At Vertava Health, we see first-hand the heartbreak and pain that addiction causes every day. When one person suffers from addiction, everyone close to them feels the weight of their struggle. However, we also know that it doesn’t have to be this way. Not every addiction story has to end in tragedy. With an estimated 23.5 million adults living in recovery today, a life of purpose and opportunity is possible after addiction. Jarrod is just one of the many people currently living a fulfilling life in recovery. He’s also a recovery coach at our Ohio addiction treatment center. After spending years battling his addiction, Jarrod is opening up about reconnecting with his family, gardening and facing his fears in recovery.
Tell me about yourself.
My name is Jarrod, and I work as a recovery coach at Vertava Health Ohio. One of my favorite things to do it go camping. Once I got clean, I realized that I loved to spend time in nature. Now I have a goal of owning a powerboat, so I can enjoy the lakes that I camp around. Hiking is also super therapeutic for me. Whenever I go on vacation, I want to find the best hiking trails in that area. I’m currently in school and will be pursuing my master’s degree in order to become a licensed professional mental health counselor. Ever since I entered recovery, I knew this would be my path. [middle-callout]
How did your addiction begin?
My addiction began with prescription pain pills. I got my wisdom teeth taken out, and the doctors gave me Vicodin for the pain. My dentist and my family told me that the painkillers would make me tired and sleepy, but I remember feeling amazing when I took them. At the time, I didn’t think anything of it. Now, I realize that this is where my addiction started.
How did the addiction progress from there?
I didn’t start using heavily until a couple of years after being given my first prescription during my wisdom teeth removal. It wasn’t until I started college that I picked up again. I went through about two years of classes and at the very end of my second year, I started hanging out with a group of friends who were looking to experiment with drugs. I started smoking more pot, trying acid, LSD, Percocet and binging just about any drug you can think of. Unfortunately, I did so poorly in my classes that the college kicked me out. I was experiencing so much internal turmoil and pain during this time that I decided to pick up and move to Florida where I would start my life over- but my addiction followed me. I found some people in Florida that helped get me into pill mills. I would rotate between a few different pill mills and get around 250 pills a week. These doctors at the pill mills literally worked out of trailers. Eventually, I started shooting painkillers and found myself in a situation where I was selling myself for sex to make money. I remember the feeling of instant gratification and the numbness the drugs gave me. Today, I know those feelings are what attracted me to the drugs. I didn’t have to feel anything.
When did you know you needed help?
I wasn’t making enough money to support my pill habit, so my friend suggested I try heroin- and I did. It was less expensive, and I wasn’t getting sick from withdrawal. I was only using heroin for a couple of months before my family showed up at my doorstep in Florida out of the blue. They knew something was wrong, but they were so far away that they couldn’t figure what was wrong. They picked me up and brought me home to Ohio- but I still didn’t stop. I went on a complete bender for about two years in Ohio, doing whatever drug I could get my hands on. Finally, on May 2 of 2013, I was driving my dad’s car and I started crying. I thought to myself: “I can’t do this anymore. I’m going to have to wreck this car and kill myself, or get caught.” About 15 minutes later, I was arrested on old theft charges, and I told the detective everything. They sent me to treatment in lieu of prison.
How long have you been in recovery now?
Almost five years.
What do you think has made your recovery so successful?
My recovery is successful because I have built a vast support network. When I got out of treatment, I just dove right into the recovery community. This community has been an incredibly important part of my recovery.
What was it like trying to rebuild your relationship with your family?
Trying to rebuild the relationship with my family was a struggle. In the beginning, my family was not as educated on addiction as I wanted them to be, and it started fights between us. However, I learned pretty quickly that I needed to help teach them about addiction instead of fighting them about it. When I switched my mindset, things started to get better. After completing a year and a half of my treatment program, I think I earned my family’s total trust back. I’ll never forget when my mom stopped carrying her purse around the house or sleeping with her wallet. They know now that I’m not going to steal it. Those small things mean the whole world to me.
What was one of the most challenging things to overcome in your recovery?
When I entered treatment, I found out that I had contracted Hep C. I was devastated when I was diagnosed. It felt like there was never going to be an end to the consequences of my addiction. Three years into my recovery journey I was cured of Hep C. That experience is now something I talk about very openly because I think it’s something that those in recovery need to hear.
What are some tools you learned in treatment that you’re still using in your recovery today?
I use mindfulness a lot. I love meditation. Almost every night I listen to seven to ten-minute meditations to help ground myself, recap my day and think about what I could do differently tomorrow.
What are some personal recovery methods that you use to stay committed to your recovery?
The last three years I’ve had a garden, and it gets bigger and bigger every year. Digging in my garden helps me dig away at all my worries and problems of the day. The first thing I do when I get home is go straight to my garden. I’ll water it and pick the vegetables that have grown to eat with dinner- it’s incredibly rewarding. For me, the hardest thing to grow has been asparagus- but I’m working on it.
How do you balance your recovery goals with your everyday tasks?
I’ve been doing so much better at this lately, but it’s taken me every bit of my recovery to figure it out. I’ve built a solid foundation for my sobriety that involves the support of my family, my recovery groups, my hobbies and my career- and that foundation keeps me centered every day.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself in recovery?
I’ve learned that being who you are is okay. If God can love me for who I am, I can love myself, too.