Changing the Stigma of Addiction

One of the most haunting aspects of living life as an individual recovering from an addiction is the fact that millions of people live in ignorance as to what addiction actually is. It is quite unfortunate that the minds of many Americans have been twisted into believing that addiction is something that only happens to the dregs of society, instead of the truth: addiction can happen to anyone.

The stigma of addiction is an issue that has plagued America for years, and while there have been substantial efforts to reverse it, it is up those of us that have suffered through it, triumphed over it, and moved on from it to increase awareness about the horrors of addiction, and the devastating effects misunderstanding it can bring on individuals and communities.

Addiction is not an individual, nor does it define an individual. Much like any other disease, addiction is a sickness that an individual develops over time, and treatment plans must be followed in order to recover from it. Individuals that suffer from addiction do exhibit symptoms that are both psychological and physical, but these symptoms can be reversed with the proper care and recovery lifestyle. Noting that addiction is a disease removes the power of inflammatory words used to describe those afflicted with it.

For instance, saying someone is “dirty” or “clean” in reference to whether or not an individual has used a substance, for instance, suggests that their disease somehow defines them and affects their cleanliness when addiction has nothing to do with cleanliness at all. Furthermore, referring to an individual as an “addict” or “druggie” dehumanizes them and suggests that their affliction somehow defines their value as a person, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Addressing addiction as the disease it is is the first step to defining power over it and eliminating these wrong assumptions.

Addiction can affect anyone. The vast majority of the American populace has consumed an illegal substance or alcoholic beverage, more than likely without the slightest idea of the propensity it had to wreak havoc on their lives for years to come. Their not getting addicted was as much of their doing as another’s getting addicted was of his own. The fact of the matter is that addiction can claim anyone, and it pays to understand that in order to fight the damaging stigmas of addiction.

At The Last House, we focus on turning men into gentlemen by championing collaboration, brotherhood, and respect. We offer long-term care after primary treatment, and our men go on to become pillars of their respective communities when they leave us. All men can become gentlemen. After treatment, we’re here to help you with that. Call (855)998-5278 for help today.

Building a Tribe in Recovery

Building a Tribe in Recovery

Recovery is as much of an individual effort as it is a collective one. As you will learn throughout recovery, having others to share your thoughts, dreams, and goals with is fundamental to an efficient recovery process.

There are a few ways to ensure that the people you surround yourself with after treatment are individuals who will champion your recovery and support you when you need it most. That’s why at The Last House, we ensure that you are surrounded with other strong, independent men that are going through very similar life experiences. In our eyes, brotherhood is one of the most important bonds you can make in recovery, and we strive to incorporate the spirit of collaboration in everything we do at the facility.

The first thing to be sure of when choosing friends, colleagues, or individuals to hang out with is that there is a consensus on the types of activities you all will engage in. Of course, at The Last House, our structured and focused paths ensure that you don’t have to worry about deciding activities, but you will inevitably make friends outside of our program as well. Be sure to choose activities with these friends that, like here at our sober living facility, support and promote your recovery process. If you suffered from alcoholism, for instance, bars, pubs, parties with liquor, and even events as seemingly innocuous as wine tastings aren’t the best idea. If you recovered from substance addiction, it is wise to avoid the places you used to frequent, and swap them out for activities like soccer, or pickup basketball.

Additionally, you must understand that the world goes on in sobriety, meaning, you will not be able to change the activities of others around you. That’s why here at The Last House, we teach our men to be strong enough and confident enough in themselves to live in accpetance, and still live life to the fullest without being tempted to compromise their sobriety. There’s nothing quite like the tribes of hardworking, intelligent, confident men that we work so hard to build here at The Last House. By learning to collaborate, learn, and love with them, you’ll be well-equipped to handle whatever life throws at you.

Good friends are hard to find, but they can make your journey to sobriety that much more worth it. If you’re struggling with finding your way after treatment, you are not alone. Find your tribe here at The Last House, and learn to make recovery work for you. Just dial (855)998-5278 any time of day or night. We can’t wait to meet you!

Am I Suffering From Insomnia?

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Am I Suffering From Insomnia?

Most people experience periods of time when they have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, however for those with insomnia this is an ongoing struggle. Insomnia affects 30-40% of Americans a year and can have detrimental affects.

 

What is insomnia?

 

Insomnia is on going and includes a range of sleep disorders. The three most common types, Transient Insomnia, Acute Insomnia and Chronic Insomnia, affect millions of people around the world. Transient Insomnia occurs when symptoms last up to three nights. Acute Insomnia, also called short-term insomnia, is when symptoms persist for several weeks. Chronic Insomnia lasts for months and at time years, and are usually a side effect of another primary problem.

 

How long does an episode last?

