Community service

Life After Addiction: Puna Man Finds Hope Through Community Service

When Carlos Bellotto woke up in Hilo Medical Center five years ago after overdosing on a fentanyl drug mixture, he was angry.

The man from Puna was in a Hilo hotel with a friend to use what he had been told to be an opioid cocktail that included fentanyl, heroin and methadone. At one point, Bellotto overdosed and would have died had it not been for the paramedics who resuscitated him with the Narcan emergency antidote, generically known as naloxone.

“When they hit you with the Narcan, it basically takes the entire top off,” Bellotto told Big Island Now. “It just gives you that jerk and kind of flips everything.” All I thought in my drug addict head was ‘they just stole my fucking high.’ “

After being released from the hospital, Bellotto returned to the same hotel room to use the same drugs, but in smaller doses. Back then, Bellotto said, he’d rather be killed 50/50 than have his high stolen by naloxone.

“Just madness,” he said.


Bellotto has been sober since June 8, 2018. The 33-year-old has found the strength to overcome his addiction to the Men of Pa’a organization and its aena-based stewardship recovery program.


“For me, the service has kept me sober because I really don’t have time for anything else,” Bellotto told Big Island Now.

Even after the overdose, Bellotto said he continued to use drugs for a long time just to feel normal.

“I had to have something in the morning to make me feel like I could really get through the day,” said Bellotto. “Before, I had to have something to feel good enough to move, just to get me going, and that’s just to go out there and try to get more stuff to get high.”


After his release from prison and recovery in 2018, Bellotto began treatment at the Big Island Substance Abuse Council (BISAC) and participated in a 12-step program. It was during treatment that the Puna man said he learned he could choose another way of life.

Carlos Bellotto with Iopa Maunakea. (Postcard: Carlos Bellotto)

“I started to believe in a power greater than myself,” said Bellotto. “I started working with the Men of Pa’a community service group. They put me to service to get me out of my head and give me a whole new outlook on life.

Although adversities never go away, said Bellotto, he has learned to listen and be open-minded and live life according to the conditions of life.

Iopa Maunakea, the founder of Men of Pa’a, called Bellotto’s transformation incredible, adding that the 33-year-old went from living in the bushes with needles in his arm to sobriety with a wit. clear.

“The biggest change is alcohol and drugs, and all the madness that goes into it, doesn’t control it like it used to be,” Maunakea said. “It makes my job so rewarding. The foundational work we do when the kane improves, its “ohana improves and the community improves. “

Maunakea and Bellotto are both aware of what they see as a growing problem with the use of fentanyl in the community. From Bellotto’s experience, he said that it can be mixed, chopped with other opiates and that it makes anything the drug dealer sells stronger.

“Sometimes it’s not even heroin that they mix with,” Bellotto said. “I’ve seen people scrape tar off telephone poles because it’s black, and then mix it with fentanyl and sell that kind of stuff.”

Additionally, Bellotto believes that most people are unaware of the strength of the synthetic opioid or the risk of it being mixed with drugs they might be using.

“Since I have been recovering, three friends have died from an overdose,” Bellotto said. “Personally, I think it has something to do with fentanyl. “

Maunakea said he first heard of fentanyl when prescribed to his father in 2017 for pain management. Although he had heard of the drugs being used on the streets, it was not as prevalent as in recent months.

Maunakea believes the number of reported cases of fentanyl is low because it may be hidden in other illegal substances.

“Any new problem scares me. Any new addiction scares me, ”said Maunakea. The drug of choice is not fentanyl. The drug of choice is “plus”.

While all street drugs are dangerous, Bellotto said fentanyl takes things to another level given the high likelihood of overdose. Naloxone can be prescribed at local pharmacies and is available at the West Hawai’i Community Health Center, BISAC, and Kumukahi Health and Wellness Center.

Bellotto encouraged those still struggling with addiction to recognize the risks they are taking and to have access to naloxone.

Maunakea encouraged those seeking help with their sobriety to call her directly at 808-960-3893.