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 Turning Point, now Vertava Health Mississippi, Scott.
Scott’s story is one of illness, pain and destruction 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. Scott is proof. Read on.
What is your background? How did you start doing drugs or drinking?
I started drinking at a young age, probably around 14 years old (I’m now 50.) I first got treatment in 1996 for alcohol and cocaine addiction. And at first I was very gung ho about it – but soon that faded away. I stopped going to meetings, I stopped talking to my sponsor, stopped reading the Big Book, and I thought I could control it. I faked it, but I couldn’t make it. I stayed sober for about five years, before I started drinking again.
It started out that my buddies would ask me to grab a beer at the bar and watch the game. And at that time, I thought I could control it. I didn’t realize that it’s the first beer – not the 15th or 20th beer that would get me. One beer would turn into 15 and a ride home. One day would turn into everyday.
What was your pattern?
When I’d go out to the bar with my buddies, I’d have to get a ride home. The next day, when I’d get a ride to go pick up my car, instead of driving home, I’d walk right back into the bar. Eventually, I became more of an isolate drinker in my house.
I had a house with my mortgage paid, a nice car, my own business, no arrests or DUIs or anything. I had my own business and worked from home, so I set my own schedule. I’d wake up and have a beer, looking for the hair of the dog that bit me – and thinking, “OK, I’ll just work later.” But I never did. I was drinking a pack a day and any hard liquor we had in the house. I’d drink all day, when my wife would come home we’d eat dinner, and I’d go to bed. I ended up burning my business to the ground.
What happened after that?
In January of 2006, my liver, pancreas, and kidneys all failed. I was in a coma for about 5 weeks and the doctors told my family I had about a 25% chance to recover. Technically, I should have died when all of that happened. But, eventually, I did come out of my coma – and was on dialysis for about 7 months.
Incredibly, everything started to heal and I was taken off dialysis. In my mind, the disease was telling me, “Look, you beat it.”
How did your drinking progress?
After the health scare, I stopped drinking – temporarily. I was off dialysis in August of 2006. But, at New Year’s Eve, I was invited to a party. I was still convinced that one drink to ring in the new year wasn’t going to hurt me. But it did – and this time it was worse.
I went back to drinking an 18 pack per day. I was drinking 28 out of 30 days a month. I wasn’t returning client calls – and it ended up costing me my business.
In the interim, I was still dealing with health issues from my drinking. I had my pancreas removed, three hernia surgeries (from lifting things while I was drunk.) I lost my upper row of teeth and the bone between my right ear and the upper side of my mouth. I also developed diabetes.
How did you finally get into Vertava Health of Mississippi?
Over the past year, I wasn’t doing anything but drinking. Around September, my wife started making some comments about me getting help, and I told her maybe after the holidays.
I watched a lot of TV while I was drinking, and right around that time, these commercials kept coming on to end addiction. I mean, I have 500 cable channels.. DVR.. live TV, and no matter what channel I was on or what time of day or night I was watching, that commercial just kept showing up.
Finally, one morning the commercial came on and something just came over me. And so I called. And that’s when I connected with Jessica at Vertava Health. She’s the one who talked to me and eventually to my wife and got me into Vertava Health of Mississippi. My wife booked a one way ticket, so there was no temptation to turn around.
The funny thing is – just about an hour before this interview, I saw that commercial again. I see it periodically, and I think it’s my Higher Power keeping me in check.
How long have you been sober?
My sober date is Wednesday, January 7th, 2015 – so about 2 and a half months now.
What made your experience at Vertava Health of Mississippi different?
You know, I could have gone to just any old detox – and got the alcohol out of my system, like I did the first time I got sober. But it wasn’t just about the alcohol. It was my behaviors that were getting me in trouble.
The Dialectical Behavioral Therapy [DBT] skills they teach at Vertava Health of Mississippi taught me how to control those behaviors. I truly believe that if I had learned these skills the first time around, I would never have relapsed.
What was the biggest thing you learned while in treatment?
When I was drinking, I thought I had control. The disease of addiction was more powerful than I thought.
When I first got to treatment, I really thought that I just liked to drink. But as I went through the program, I realized the disease liked to drink. And the disease was ruining my life.
How has your family healed? What are you doing now?
I’ve always loved my wife. We had a good marriage before I went to treatment, but now we have a great marriage. Now, I’m working on rebuilding my business.
What would you tell someone about treatment to inspire them to go to Vertava Health of Mississippi?
DBT at Vertava Health is a must-have. You learn to deal with the mental aspect of the disease – and all the things that lead to drinking. I learned something there that I consider invaluable, and using those skills, it’s a lot easier to keep out regret and depression.
DBT gave me an arsenal of weapons to use against this disease. If you think of it as a house: DBT skills build the foundation and walls of my recovery, it’s the part of the house that holds everything together. AA is like the roof over my head – it protect me from the elements, but they need the walls of DBT for support.
What keeps you sober each day?
I have the arsenal of weapons against this disease now, and I know that if I go back out again and I relapse – I’m dead.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
My philosophy is this: don’t worry about yesterday or think about tomorrow. Today, I’m going to pray to my higher power to keep me sober today. I do that each and everyday. I take it one day at a time, 24 hours a day. I don’t think about the past. Each day, I’m one day in.