 

Those with Insomnia have trouble falling or staying asleep and can be affected for a a few nights, weeks, or in chronic cases, months and years.

 

What causes Insomnia?

 

Medications and other medical conditions are commonly correlated with insomnia. Medical conditions like allergies/asthma, gastrointestinal issues, endocrine problems, arthritis, neurological conditions, chronic pain especially back pain. Insomnia can also be an indication of another sleep disorder like restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea.

 

Certain lifestyles can lead to insomnia. For example, taking naps, working at home in the evening, irregular sleep patterns and graveyard hours at work. Other factors that contribute to Insomnia are hormone imbalances and issues within the brain and its neurotransmitters.

 

In addition to medical conditions or lifestyle, Insomnia is often paired with mental illnesses like anxiety and depression. Substance abuse can also lead to Insomnia because of the stimulants or sedatives. It is not uncommon for those with Substance Abuse Disorder to experience episodes of Insomnia, especially during a binge.

 

Who get’s insomnia?

 

Anyone can experience Insomnia however there are certain people that are more prone to it. Travelers, shift workers, elderly, drug users, adolescents and young adults, pregnant women, menopausal women, and those with mental illness.

 

What are the symptoms?

 

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Irritability
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Exhaustion
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Waking up during the night
  • Waking up much earlier than desired
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Uncoordinated
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety around sleeping

 

Treatments?

 

There are many different types of treatment for Insomnia and everyone’s “sleep hygiene” will vary from person to person. The more common treatments include using relaxation techniques, cognitive behavioral therapy, stimulus control therapy, sleep restriction, medication, sleep journals, sticking to a regular sleep schedule, creating a conducive sleep environment, avoiding caffeine and other substances, putting away technology/screens before bedtime, hypnosis, and mindfulness.

 

The Last House and Thrive Treatment Centers provide facilities that support a healthy sleep schedule. At these facilities, sleep is an important part of the healing and recovery process professionals understand how much sleep influences recovery.

Codependency and Recovery

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Codependency and Substance Abuse:

 

What is codependency?

 

Before defining codependency, it’s important to differentiate dependence from interdependence. Although these terms sound similar, co-dependence is very different. Having needs and comfortably relying (depending) on others is healthy and a part of life. Interdependence is when both individuals mutually rely on each other and the relationship is equal; this is most ideal.

 

Co-dependency (often referred to as “relationship addiction”) occurs when someone relies on the other for meeting nearly all of their emotional and self esteem needs. Two individuals who are overly dependent on one another create a co-dependent union. Often times, co-dependent relationships are one-sided, emotionally destructive and abusive.

 

This emotional and behavioral condition was identified about ten years ago in a study focusing on relationships in families of alcoholics and since then has been identified outside of homes with substance abuse. Co-dependency impairs an individual’s ability to have a healthy and mutually satisfying relationship. This disorder is serious and has profound affects on many.

 

Who is usually co-dependent?

 

Although originally meant to describe someone or their loved ones with a chemical dependency, co-dependency can occur in spouses, children, siblings, friends, co-workers, etc. Often times, co-dependency occurs in dysfunctional families or families with mental illness.

 

There are different roles in co-dependent relationships; one individual is more overly-dependent than the other one, thus creating a care-giver role for the individual that is depended on. The care-giver is often referred to as the rescuer or benefactor. Other roles consist of family hero, mascot, adjustor, doormat, the rebel, scapegoat, bully, lost one, or the last hope.

 

The family hero and the rescuer have similar roles and can identify other’s needs and meet them but is without an understanding of their own needs. The youngest in the family is often times the mascot and uses humor or other things to distract the family away from the problem. The adjuster is never fazed by anything because they never let themselves be too attached to anything or anyone. The doormat is pretty self explanatory and lets other’s take advantage of them by taking most of the abuse.

 

What causes co-dependency?

 

Co-dependency is an inter-generational disorder in which the behaviors are learned by watching and imitating other codependent family members. As stated above, dysfunctional families are more prone to codependency. Dysfunctional families transpire when fear, anger, pain, or shame is experienced but ignored or denied. As a result, some members learn to internalize their own emotions and neglect their own needs and in turn their attention and energy are focused on other members of the family, usually the ill or addicted one. Individuals learn that in order to get the love they want from their family members or loved ones, they must sacrifice their own needs and take care of others instead.

 

Growing up with an unavailable parent will most likely result in co-dependency by the child taking on the role of caretaker and/or enabler. The child may assume responsibility so that the family doesn’t fall apart. When the “parentified” child becomes an adult, they repeat the cycle in their adult relationships.

It’s important for the family and loved ones to be part of this healing process and to understand each of their roles. The Last House Recovery Community and Thrive Treatment  emphasize the importance of family healing as a whole and offers family support.

