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.
Karson is just one of the many people currently living a fulfilling life in recovery. He’s also a graduate of our Mississippi campus, Vertava Health Mississippi, formerly Turning Point Treatment. Now in recovery, Karson shares details from his life during active addiction and how he found balance in sobriety.
How did your addiction begin?
When I went through my divorce, I didn’t know how to handle it. The one thing I knew I could turn to in order to cope with the pain was alcohol. At the age of 29, I started picking up the bottle much more, experimenting with pain pills and eventually, mixing the two together.
Then I met my ex-girlfriend. She was always there for me when I was drinking and she started drinking with me. Soon enough, both of us were also taking pain pills and alcohol.
One night, we were watching a movie called “Blow” and she looked at me and asked if I could get some cocaine. I said yes, and it turns out the bag of cocaine I bought was just crushed up meth- and that’s when everything started to go downhill.
All of a sudden, we didn’t have to worry about expensive drugs or alcohol and it made my girlfriend happy. So in my mind, I thought meth was what we needed- we’ll be happier and be saving money.
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How did it progress from there?
I was working as an ironworker on a project away from home. We would work up to 14-hour days, and the meth was keeping me up. Without ever realizing how tired my body actually was, I would drive three hours back home after working 14 or 16 hour days.
About a month into the project, I fell asleep at the wheel for just a few seconds and woke up while my car was in the air. I remember thinking in the air “what is going on,” but all I could see was rolling hills and the ground coming towards my windshield.
I did a nose dive into the hills and the car flipped end over end. My vehicle ended up on all four wheels facing up the hill. None of the airbags went off, but every window in my car was shattered- that was a brand new car, I had just made the first payment.
I jumped out the window and the only thing I could think at the moment was that I had to get the drugs that I had on me out of the car because if the cops show up, I’m going to be in trouble.
That was my first wreck.
You had a second wreck?
Yes, 30 days later when I was driving my girlfriend’s car I fell asleep at the wheel again. This time, I sunk the car into a river.
I woke up while the water was rising up along all four window- and the only thing I could think was “I need to get my drugs out of the car, I need my drugs.” I didn’t even get my cell phone, so I had no way to contact anyone.
You would think that after the second wreck I would start rethinking my life. I have a son who’s the light of my life. He has a great mother and stepfather. I have a solid job, a house, and I was working toward another college education. I had all these things to be thankful for, but it was never enough.
That’s what drugs were doing to me- they were stealing my identity.
When did you realize you needed help?
The drugs finally took over my mind about six months into me using. My girlfriend had kicked me out of the house the day after Christmas, so I had to walk six miles to work without a car. I was walking to work in December in Washington without a coat because the drugs had raised my heart rate so high, and made my mind so foggy that I didn’t think I needed a coat in the middle of winter.
I walked into work and into my bosses office. He took one look at me and said: “you look like you’ve been through hell, are you okay?” I looked at him and said, “No. I need help. I’m on methamphetamine.”
How did you get to Turning Point?
My boss called my family and my uncle took me to the hospital. As soon as I got out of the hospital, I went back to my girlfriend’s house- the very person I had shared this addiction with.
My parents picked me up from her house and brought me to a planned intervention at their house. One of my friends from work had gone to Vertava Health’ Texas facility, The Treehouse. So we called the helpline and the treatment specialists said they could get me into Turning Point by next week. I agreed to go, but I was scared.
In my head, I thought I was going to be in a straight jacket when I got there. Or that it would be like a prison, but I knew I couldn’t keep living the way I was living.
What changed your perception of treatment?
The person that picked me up from my hotel in Memphis, Tennessee and drove me to Turning Point on my first day. He assured me that we were going to a good place, and he spoke to me about his addiction and recovery.
He’s just a driver, but if it wasn’t for his presence I don’t know if I would have gotten into that car and gone to Turning Point.
What has made your recovery so successful?
Me. I’ve had to put in the work, travel away from everything and everyone I know, try different meetings, and face my old ghosts- I did all of that.
What are some tools you learned at Turning Point to maintain your recovery today?
One tool that I’m especially fond of is distraction. Once I start thinking about using drugs, I’ll start doing something to take my mind off the drugs. I know if I can just buy a little extra time doing something else, that temptation will start to feel weaker and weaker.
That’s something I’ve never forgotten from Turning Point.
What are some of your personal recovery methods?
I love cooking and how it brings people together. Now, it’s something that’s especially important to me in my recovery. I take a lot of pride in what I’m cooking, and it helps keep me grounded.
I’m also someone who loves to work out. I work out for at least an hour every day, and I get a lot of enjoyment out of it. Being active helps me get my anxiety and frustration out. It also makes me tired, so I can get a good night of sleep.
How do you balance your everyday tasks with your recovery goals?
I set my alarm for 6 A.M. every morning and reach over to my bedside table to write down a couple of goals for the day in my notebook. Then I make my bed. By accomplishing those two smalls things as soon as I wake up, I set the tone for the rest of my day.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself in recovery?
To never give up. There’s so much hope within yourself, you just have to find it.