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.
John Mabry is just one of the many people currently living a fulfilling life in recovery. He’s also a graduate of our Texas addiction treatment center. Now a year and a half into his recovery journey, John opens up about reconnecting with his family, giving up his control and balancing recovery with everyday life.
Tell me about yourself.
My name is John and I’ve been a husband for 13 years. I’m also a father of three, we have two boys and a little girl.
I absolutely love working in the field of addiction treatment and recovery.
I also really like boxing. I never thought I would be one of those people who loved boxing- but hitting the punching bag is really therapeutic for me.
How did your addiction start?
It began with a freak car accident in 2000. A tire blew out and the car flipped 10 times. One of my friends died in that accident.
I ended up having 14 surgeries on one of my legs due to the accident. A year later, I opted to amputate the leg below the knee- and that introduced me to prescription painkillers.
Those painkillers sent me on a whole new path that I could never have imagined for myself.
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How did the addiction progress after that?
I started with the prescriptions pills, and eventually, I started to rotate between alcohol and painkillers. Then I couldn’t concentrate because of the alcohol, so my doctors started me on Adderall. Then I couldn’t sleep because of the Adderall, so they started me on Ambien.
For about a decade, there was just this constant cocktail of substances in my system to make the pain go away. I was being treated for all these things, but no one could really diagnose the underlying problem- which was PTSD from the car accident and seeing a friend die.
Then, I found my brother dead from a cocaine overdose. Before I walked out of his house that day, I grabbed a bottle of vodka and started chugging it.
Two years later, I couldn’t hold down a job. My boss brought me in and said, “I can’t help you in the way that you need help, but I can let you go, so you can get the help you need.” On my way home I called my wife and told her I had been fired from my job and that I needed help because this thing was bigger than me.
That happened about a decade after my car accident, so I had been fighting my addiction for a long time. I was in and out of treatment facilities after that- The Treehouse was my fourth one.
What do you think made this attempt at recovery more successful than the other three?
First off, the people at The Treehouse. The staff there knew my name within the first two or three days of me being there. I would walk down the hallways and people would say, “Hey John, we’re so glad you’re here.”
I paid three times the price at a celebrity treatment center and never got the same level of care or understanding that I received at The Treehouse.
The Treehouse also introduced me to yoga. My body was holding on to so much trauma from the past, and doing yoga at The Treehouse gave me a safe place to release that emotional pain.
But I think the biggest reason I have been able to maintain my sobriety this time is because of Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT). It taught me basic coping skills that I had never had before. Now, I’m able to breathe through uncomfortable moments instead of reaching for a drink or a pill.
What was it like trying to reconnect with your family after treatment?
It was tough.
I wasn’t allowed back home after treatment. I was living at a friend’s house for several months. I didn’t have a job. I was on the verge of a divorce.
I was looking at this divorce paperwork thinking about how I’m not going to have access to my kids and I didn’t have alcohol or drugs to help me cope with it.
I tried to prove myself just a little bit more each day to my family by waking up, taking things one day at a time, going to meetings, finding a job and staying the course. By taking action, I was gradually able to rebuild trust with my family.
But it takes time and we’re still working on it today.
What tools did you learn at The Treehouse that you still use today?
I developed a basic awareness of my fears at The Treehouse. I also became more in tune with what was going on inside my mind and body.
I was always looking for something on the outside to fix me when really, I needed to be looking on the inside. The Treehouse was the first treatment center that gave me a safe space to tune into myself and figure out what was going on.
What are some of the unique methods that you’ve incorporated into your recovery process?
I practice daily meditation. It centers me. In the last year, I’ve missed maybe seven days.
I also listen to a lot of audiobooks now. I’m constantly trying to learn more about what I went through so that I can understand it better, and so I can help other people who have gone through similar experiences understand it better.
I’ve also learned to let go of things. I need to get rid of the old things so that I can let new things into my life- new books, new people, new hobbies.
How do you balance your recovery with your everyday life?
Before I even get out of bed, I start every day in prayer. It sets the whole tone for my day. When I pray it brings me peace and allows me to let go of my need to control everything in my life.
When I go through my day, I’m able to realize that I don’t have control over everything that’s going to happen, But that’s totally okay, and things will work out. The less control I try to take, the easier things start to become.
Now, I have a podcast, I do public speaking all over town, I run a drug-free workplace training program, I’m writing a book, I have my family again- isn’t that crazy? I never could have managed all of this two years ago, but I’m incredibly grateful.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself in recovery?
That it’s okay not to be okay.
It’s a small thing, to be honest about your emotions- but it’s important to talk about what you’re feeling with the people that love you. They want to help you, you just have to let them.