Last House Success Story – Mike W


When I came to The Last House, I was a coward.  I was incapable of looking at myself or critiquing myself in a meaningful way.  My ego was through the roof and I didn’t really take to heart any advice or feedback that was given to me.  I would pretend to listen just to get people off my back and then to myself thing that it was bullshit. I lived in my own world and truly believed that I was the smartest person in any room I walked into.  My heart was filled with hate and I was just resentful at the world as a whole. I blamed everyone except myself for all my problems. I was so self-absorbed I could not care less about the harm I was causing my family.  I remember when my dad finally wouldn’t put up with my shit anymore and he kicked me out of the house last year. He gave me $300 and told me to never come back and not to call. I happily took the money and headed straight to Baltimore to get crack and heroine.  The only thing that was ever on my mind was the next hit. I then spend the next month or two homeless, wandering the streets of Baltimore with no hope. That experience thoroughly broke me and gave me the gift of desperation that I needed to get better. I was a hundred pounds, soaking wet and could barely form a sentence, but I was ready to get my life back on track.  Going through The Last House this past year has given me hope. For the past decade I thought I was destined to die, sad and alone, with no accomplishments worth mentioning. This house has given me confidence that I can achieve anything and it’s given me the balls to go after my dreams. I lived in constant fear before I got here, always worried about letting people down or not living up to my own expectations.  I’ve learned not to dwell on my mistakes and I have made a few since I have been here.  The one thing I have gained that I am the most grateful for after going through this house is freedom. My mind is no longer consumed with getting high or finding money to get high. I don’t dwell on my past or the wreckage I’ve caused. I can only think about what I can do today to give me and my family a better future. Overall, I am just happy. I work a job I hate 45 hours a week in a state that I despise and yet I am happy still. The house has taught me to appreciate what I have, which has been essential for me in sobriety.


Last House Success Story – Peace S.


When I entered The Last House I was nothing, but a broken, angry, stuck up little kid. I thought I knew better than everyone else, because everyone else was out to get me. I was anxious and insecure and wore a mask to cover all of that up. Luckily, the house saw right through all of that and helped me work on my character defects. They were there for all of my weak ass attempts to leave, they were there when I wanted to get high, and they continuously pushed me in the right direction. It was hard to buy in at first, but my life only got better after I did so. It was crazy, every day I woke up, I wanted to live a little more, I was a little less angry, and walked with my head a little bit higher. When I came in I did not want to be sober and had no drive to do all that AA shit, but because the house made me do the steps and attend meetings it started to work, then I bought into AA and my life changed even more. What’s great about this program is that you don’t have to want it, or maybe you want it more than anyone else because you want to be in your kids’ life, or you feel broken, but none of that matters. It’s just about doing it and the promises will come.


Last House Success Story – Kevin M.

I came into The Last House one year ago today as a lost grown little kid mentally thinking that if I just make money and distract myself from what is really going on I will be okay and look back at my addiction as just a speed bump, and keep going on with life. Growing up the youngest of 4 kids, I also felt like I never had a voice in my house, so I sought attention outside of the house from my peers, but always feeling a little off and not knowing what it was. I went all of high school and college partying like I thought a normal teen, college kid does, but in reality I was snorting vodka to get attention and get out of my head. My spring season of lacrosse I tore my knee and was prescribed Percocet and that finally was the answer to all those shitty feelings I had my whole life. That started a very dark and crazy 3 years of my life, all the way to a nasty end of me living in my car in the Kensington section of Philly, snorting heroin in order to go to a construction job.
My family gave me an ultimatum, either I go to their cabin in the mountains and train to get in the army or they call the cops and report their car, I was living in, stolen. I chose option A, and so I went and knocked heroin in about 5 months until I watched Christopher from the Sopranos, relapse on heroin and that was all I wanted to do. Without a program I was powerless and I came up with a plan to sneak down to Philly in the middle of the night to get dope. 3 days a week. That lasted about 2 months before I got arrested for DUI and possession. The cat was out of the bag again. I was kicked out and went to go get help at a state run facility in Philly, where I was the only one not from prison, which made me feel like an outsider and not a real addict still. Still thinking I just need to get a good job and move away to be okay. I did just that and had 4 months sober, working in downtown Philly. I decided to go to a work happy hour on Thursday, April 4 2018. I was going to drink, but it would be my secret. Well I blacked out and coped dope on my way back to my rehab. The next morning on April 5, 2018, I snorted a bag of Fentanyl and overdosed. I woke up to an EMT and the director telling me to breathe. It took 7 shots of Narcan to get me back. That was my last day of using. From the hospital I went to a wilderness program in North Carolina for 90 days and that’s where they told me about The Last House and I am so grateful they did. I have grown so much as a person and a man the past year because of The Last House and AA. They taught me patience and to find a way to sit with myself first, before I try to go get a job and distract myself. The Last House showed me what it actually means to work a true program. Having a brotherhood and community to lean on when times are tough and when things are great. From alumni, to staff, to roommates, the relationships I have today in my life are the best I have ever had. I love this place and I am so proud to call it my home.


