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, and recent graduate from Vertava Health of Tennessee – Rickey.
Rickey’s story is one of devastation and fear 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. Rickey is proof. Read on.
Rickey graduated from Vertava Health of Tennessee – Spring 2 Life on November 21, 2014. He is now in the Alumni Program.
How did you start doing drugs? What was your drug of choice?
When I was 22 years old, I was called to preach. I was a youth pastor for 14 years and also an assistant pastor. I never thought in my life that I would have any problem with any kind of drug or anything.
But in 2006 – I had to have surgery on my shoulder. Then, two years later, I had neck surgery. And two years after that, yet another surgery. Each time I underwent surgery, I was prescribed painkillers. The doctors gave me Lortab after my surgeries to help with the pain – and they helped. For a while. And then I kept needing more and more.
What was your pattern? Where did you get the drugs?
At first, I could get what I needed from my doctors. But it kept escalating. I needed more. They’d write me a prescription for 120 painkillers for the month, and it would only last me a few days. So then I’d go to pain clinics, trying to get more. Usually I could.
But then I’d need more. So I started asking for a few pills here and there from friends – people I knew at church. At first, I was just asking. I was lying about why I wanted them. I’d get OxyContin, Percocet. Just any kind of painkiller. I was lying to my wife, my family, my friends, my church. I completely changed my personality – I was doing things I never could have imagined I would do, being someone I never thought I’d be.
Pretty soon, I started to steal to feed my habit. I stole from some of the people that trusted me the most.
How did you know that you were addicted?
One morning while I was at home, I looked in the mirror and said to myself, “What have you become, Rickey?” I didn’t recognize myself. I hated myself and who I was.
I tried to quit right then. But I had withdraws. I didn’t sleep for days on end. I couldn’t be still. I’d try to quit off and on after that. I’d make it two weeks – not sleeping at all during that time – and I’d start all over again. I knew it was just too big for me.
How did you get into treatment?
I got into a lot of trouble. Legal trouble. I was caught stealing – more than once. I ended up going to jail for a year. While I was there, I really had some time to think.
Eventually, they furlowed me into rehab at Vertava Health of Tennessee – Spring 2 Life – on June 6, 2014. I didn’t want rehab. I didn’t want jail. But I needed all of it. I really, truly believe that if it wasn’t for those two things, I wouldn’t be here today.
What did you discover about yourself while in treatment?
I’ll never forget the night that I went to Vertava Health and met Pastor John Butler. I’ll never forget how I felt. I had an open mind and an open heart. I knew I had to give it 100% – and I was ready for it. I was ready to for my life to change, and I was ready to get my life back to the freedom I once had.
While I was there, I came to better understand grace. What grace is and how it works. Even though I had been serving God for 30 years as a pastor, I really felt like I was found again, and learned that He still loved me. Despite everything, all of the guilt, all of the people I hurt, all of the wrong I had done – He still loved me.
How was your family affected by this disease?
They were devastated. My family was hurt more than anybody. They weren’t ready for this disease – they had never seen addiction like this before. I wasn’t the man I was before – I became mean. I was lying to them, stealing from them, hurting them. I embarrassed them. I hated myself so much – I told them I didn’t care about them anymore. I have grandkids. It broke my heart to know how wrong I’d done them.
How is your family now?
My family stood behind me through everything. My wife never missed a visitation – she was always there for me. Now, I’m there for her. I listen to her about what’s on her mind. I couldn’t do that when I was impaired by the drugs. We’ve been married now for 36 years and honestly, I think we’re enjoying our lives together even more than before.
What would you tell someone who is in denial about their addiction?
When I was addicted, I didn’t understand denial. I thought I could quit if I wanted to, but I found out it was just too big for me. Addiction is too big for us to handle on our own. If you’re in denial, you have to humble yourself. There’s just so much that you don’t know.
You need to get help – to get your mind off of yourself. Addiction makes you selfish, more selfish than you realize. You need to get away, into a wholesome, uplifting, and encouraging situation, or else it will destroy you.
What was one great lesson that you learned from treatment?
I’ve always heard, “Once an addict, always an addict.” It’s just not true. I no longer have a desire for drugs. I get better enjoyment out of life – I laugh, I’m thankful, I found out who I am in Christ. I learned how to help others – instead of being judgmental, now I know why they can’t quit.
I got discipline back in my life at Spring 2 Life, and when I look back, I know that that man who was addicted – that’s not me anymore. That’s my past. I’m not an addict.
What would you tell someone about treatment to inspire them to go to Vertava Health of Tennessee – Spring 2 Life?
You can’t do this on your own. You’ve got to have some help. You’ve got to be rescued from yourself. At Vertava Health, they have such a passion for what they’re doing. They loved me in spite of who I was and led me back to Christ. They had gone through the things I went through. I could relate to them. I could believe them.
Bible-based rehab at Vertava Health is such a blessing in my life because of what they teach. Before I went, I had slipped so far, I felt lost again. But now, I truly understand grace and how it works, and I know that I’m loved and I’m forgiven. Vertava Health of Tennessee will stay a part of my life forever.
What else do you want to say?
There is life after drugs. There is hope after drugs. Because of Vertava Health, I know that it’s not over – and that I can be used again. God has restored me.