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 Vertava Health Texas, formerly The Treehouse Lincoln.
Lincoln’s story is one of pain and consequences 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. Lincoln is proof. Read on.
What is your background? When did you start drinking or using drugs?
I was born and raised in Kentucky. Alcoholism runs in my family – I had an alcoholic father. My grandmother was an alcoholic, and she’s now 43 years sober. My family actually jump-started the AA meetings in my hometown. I have 4 sisters, none of whom are alcoholics – but I felt like the disease was just waiting for me.
In high school, I got caught drinking one time and got in trouble – and that was it. I stayed sober after that, played sports and was very active in school.
The summer after I graduated high school, and before college, I started drinking and smoking weed. I was smoking weed constantly. I began working with people I had known growing up, but hadn’t realized that they were addicted.
In college I started selling cocaine and pain pills and drinking more and more.
What happened after that?
I went off to college, but was kicked out after the first year and a half for poor academics. I was always high.
After that, I got into another school. During winter break, I went to detox for the first time. It was a 7 day detox program, but they let me go after 3 days because I convinced them that I was good. Going to detox for a few days convinced my family to back off, too. I’ve always had a natural gift for talking, and I made everyone assume that I was good to go.
48 hours after I left detox, I was right back where I started. For the next three years, I continued along the same path.
How did your addiction progress?
I went to a two-week rehab program after that – again, mainly to appease my family. I had no intention of actually getting sober.
I went to rehab for pills, but when I got out, I started smoking weed. That led to me smoking heroin, and then smoking meth. That went on for about two years.
By that time, I had left my family. I was homeless and living in a tent community by day, and a shelter at night.
I got into a three-month rehab with the shelter. There, I met a military officer and ended up enlisting in the Marine Corps. February 2011, I was forced into sobriety as we had mandated drug testing.
What happened after that?
Even though I was no longer using drugs, my alcoholism increased in the Marine Corps. Once I was in the military, I realized I couldn’t stop drinking.
In August 2013, I had neck surgery. I woke up with a morphine pump and unlimited access. The doctor knew that I was a former drug addict, but he still prescribed me pills. After I ran out of pills, I just went to another doctor.
My commanding officer sent me to another 30-day rehab, and I finished up my service as quickly as possible.
The military had kept me sober – so once I was out, I quickly went back to drugs. I was doing heroin, cocaine, pills, weed… anything I could get my hands on.
I tried doing a geography fix, and moved from South Carolina to Florida – but as it turned out, there were drugs in Florida, too. I moved back to Kentucky where I had the same friends, doing the same things – like I never even left.
Despite having a decent job, I continued to use.
How did you get into The Treehouse?
On July 10th, I told my family that I had had a significant relapse. They put me on lock and key. July 11th was my sober date. By that point, I was making crazy threats to them and to myself. In Kentucky, there’s a thing called Casey’s Law where if two or more people think you’re a threat to themselves or others, the court can order involuntary drug treatment. They picked a place that was close to home, but I knew the people there and knew I wasn’t going to get better if I stuck around.
My sister found a place in Dallas called the Treehouse.
What was your experience once you got to The Treehouse?
I arrived in Texas on August 1st. I didn’t know what to expect. Nothing had ever worked before – not that I had really tried. But I knew something had to change.
At The Treehouse, I hit the ground running. I knew if I was going to be there, I wanted to be 100%. My therapist got where I was coming from and helped me to understand what was going on. I immersed myself in it and went to all of the classes that I could. While I was there, my family was the greatest support system.
I showed up at the Treehouse as a Godless, fearless man. While I was there, I connected to a 12-Step program and came to find my higher power.
What was the biggest thing you learned about yourself while in treatment?
I learned I needed a new start. Anyone who knew me would have never imagined that I could do it. I didn’t want to uphold my reputation. I needed to establish a new identity and not conform to what others thought I should or could be.
I had an incredible connection with the staff and clients. I initially entered for a 30-day program, but ended up staying for 60 days because I loved it. I learned that I have the natural ability to allow people to come and talk to me, and give them solid answers and help.
What would you tell someone who is maybe walking a similar path that you did?
It is possible. Everyone else will notice changes in you before you. It doesn’t have to be this way. If life isn’t going great, and you see that your life is a disaster – something has to change. Nothing external has to change, but internally you have to find a new start. Once you get right internally, the external will follow.
What keeps you sober?
I’ve found a God of my understanding and I’m working with other alcoholics and addicts. It’s a passion and joy for me – and that’s what drives my life.
I regularly attend AA meetings and have 9 sponsees. It’s a snowball effect that’s infinite. It’s such a joy in my life that wasn’t there before. It’s a joy I never knew I could find.
What would you tell someone about The Treehouse?
The Treehouse is amazing and beautiful. There are people there who care and will do anything to help. Give yourself to the program in all aspects and it will change your life. It’s a great way to find yourself and figure out who you are. Do it for you and your own well being.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
I’ve coined a quote since I’ve been at The Treehouse and I’ve really taken it to heart: “People with the ability to change lives, have the responsibility to change lives.”