Last House Success Story – Nick K

I came into The Last House beaten, miserable, and defeated. I felt worthless, had zero self-confidence, and didn’t have much optimism or hope for my future. I was extremely deceitful and lied about anything and everything. I started my use the first time I was in college at Arizona State to get over my anxieties and to feel comfortable around people.  I hated being alone yet couldn’t feel comfortable around others. Ironically, nine years later I was completely isolated burned all of my relationships, and completely alone. I kept everything to myself and worked so hard to keep up the façade that I was doing well even going as far as professionally recreating a fake degree to convince my parents I graduated college.  I constantly did stupid things like this knowing full well that I was most likely going to get caught, but doing it anyways because I was unable to face my problems and didn’t want anyone to know what a mess I had made of my life. The worst part was hurting those closest to me and hearing my parents tell me they don’t even know their own son. Years of dishonest and hundreds of thousands of dollars later, I finally reached  point where I knew my carefully built house of cards and lies was going to come crashing down, that I asked for help. Thus bringing me to The Last House. The past year has totally changed my perspective and put me on the right track to a better, happier life. I have discovered myself work and believe in myself that I have a lot to offer this world. I have a purpose today and have a lot of optimism and hope for my future. I learned that honesty is essential in all facets of life no matter how bad the situation or consequences.  I learned to tackle a problem head on and to get ahead of it before it gets bigger. I am able to relax and be content whether I am bored, alone, or hanging out with others. I don’t care as much what people think of me and I am not afraid to just be myself.


Last House Success Story – Chad K


First off I would like to start off by saying how grateful I am for The Last House, for all the people who have been by my side through this journey, for being given an opportunity to have a real chance at life.  I spent a lot of years going in and out of treatment and jail, spent a lot of money, I put myself in to a lot of debt, I threw out relationships, opportunities to grow, all my self-respect, integrity and dignity to be able to stay high just one more day.

I remember walking into Thrive Treatment on my first day, still kicking because the detox I was at wouldn’t let me stay to finish my taper.   I was in such a bad spot that anything sounded better than being back on skid row, and I was willing to do anything at that point. About a week later I figured I could probably do it on my own when I felt better, once again, and decided to leave.  Due to a series of events later that night, I ended up back at East House, sitting on the front porch I was at a crossroads, I had no more options. I was to either stay on the path I was on, or I accepted spiritual and physical help. I stayed sober for about 6 months, I started giving myself the credit for where I was at with a flip phone and a minimum wage job, and when some people tried to tell me I was fucking up, I wouldn’t listen.  I stayed out for a month, deep down regretting every second of it. Things got bad again and I ended up back in detox. I sat at a crossroads one more time, I knew if I went to another sober living without the structure I would not get very far, but if I came back to The Last House, I had real brothers that would help me stay put and be here for me. This was the best decision I’ve ever made.  

I spent a lot of time dwelling on the past, beating myself up for starting over one more time.  I made a lot of mistakes and I didn’t do everything right. But no matter what I continued to take steps forward.  I learned to listen to feedback, and do my best to apply it in my daily life. I was able to go back to court and take care of multiple warrants that had been put out a few years ago.  I even turned myself into jail while in the house. I learned to handle life head on. I’ve been able to show up to a job every day no matter how much it sucks, and no matter how much I don’t want to go.  Since having done that I have become manager of the cafe I work at. I’ve learned to show up for my family, it is no longer a chore for me to be a part of my family. I have integrity and dignity today. I have become accountable to myself and for my actions.  I know when I am wrong and I am able to admit it.  

