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 is not lost. There is hope. There is healing. Today we are sharing with you a story of one of our friends, a recent graduate from Spring to Life, Nick.
Nick’s story is one of self-destruction and denial, 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. Nick is proof. Read on.
What is your background? How did you start drinking?
I grew up in Indiana with a great family. I had my mom and dad, brother and sister. We really had no issues growing up, and I was fortunate to have some of the better things – but was still raised right.
I was an athlete and went to college near my hometown to run track. Unfortunately, I had a career ending ankle injury and lost my scholarship.
Right around that time, my parents were moving to Iowa, so I moved with them and enrolled at the University of Iowa. It was the second semester, so almost everyone had already made their own friends and had their own cliques. It was my first time living outside of a small town and living in a bigger city and in the dorms – and I had a hard time adjusting and making friends. A guy I met in a class had joined a fraternity, and so I decided to go that route, too. That’s when I first started drinking.
What was your pattern?
I had never drank before I joined the fraternity, so at first, it didn’t take much for me to get drunk. When we’d all go out, I became the “funny guy” and everyone would laugh. But after a while, the guys were more like, “Ok, this is not so funny anymore.”
Psychologically, I think I was just trying to fit in. But it started affecting my grades and I ended up getting kicked out of school.
What happened after that?
After that, I got a job at a restaurant. If you know anything about the restaurant business, you know that people usually go out for drinks after their shift. So I just continued to insert myself into those situations – and I never really associated with people who didn’t drink.
I just kept running into more and more issues. I got my first DUI. Then I got my second DUI. Then I got my third DUI.
How did you finally get into Vertava Health of Tennessee?
After my third DUI, I was dealing with legal things and my lawyer suggested that I go to an outpatient rehab for legal purposes. So I got into Vertava Health of Tennessee’s outpatient program.
At first, I had an attitude about it. I felt like I had just made a few mistakes, and all I really needed was some help for my sentence. I was very stubborn about it. But as my outpatient treatment progressed, I started to realize my issues weren’t just a series of mistakes and bad choices.
What happened after that?
Once I got through outpatient treatment, I was sentenced to time at inpatient treatment and then jail time after that. So I went to Spring to Life’s inpatient program at the Lodge. At first, I had the same bad attitude that I had when I went to outpatient treatment. I was the only guy that was there for just alcohol treatment. All the other guys had been using drugs, so I thought I didn’t have as big of a problem as them. I also wasn’t overly religious and had never really tried to read the Bible – so I just didn’t think it was going to be for me.
When did your attitude change about treatment?
One night, it finally clicked. I had been talking to Pastor Adam a lot, and it really all sunk in. The day I was supposed to turn myself in for jail, I talked with the D.A. and was allowed to continue treatment instead. I ended up spending two months at the Lodge.
At the Lodge, I found support not only from the staff – but from the other guys there too. They were people with similar issues. The combination of seeing other people’s struggles, going to classes and going to church really helped me. I had never been one to pray, but I started building a personal relationship with God.
What was the most important thing you learned about yourself while in treatment?
Before I went to treatment, I had a lot of issues with self-confidence – so I’d go and drink. By going to Spring to Life, I gained self-confidence and self-worth. I gained the feeling that I do matter. I realized that when I put my mind to something, I can do what I want. The sky’s the limit for me.
What would you tell someone may be in denial about their alcohol addiction?
I’ve been there. I know I was just as stubborn. If you’re treading water, you’re never going to get out – and you’ll eventually dip below. But there’s so much more to life. You have to believe in yourself, believe that you can do more, and believe that there’s more out there for you. You will get knocked down, but it’s a matter of how you get back up again.
I was so stubborn, with a mindset that my addiction was “just alcohol” – which is legal. I justified that it wasn’t like I was doing drugs. I thought I was not as bad off – but that’s far from the truth. I think alcohol messes more lives up than drugs.
How has your life changed since rehab?
About 6 months ago, I was able to get out of the restaurant business and get a career with a great company. I’ve got my foot in the door with this company, and I’m going back to school. I’ve truly changed for the better.
I remember so vividly hearing Pastor Ron say that God will come knocking at your door with opportunities, but each time that you don’t let him in, the knock gets quieter. That really stuck with me, and I’m not going to miss any more opportunities.
What would you tell someone about treatment to inspire them to go to Spring to Life?
The guys at Spring to Life have so much love for complete strangers. They’re compassionate about what they do, because they’ve been there themselves. There’s structure, but it’s not overly strict – you’re allowed to grow and have fun. They read you as an individual and find out how they can help you get to be where you need to be. They get to the root of the cause. And for me, they helped me build a relationship with God that was lacking.
It’s an experience that I’m so grateful for. There’s such a brotherhood there, and always someone to talk to wjudgmentdgement.
How long have you been sober?
I graduated from Vertava Health about a year ago, but I’m not one to keep a sober date. I don’t want to be defined by a number, because if I keep that number in mind – it’ll always be a reminder. I don’t want to put a lid on the fire, I want to put the fire out.
What keeps you sober each day?
For me, the two most important things are my faith and my belief in myself. Those are so important. But I also value the love of my family, my friends, and the fact that I’m goal driven and have structure in my life.
Living the way I do now has become second nature. It’s part of who I am now. No matter what, bad things will happen – but now, I have a way to fight it without beer or whiskey or any kind of drink.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
If there’s ever that moment of doubt, that moment of, “Why am I doing this?” in recovery, go seek help.
At first, I was embarrassed to go to rehab and justified it with being court-ordered. But everything happens for a reason, and my reason was to get my life straight. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t let a lapse deter you. You have to be honest with yourself, and honest with everyone else.