For the past several weeks and months we have been hearing a lot about the problems caused by substance abuse and addiction. The people that have died, the bizarre and sometimes offensive behavior, and those having legal and professional issues seem to be in the news. We hear and talk about them but rarely hear and talk about those that have had success in recovery from substance abuse. Substance abuse treatment works.
Here is one person’s story:
He was 17 and had a good life. He loved school, sports, church, fishing, hunting, and most of all his family. He loved life and all it brought to him. Then shortly before high school graduation his world changed. His mother died in an auto accident, he was driving. The trauma, grief and guilt were so overwhelming. Within a month he drank alcohol for the first time and it brought the relief he was seeking. Finally he could cope with life again, just have a drink.
College started in the fall and his drinking increased. Alcohol helped him cope with the change and it took away the pain he was feeling. When he went home for winter break he again experienced the unexpected. His father died of a heart attack as he was giving him CPR in the family home. The emotions were extreme and confusing. Alcohol was there to help.
He moved back to the family home to live with his sisters so they would be able to live as a family. The effects of emotional pain, grief, trauma, and guilt led to the experimentation with marijuana. It was great! The pain would go away, for while.
For the next decades this is how he dealt with life’s complications, with alcohol and drugs. Even though he was able to complete college, hold down jobs, get married, have children the emotions that come with trauma and loss were never addressed. He was living an unhealthy life filled with lies, deceptions, alcohol, drugs, shame and guilt.
After 27 years of using unhealthy coping skills, drugs and alcohol, and denial that he needed help he accepted the family support and encouragement (ultimatum) to get that help. Dealing with the issues in his life was now to take a different course.
Changing course in his life included going to an outpatient treatment program for his substance abuse. He accepted that he did not want alcohol and drugs to dictate his feelings and behavior. For the 6 months in outpatient treatment he received the understanding, guidance and support that he needed. He started to network with others and participated in support groups. He changed his course in life.
He will be the first to tell you that change is not easy and not everything gets better quickly. He will tell you that if you can be honest, open-minded, and willing, life does get much better. Recovery is a process not an event, some things change quickly and others need more work. His life continues to evolve by doing so. It has been seventeen years since entering that treatment program and by getting the counseling and using the recovery tools, he has not used alcohol or drugs since. He feels life is great again. Treatment works! Recovery saved his life.
This is my story, a true story of life and the story of changing course. I am Gary Nelson a person in long term recovery since 1997. I accepted help in dealing with the unexpected events in life, facing the addiction and co-occurring issues. I now again love life and all it brings to me, the outdoors, golf, church, time with friends, and helping others seeking recovery. I am a sober husband, dad and Papa. There’s nothing better than that! There are approximately 23 million other people with long term recovery in the United States today. We are the anonymous people, your neighbors, employers, your healthcare workers, and your friends.
Substance abuse treatment today includes addressing co-occurring issues in life. These may include mental health issues of depression or anxiety, relationship issues, or additional behavioral addictions. Research has provided an understanding of why the disease is so destructive to our brain and how miraculous the healing process is. For more information on the disease of addiction go to: http://www.drugabuse.gov/ http://www.samhsa.gov/
Gary Nelson, CCDP