If I can say anything for the new people, stay patient.  Be an example for the next person behind you, let someone else make decisions for you.  Don’t think you know what’s best for you, because that literally got you here, sitting in the chair you’re in right now.  Show up when you are asked to and work the steps. It certainly is not easy, but it is so simple. And if I can do this, so can you.

Wilderness Treatment in California


Wilderness Treatment in California

If you are thinking about Wilderness Treatment in California for your loved one suffering from addiction, mental or behavioral health disorders, then you are certainly on the right track. Adventure Therapy is one of the most effective forms of therapy for young adults and adolescents. Compared to traditional Residential Treatments and office-based therapies, wilderness and adventure programs allows patients the ability to exercise real learning in safe environments to push through anxiety, stress, and excitement. These are valuable skills that can be developed rapidly in an outdoor setting and translate to actionable skills when back in urban or front-country environments.

Wilderness treatment is highly effective for disorders such as; alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, borderline personality disorder, attachment disorder, spectrum disorders, bi-polar, technology addiction, and oppositional defiance disorder. A common misconception is that wilderness is a place to send “bad kids” for punishment. Most treatment is designed to treat maladaptive behavior responses that often result from core wounding or trauma responses. When removing a young person from a familiar environment that includes constant over stimulation from cell phones, media pressures, school and social pressures there becomes the ability to leverage the inherent neuroplasticity of a younger brain and can lead to a more effective intervention on disruptive behaviors.

A study in 2004 from Outdoor Behavioral Health Research Council (OBHRC) shows a 50% reduction in symptoms using the Youth Outcome Questionnaire (YOQ). It also showed a continued decrease in symptoms over time.

With Wilderness Treatment being so effective, it leads us to wonder why there isn’t a Wilderness Treatment program in our home state. The answer is because some states like California have laws that make it very difficult and expensive to run an active Wilderness Treatment Program. Due to large populations, California’s departments Land Management tightly control access to California’s open spaces. California’s laws do not protect large private landholders enough to make them comfortable with lending their land to outside use. California’s rich mineral content and agriculture make most of the earth more valuable to industries such as mining and logging. The value of land in California prices out the outdoor behavioral health industry which traditionally operates as a labor of love.

California’s Behavioral Health industry has grown in response to increasing rates of drug addiction and mental health disorders nationwide. It has long been a haven for the treatment of mental health disorders because it is socially acceptable to be open about recovery. So, it is easy to see why programs would take modalities that work so well in the wilderness and apply it to treatment in more populated area’s. Programs like The Last House in LosAngeles, Ca utilize experiential therapies to get their clients “off the couch” and practicing coping and recovery skills outside of their treatment office. “Although our program is not a replacement for Wilderness Treatment in California ,” says Clayton Ketchum, Founder of The Last House, “Using experiential therapies in young adults significantly improves the transition from the backcountry to an urban environment where most young people desire to live and grow their lives.” Utilizing local recreation areas like the Santa Monica Mountains for day outings and the Sierra Nevada Mountains for weekend adventures, “Creates lasting bonds between our clients, because completing a small journey together introduces them to the camaraderie necessary to embark on a life long journey of recovery.” The Last House urges those considering treatment to call their Admissions Counselors for a thorough assessment and to learn about the different types of Wilderness Therapy programs.

When it comes to choosing a Wilderness Treatment Program, it is essential to have a thorough assessment to identify the best fit. It may be difficult to find Wilderness Treatment in California. Several wilderness programs operate in Utah, Colorado, Oregon, and Montana. The two main types of programs are known commonly as the Base model and Nomad model. Different Wilderness programs best serve different populations so it is important that a student be paired with the program which best suits their needs. The other thing to consider is insurance coverage and cost which takes a thorough financial evaluation. Wilderness typically runs $15,000 to $38,000 per month and varies on what insurance covers or reimburses. Chris Kirby, the Admissions Director at The Last House, says, “Not all insurance is created equal, I have seen insurance cover 90% of a program or only reimburse 10%, the first step is getting a full Verification of Benefits to determine what coverage would be.”

