clark Carr of Narconon Hawaii after successfully completing rehab
[bottom right picture]: John Travolta and Kelly Preston host Thursday's fundraiser
[page 68, picture of guy on ladder]:
Narconon graduate Russ Kidd volunteers to renovate the new facility
[last page, picture of center]: The new Narconon center at Kalaeloa
Reprinted with permission of MidWeek Printing
Author Susan K. Sunderland
Travolta and Preston photo courtesy of Getty Images
Other photos courtesy of Narconon Hawai'i