Our country is experiencing a drug epidemic. 100 people die a day from drug overdoses. Heroin is taking out entire cities. People are becoming hopelessly addicted to painkillers. Meth labs are everywhere.
But all’s not lost. There is hope. There is healing. Today we are sharing with you a story of one of our friends, a graduate of our Texas campus The Treehouse, Dean.
Dean’s story is one of consequences and pain, but also hope and inspiration. This may mirror your life. This may mirror the life of your loved one. We want you to know that addiction can be treated and a fulfilling life can be had. Dean is proof. Read on.
What is your background? When did you start using?
I moved from Israel to California when I was 7 years old. I was always trying to find a way to fit in. Around the time I was 12 or 13, I started drinking alcohol and smoking weed. I spent years of my life as a pothead.
I never really caused any damage to myself or anyone around me. But when I was 18, my parents got divorced. My younger sister would tell me how things were not good at home. But I was kind of under the impression that if I didn’t see it, I didn’t have to believe it.
My friends started taking Roxycontin, Oxycontin. I remember the very first time that I tried it. I wish I could go back to that first day and tell myself what was going to happen to me if I took that pill. I had no prior knowledge about opiates and didn’t realize how addictive they were. I became addicted really quickly.
What happened after that?
I was using opiates and heroin for about six months before I sought treatment for the first time. At that time, I really didn’t believe I was an addict. I relapsed pretty quickly after that experience.
My second time in rehab was a three month inpatient rehab. It was really intense. I had almost two years of sobriety after that: I was following the steps and had a sponsor – but I didn’t follow through.
Around 12 months into my sobriety, my parents were going through another divorce. Around my 18 month milestone I stopped using the program I built for myself. I started telling myself, “I’m not a real addict. I can beat this.”
So, I started drinking and smoking weed again with the help of an unhealthy relationship I had with girl. Within a few months I was doing heroin again, too.
How did you get into The Treehouse?
The few days leading up to me getting into The Treehouse, I was living in my car. I knew I needed help. I called 3 different treatment centers, but the copay everywhere was $9,000 – $11,000. I didn’t know what to do; I had nowhere to go. My dad had kicked me out and I had lost my job.
Somehow – I found Andrew at Vertava Health. I remember talking to him, being so hopeless. But he called me his little brother – I can still hear him call me “little bro” to this day. Within 1 hour, Andrew had called me back with the news of finding me The Treehouse and asked me if he could talk to my parents about getting me a flight to Texas.
He told me The Treehouse incorporated “adventure therapy” – and I remember thinking it was a lie, like a “stay on the line” kind of thing. But I trusted him.
I called on a Monday, and by Tuesday night I checked into The Treehouse.
What was it like once you got into The Treehouse?
The first few days were a little hazy for me, but by Day 4 – I knew I loved the place and loved the program.
After my “blackout period” – the first week where you aren’t allowed to make outside phone calls, I managed to get Andrew’s number. I wanted to call Andrew and thank him. He saved my life. I wanted him to know how much it meant to me.
At The Treehouse, I learned balance. I obviously had been in programs before, but at The Treehouse, I learned that a balance of my mind, body and spirit was the key to unlock my brain.
I know the 12 steps and the rooms of AA and NA – I know the song and dance to acquire “clean time.” But I was working 12, 16, 18 hour shifts – often times 14 days in a row without a day off. My mind, body and spirit was unbalanced which pushed me into a depression, and that let me slip back into my addiction after almost having 2 years clean.
The Treehouse opened my eyes to what life can be like in balance.
What was the biggest thing you learned about yourself at The Treehouse?
I learned that I was putting up a lot of roadblocks in my life: Things like, “I can’t do this” – “I’m not good enough” – “I’m not smart enough.”
I learned that I can do anything that I really want to do. Nothing is impossible if you keep with it and work hard. I’ll do anything to achieve what I want. I want sobriety. In order to achieve sobriety, I need to stay open minded, have faith and trust myself and let life happen and deal with the obstacles as they arise.
I had a hard time believing in God. The Treehouse doesn’t preach the 12 steps. But I’m familiar with AA and NA. In AA and NA, you have to believe in a higher power. But I know… I really believe God helped me find The Treehouse. I don’t know how I got that number – but God helped me get in touch with Andrew. And that just stands out to me. The relationship I’ve built with Andrew is special to me. And the relationship I’ve made with Vertava Health and the Treehouse is something I’ll always be grateful for.
What would you tell someone about The Treehouse?
I would tell them about the people there. The clients, the staff, the nurses, the counselors – everyone there is there for a reason. I didn’t have one negative experience.
What Vinnie, the CEO, has going on over there is amazing. It is the next best treatment center. Honestly, I think the ideology is something that everyone should be learning. The simplicity of it – it just makes sense and it worked for me. It’s an amazing program.
What keeps you going each day?
I want to stay on track. You have to do it for yourself – no one else can do it for you. I don’t know how to explain it.
I stick to my balanced program: Mind, body and spirit. I keep those three things in mind and I do what I need to do to fulfill those needs. I go to meetings, I go to the gym, I talk to other people in the program, I connect with other alumni on Facebook, and I call Andrew.
I don’t want to be hopeless. I don’t ever want to be in that position again. I will do whatever it takes to be above the grave I dug.
What would you tell someone who can identify with your story?
If you’re going to The Treehouse – get there as fast as you can.
Don’t give up. You’ve probably heard all the same cliches. But be patient. Take suggestions. Have an open mind and be faithful. You’re going to come out of this a lot better.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
I went to an institutional type program before The Treehouse, and they taught me how to get clean. But what The Treehouse teaches is unlike what anyone else does. I wish I found The Treehouse a long time ago. I don’t know how to thank them, or thank Andrew for all that they did for me. I’m amazed how these people cared for me, and cared about what I had to say. They made me feel human again.