The “Nomad Model” is a type of wilderness which is full wilderness immersion. The students begin at a base camp and don’t return until they are finished. They are in the wilderness the entire time trekking from camp to camp and doing group and individual therapy sessions in the woods. They utilize highly skilled field guides to facilitate interventions in the field.

The “Base Model” wilderness, also known as an “Adventure Model” utilizes the wilderness for multiple day excursions and incorporates different activities into each journey. Students return to base where they engage in medical and clinical visits, de-brief and planning for their next outing. They also utilize skilled field guides and therapists in the field to process the experience.

Wilderness Therapy is described by professionals, families and clients alike as one of the most effective and significant interventions for people struggling with mental and behavioral health issues. The other significant factor in the success of someone doing a wilderness program is continuing care. Any initial treatment experience is only the first intervention. For lasting success and decreased recidivism, it is recommended that a young person is in one year of follow up care. Best outcomes come from a highly structured sober living or young addult transitional program. It is crucial that students learn to use their wilderness skills in everyday life and habituate their new coping skills, especially when combating the internal dialogue and behavior patterns which typically lead to relapse.


Russell, K.C.(2005). Two years later: A qualitative assessment of youth-well-being and the role of aftercare in outdoor behavioral healthcare treatment. Child and Youth Care Forum, 34, 3, 209-239.

Hearing Impaired Drug Treatment

Hearing Impaired Drug Treatment

My name is Chris and I am and addict; a hearing impaired drug addict. I’ve never felt a part of the world I was born into. Until the age of 4 I wasn’t a part of conversations because I couldn’t hear them. My grandmothers nickname for me was “Mr. What.” Even when I was given Hearing Aids at age 4 I was awkward because I missed social cues and often talked loudly or too much to overcompensate for my inability to listen. I was able to excel in athletics and sports like swimming and baseball to compensate for a lack of interest in school subjects and feeling misunderstood socially. My skills in athletics gave me value in an affluent town where where graduating from top tier universities was the expectation.

Then I found what I had been missing my whole life. It came from god and nature and it gave me purpose in life. Cannabis seemed to be something I could not live my life without. Just like a sports team my friends and I would gather around and go on missions to procure the sweet herb and find the places safest to smoke it while sharing bonds of unity around a pipe, bong or blunt. I was the team captain; I had a cannabis club card to buy it from the medical dispensaries, I was an expert in the field and knew all the strains and intricacies of growing the plant. I had arrived, I was a part of a tribe and I called myself their shaman.

As I moved from High School to College and beyond the tribe changed and so did my drug use until I eventually began going in and out of treatment for what had developed into a full blown drug addiction. Every time I went into treatment I would find myself having a deep need to connect with a tribe and my insecurities or deficiencies would rise up to the surface again. For example: Growing up I thought everyone could see my hearing aids and they made me ugly. Hearing aids, along with my wild curly hair gave me a very low self image and I thought I was ugly. Once arriving in a treatment center, a place that was supposed to support healing, I would overcompensate to prove my self worth and would get romantically involved with as many females as I could. I would do this essentially to prove my value to the group and gain a false sense of self esteem.

Unknown to me what I had developed was an inability to self parent or self soothe and a form of body dysmorphia. My value was directly correlated to how those around me viewed me. In other words, “I needed you to like me in order for me to like me.” The only way to save myself from these feelings of crippling inadequacy, utter failure and disappointment was by getting the ease and comfort drugs provided me. Most people don’t understand, but in my brain the only thing that gave me value or satisfaction in my existence was being high.

Through an al anon connection my mom gave me one last chance at a place appropriately named “The Last House.” As soon as I showed up to the house I started with my old routine, talking incessantly about the things I had done so the other guys in the house would like me and I could therefore like myself. This time, something different happened. The guys at the house told me they didn’t care. They didn’t care about my exploits with women, surfing, or water polo. They didn’t care about how many drugs I did or how much I knew about cannabis. These guys took me to 12 step meetings, hung out with me on the weekends and played ping pong with me. They asked me how I was doing and how I was feeling. They obviously liked me and wanted me to be a part of their tribe and they told me to talk less and listen more. They cared more about what I was doing and not what I had done. This may seem simple, but this was a revolutionary concept for me. They liked me because I was human, because they had struggled like I had struggled and they didn’t need me to prove anything to them.