  

 

What are the symptoms of codependency?

The following behaviors are signs that you are in a co-dependent relationship.

 

  • People pleasing
  • Guilt and perfectionism
  • Difficulty making decisions in your relationships
  • Having poor boundaries
  • Difficulty identifying feelings
  • Extreme or painful emotions that may result in reactivity
  • Denial
  • Difficulty communicating
  • Lack of trust in yourself
  • Poor self esteem
  • Fears of abandonment
  • Obsessions
  • Extreme need for approval
  • A need for control or a sense of responsibility for others’ actions
  • Caretaking
  • Difficulty with intimacy

Co-dependency and substance abuse disorder:

 

Co-dependency is often times a common and understandable reaction to a loved one with an addiction, especially when it is in full swing. Individuals will go into damage control by trying to fix the person or the family. Many times, family members or loved ones think they are helping the situation or the person with the addiction but are in actuality enabling them. Enabling can appear in a number of ways from being in denial of the addiction, not being honest about feelings and needs, or even providing the user with substances. This cycle goes on until something drastic happens like death or hospitalization.

 

Treatment for co-dependency?

 

Recovery from substance abuse and co-dependency usually starts with the user seeking treatment. However, it is just as important for the other loved ones or family members that are co-dependent to seek treatment as well. Individual psychotherapy is very helpful in addition to co-dependency therapy for the members of the dynamic.

Hiking Mt. Whitney Sober

Hiking has been a long time passion of mine. Ever since I have been sober I have developed a strong bond with nature and the outdoors. It is in nature where I have some of the deepest and most inspiring moments in my sobriety. The picture below is an example of one of the awe inspiring scenes that I was privileged to witness while hiking Mt. Whitney.  I love hiking sober.

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My trip up Mt. Whitney was something which required much planning and careful consideration as it is, after all, a hike up the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States. The hike was about 15 miles (counting the long walk in the parking lot, and the various detours that were required during the hike) and rises to a peak elevation of 14,505 feet above sea level.

This hike was a surreal experience. I had always talked about climbing Mt. Whitney with my friends but had never come close to actually following through. The Opportunity arose when a fellow Last House Graduate forced me to enter the lottery which grants Whitney climbing passes. It was by sheer luck that we managed to reserve three spots for the hike in early august- an ideal time to do the hike.

It was even more fortuitous that we were able to make it up to base camp the night before our hiking date because the road leading up to it had been shut down due to a fire. My two friends and I were one of the 20 cars which were escorted through the still smoldering embers during a low point in the fire before it picked up again.

The hike itself began at 10:45pm and ended at around 2:30pm the next day. The hike was grueling and tested my endurance and commitment on several occasions. The most difficult portion of the hike occurred at the summit where my head started to throb as a result of the altitude and I started to feel the onset of altitude sickness. It was through my throbbing eyes that I was able to witness the sunrise from the top of the U.S, one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever witnessed. The view was far greater than anything I had imagined. To my left I could see straight over Death Valley and to my right a stunning view of the high sierras presented itself. The breaking dawn shattered the small lakes and ponds sprinkled throughout the sierras, piercing the calm still waters with streaks of vibrant orange and yellow. I summited before my friends and spent 15 minutes in complete solitude observing the sunrise before snapping a few pictures and hurrying to check on my buddies who were resting below.

My Mt. Whitney experience was made possible through my stay in The Last House and my commitment to being sober. If it were not for my fellow housemate I would not have entered the lottery which got us passes to hike, I would have missed out on an experience I cherish dearly today.

–David S.

Failure To Launch Recovery

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“Failure to Launch” is characterized in my own experience as a lack of connection to other humans, professional failure which gave rise to social inadequacies. The pain of this experience in my case gave rise to increased drug use and dependence on illicit narcotics in order to feel some form of connection. The dependency on drugs furthered my stagnation due to the impairment they caused and the energy needed to acquire illegal substances. At age 25, I was broke, homeless and unemployable, I had little contact with family and no friends. This cycle had continued to perpetuate itself until it could be arrested by physical detoxification and treated with healing in a community setting.

The first stage of recovery was to break the physical dependence from the drug. In my case, Opiates, which create physical dependence needed to be cleared from my system with the aid of medications that treat the symptoms of detox. It is important to note that this phase alone cannot treat the addiction, I have detoxed medically and non-medically several times. In my case, while still in detox, I was immersed into a community of other addicts who had recovered from addiction and begun meaningful lives as part of a community, they had crossed from Stagnation to Generativity. These other young men are still some of my closest friends.

I was lucky enough to find myself at The Last House Sober Living for Men in Los Angeles, a program where Integrity, honesty, accountability and friendship were the basic tenants of the community. Most other Rehabs I had been to were short term and had the reverse effect where I learned behavior that furthered my stagnation.