This was the first time in my life that I was getting guidance from my peers instead of authority figures. These guys were making recovery cool, and I began to engage in the process of recovery because frankly, I wanted to be cool like them. For the first time in my life they taught me how to listen to others. How to hear what they were saying so that I could help them. All the special tutors and audioligists I saw growing up had never taught me how to quiet my own thoughts enough to hear what other people were trying to communicate with me. It then became my responsibility to teach these skills to the new guys who came in after me. The best way to learn is by teaching.

What I now understand is that I was living with a greater handicap than my Hearing impairment. I was living with a voice inside my head that was so loud it impeded my ability to listen regardless of how good my hearing aids were. I now understand that voice was the driving force in my addiction.

Since graduating The Last House I have done things I never thought possible. I have gotten more education, worked fulfilling jobs, started traveling the world and gotten engaged. I now hold a leadership position in the healthcare field and l go visit The Last House regularly to teach the new guys what was taught to me. I now get to be the example of how cool a life of recovery can be. The biggest gift The Last House gave me is that I no longer think I am Ugly. They taught me how to develop my self esteem and it gives me confidence and ambition I never new existed.

Finding Inner Peace in Sobriety

finding inner peace in sobriety

In the summer of 2013, I made a decision to make another attempt to get sober. Up until this point I had struggled with heroin addiction for nearly a decade and could not achieve long term sobriety. I had been through multiple treatment centers, detoxes, sober livings, and done a geographical move. All of which resulted in failure which took me further away from my own self, my family, and loved ones. I had embraced the fact that I was a drug addict and I would probably die from this affliction. But there was still a glimmer of hope that I could finally “get this” and be a happy and productive member of society again. You have to be broken in order to be fixed, and I finally felt truly broken and ready for some sort of change in my life. I knew that it would take a lot of work and I was ready for someone else to tell me what to do, because up until this point my way wasn’t working. Getting out of my environment and going out of state made it easier for me mentally because it was difficult for me to leave and get loaded if I had an urge to use, so I decided to hop on a plane and go to a treatment center in California. In the past I had done something similar and done treatment and a lightly structured sober living in South Florida. It ended in catastrophe and I eventually moved back home after a year of bouncing in and out of different rehabs. I had to do something different but I had no idea what that was supposed to look like. While I was in treatment in Los Angeles, I met a guy who worked there that had 15 years sober and I noticed that there was something different about this person. It’s hard to explain but it was almost like he knew something that I didn’t. He exuded some sort of aura and had a light in his eyes which was attractive. This man ended up being my sponsor after I completed treatment and he convinced me and my family that I needed to go to a structured sober living.

When I arrived at sober living any and everything was taxing on my serenity. Receiving feedback from my peers on what I needed to change was not something I had experienced in prior attempts to get sober. My patience and tolerance of others was tested on a daily basis while living with 14 other newly sober men. But we had a common bond, and most of us had been through the wringer already. I am an only child so I don’t know what it’s like to have siblings but I would soon have an idea of what it’s like to have brothers. Some of the best feedback I ever received during a group at the house was that I needed to find inner peace. I almost laughed when the manager told me that! I had no idea what he meant but was forced to take a look at it. There was a lot of inner turmoil and pent up rage within myself that I didn’t even know was there. Thankfully, a requirement of the house was to get a sponsor and start working the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and go to AA meetings on a daily basis. We had to start practicing awareness and know what was going on around us at all times. Getting a routine down and finding a job also played a big part of my early sobriety. I had my schedule down to a science and knew exactly where I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to be doing every second of every day. My life started to have purpose and meaning again. I developed lifelong friendships with other guys that I went through the house with and we trudge this road together.

Structured Sober Living Success Story

structured sober living success story

My name is Miles and am 31 years old. I have been sober since November 11, 2014. I am an alcoholic and also used other drugs. My drug of choice was Crystal Meth. Before coming to The Last House, I was at an all-time low. My life was becoming more and more unmanageable. I had been using drugs every day for 5 years. I was able to function as an addict for some time but little by little problems would come up. I burned all my bridges, no one wanted anything to do with me. At the end my car was repossessed, I received an eviction notice and become homeless all within 2 months. For most people this would be a bottom but I continued using.  I always said to myself “it’s not that bad yet” but that was my addiction speaking. 

            My first time in treatment was at the age of 15. I was using meth and was stealing from my mom. She caught me stealing from her and immediately sent me to treatment. This was my first introduction to AA. I did not believe I was an addict at this time, I was simply going to treatment to guilt trip my family. I was playing the sympathy card and manipulating my family. I was not ready to get sober and not ready to surrender. As soon as I got out of treatment I continued to use. 

            Two weeks later I was arrested for smoking meth in a parking structure. I then was introduced to juvenile hall. After being sentenced I started to go to meetings and contribute in my Alumni treatment center. I was staying sober but again was not doing it for me, I just didn’t want to go back to jail. I managed to put 2 years of sobriety under my belt. At the age of 18 I was released from probation and continued to use drugs more than ever. What lead to this relapse was me not putting in work on myself and not taking my addiction serious. I wanted to have fun with my friends and did not think it was possible without drugs.

             I was using for 3 years and then ended up getting arrested again and went to back to jail at the age of 21. After I was out of jail I was able to stay sober again for around 1 year. I went to sober living in Costa Mesa. This sober living was very relaxed and all I had to do is pay rent and check-in once a week. There was no structure at all. At this sober living I knew others were using but ignored it due to me being on probation. As soon as I was released from probation I ended up relapsing with guys in the house. The same cycle started over again. After this relapse I would not get sober till the age of 27.

            November 11, 2014, I did what every grown man does and called my mom for help. My mom was waiting for this call for years. I called her because I was at the end of the road, it was either be homeless, eventually go to jail or die. She picked me up and took me to detox. In my head I felt regret because I was taking the one thing I relied on the most away “METH”. I did not know how to function without this. My first few days in detox I stayed to myself and slept for 3 days. My plan in the back of my head was to get a few days sober and then go back at it one more time. After detox I was taken to a structure sober living. I walked in to sober living on November 14 2014 and have been sober since.

            Becoming a new person was not easy, I had to learn how to live life all over again. My old ways were not going to work anymore. The guys in the house were very welcoming and had my best interest. At first, I didn’t want to hear what others told me and let my ego get the best of me. I would always try to run from my problems and not face them. I didn’t want to work on myself at all. So many times, I wanted to give up, but my brothers carried me through the toughest times. Accountability and integrity are two things I never had. I didn’t know how to be honest nor how to do the right thing. Two months into sober living my mind set was to leave and get high, it was about 6 months sober that I decided this life is actually a lot more attractive. I surrendered and left into god’s hands. My life started to mean something to me, I started to realize how important family is. I treated my family like crap my whole life and pointed the finger at everyone else. Today I get to show up for them and be a part of their lives. 

             I feel it was very important for me to invest time in working on myself without any distractions from the outside world. Being able to take direction from others and trust things are going to be okay. Cleaning up the wreckage of my past was not easy and didn’t happen overnight. I had to put trust and faith into others. If you are struggling and you are sick of the never-ending cycle of relapse there is hope for you. I used drugs for 14 years and never in a million years thought my life would be as blessed as it is today. I surround myself with good people, I show up for my family, and I am able to show up to work on time every day. My house is in order today. This past 4 years has been a journey and I thank The Last House community for showing me a new way of life and how to become a new man. 

You don’t have to “want” to get sober to recover

you dont have to want to get sober to recover

If you told me 9 years ago that my life would be where it is today, I would have sworn you were crazy.  I had fully embraced the life of a drug addict, and resigned myself to a certain future of jails, institutions or death.  Nothing anyone said or did was going to change that. I’d already been through multiple arrests, probations, periods of incarceration, treatment episodes, failed relationships, loss of things I had once held dear.  It didn’t matter. I was going to do what I did, and saw no alternative for myself.

Even coming into my last run at treatment, I did not necessarily want to be sober.  The 2 choices were either rehab or jail, so I chose rehab. But I was not looking to be “sober”.  I didn’t even know what that truly meant, let alone imagine a life completely free of drugs and alcohol.  I knew that heroin was a problem in my life, that crack was a problem in my life.  But completely free of all drugs? AND alcohol?  That concept seemed so foreign, so utterly unattainable, that my mind could not come close to fathoming the gravity of what it actually entailed.  

Luckily, I landed at a place that was willing to take the time to teach me the true meaning of recovery.  Getting clean was the easy part, they told me, staying clean was the real challenge.  ‘But my problem is with drugs! Take drugs out of the equation and I’m going to be superman!’ I was under the impression that once I stopped using, all of the great talents I once had back before my active addiction would suddenly reappear in spades, and my life would go back to the way it used to be.  Not so fast, they said.  They reminded me that I had developed a lot of bad habits over my years of using, like laziness, dishonesty, cutting corners, poor diet, basically most every habit of unhealthy living.  Plus, I had problems before drugs even entered the equation. “The reason you started using drugs wasn’t because you had a problem with drugs, was it?” No, I suppose that wouldn’t really make sense.  But why, then?

After about a month, I physically felt 10x better.  The withdrawal sickness had passed, my skin had changed back from a pale grey to a more human looking shade, and I was able to engage in coherent conversation.  I had started working out, brushing my teeth and showering, and no longer floated through my day sporting a blank, empty stare. If someone were to have a 10 minute conversation with me, they would have no way of knowing I was a long term professional drug addict, that had lied to, cheated on, and stole from just about anyone who would let me close enough to do so.  From the outside, things looked great. But just below the surface, I was still a mess.

Over the years, I had developed a nasty habit of procrastination.  Guess what happened when the drugs were removed from my life? That’s right. I still procrastinated!  Procrastinated on my house chores, getting a sponsor, calling my sponsor, doing my step work, working out, eating healthy, setting appointments, returning calls, everything.  I would do it “tomorrow”, or “later”, just “not right now”, even though I usually wasn’t very busy. That procrastination led to dishonesty, and I had every excuse you could imagine locked and loaded at all times, ready to fire on anyone who would question my process.  This in turn led to anxiety, that either I would not complete what needed to be done, or that my lie would be found out. After the anxiety came depression, as I felt sorry for myself that my life had come to this, even though it was of my own making. I did not voice any of this of course, just told people to leave me alone.  Thankfully, they did not! They taught me about suiting up and showing up each day, handling my responsibilities as they arose, doing a thorough job at whatever I did, and how all of these things would actually help alleviate many of the root causes of my fear, anxiety and depression. This all didn’t happen overnight, but rather was basically an extended control study, where over time I began to notice the differences in how I felt and was actually able to correlate it with how I handled life.  Personally, this was one of the biggest revelations in my recovery process.

My other biggest issue I still seemed to run into after getting clean was my inability to take responsibility.  It was someone else’s fault that I started using, someone else’s fault when relationships ended, someone else’s fault that I got arrested, someone else was the cause of my depression, my anger, my anxiety, etc. etc.  The world and the people in it were doing all of this to me, and I was just an innocent bystander/victim of circumstance.  Over the years, this type of ‘me against the world’ mentality had served a purpose in my life, as it allowed me to avoid taking an honest look at myself that would require change. Change was hard, and I wanted no part of it.  Besides, you were the problem, not me! But it was keeping me mentally sick they told me, and until I was able to own my part, I would remain a prisoner of my thoughts and my resentments.  Day after day, week after week, my perception surrounding the circumstances in my life were challenged by the staff, and also by my peers. It was tough to hear, but gradually I began to see that maybe there was some truth to what they were saying.  The more I understood about it all, the more hard truths I was able to own, and the more free I felt. No longer was everyone else merely doing things to me, I actually had a say in the results. I was regaining control over my life!

Looking back at it, the truth is I may have arrived at these conclusions all on my own. I may have naturally overcame my clouded perspective and dishonesty.  I might gotten a sponsor.  I theoretically could have called him every day.  I speculatively may have decided to work the steps. I possibly would have stopped procrastinating, and there’s a chance I would have attended AA meetings daily.  Maybe it would be this run at sobriety? The next one? The 6th one 2 years down the line? Maybe. But when looking at all the evidence, the magic 8 ball reads as ‘doubtful’.  And with the way I was living, I didn’t have time to experiment with MY version of recovery. I was on a fast path to either imprisonment or death, and every day of being left up to my own devices was a gamble I couldn’t afford to take.  I’m eternally grateful for the path I was shown, and my belief in the effectiveness of structured sober living is exactly why I’m doing what I am today!