In my own experience, the desire to be socially accepted or “one of the guys” encouraged me to follow in the path of what these new friends of mine had done. They had jobs, friends and could buy their own cigarettes, all things I sincerely desired. Feeling socially connected was the basis for me to launch myself into a life of purpose. After gaining traction and finding my first steady job I began to show new guys in the community how I was able to find purpose. The act of “giving back” truly launched my personal growth and self esteem into a realm I had not known was possible. I was on fire, useful, employed and truly connected to my peers.

written by Chris Kirby
Director of Admissions for The Last House Sober Living for Men in Los Angeles and Thrive Treatment

Los Angeles is a Great Place to get Sober

Los Angeles is known for many things: the glamor of the film industry, beautiful beaches, and traffic. In the recovery world, Los Angeles is also known as one of the greatest places to get sober in the country. With thousands of recovery meetings, tons of people getting sober, and beautiful weather, Los Angeles offers great opportunities to find lasting recovery from addictions. When I got sober myself in the area, I quickly realized that I was lucky. There really is nowhere like L.A. to get sober. Although we may get sober anywhere if we are truly ready, getting sober in Los Angeles is a great blessing.

I got sober myself in West Los Angeles, moving to town to go to treatment. I didn’t know anyone in the city, did not even really want to get sober, and planned on returning home to Oregon immediately after treatment. Instead, I moved into a sober living here in Los Angeles, built some amazing friendships with fellow recovering addicts, and settled here. I found men’s meetings, non twelve-step meetings, a great therapist, and a love for sunshine and beaches. Although I could have never pictured myself here, I am deeply grateful today that I had the opportunity to get sober here in Los Angeles, finding a lasting recovery with support from a great community.

Recovery Meetings

One of the reasons Los Angeles is such a great place in which to get sober is the amount of recovery meetings available. Los Angeles is home to over 4,500 Alcoholics Anonymous meetings alone. Getting sober here in Southern California means you have the opportunity to find a recovery that works for you. As a progressive city, L.A. offers the most current and new recovery models, keeping up-to-date with the latest trends in the recovery world. Facing a drug or alcohol addiction here means you don’t ever have to do it alone. There are meetings around the clock, and there always seems to be a meeting closeby. I know that when I need to connect with others, I can almost always find a meeting that is happening soon and nearby.

Sober Living in Los Angeles

There are so many people getting sober here in Southern California. There is a great variety of sober addicts, from musicians and artists to hipsters and businesspeople. When we decide to take action against our drug addiction or alcoholism, we absolutely need help facing our addiction. In addition, we often need help getting accustomed to living sober. In Los Angeles, there are sober people everywhere! Regardless of what you want to do with your life, you can find sober people in your industry, with similar interests, and that will support you in your daily life. All of the colleges and universities have recovery meetings on campus, employers are more understanding of recovery than most places, and your companions you meet in treatment and at meetings can help you find the life you are hoping to build. When people come to Los Angeles in search of recovery, the find that they are not alone. Building a new life in recovery isn’t easy, and the help of a supportive community is priceless.

A Sober Community

Because Los Angeles has become a hub for recovery, there is an amazing recovering community. With an active young person’s community, social events, and many opportunities to connect with others, you have the chance to build relationships with people who will support you along the path. Community is an important part of most spiritual paths, and many recent studies have found great benefits to engaging with a community in recovery from many illnesses. The recovery community offered in Los Angeles is unparalleled, and it can be felt in any recovery meeting. I have participated in sober hiking groups, connecting with new friends in recovery. For my first few years of sobriety, I attended a weekly sober bowling night. I have gone to sports games with sober groups. With the amount of recovering people in Los Angeles, there is always a community to connect with.

Beautiful Weather

This may seem like a silly point to make, but it really is a great offering of Los Angeles. The weather is mild year-round, with sunshine most days of the year. The beautiful weather is good for the mind. Addicts get to spend time outside, at the beach, hiking, and in the sunshine. The weather encourages people to get outside and get moving, which is essential for healthy recovery. Living sober in Los Angeles gives us the gift of being outside year-round.

All things considered, Los Angeles is an incredibly unique place to recover from addiction. It’s not uncommon to see people you know in recovery around town. Sobriety is like a not-so-secret culture that pervades Los Angeles life. There’s a good reason that Los Angeles is the holy land for addiction recovery. It’s beautiful, relaxed, and accepting of the issues surrounding drug addiction and alcoholism. And as more people realize Los Angeles is the right place for them to get sober, the community only strengthens.

Sober Example For Brother

 

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“MY name is Miles S., and  I am 28 years old. I have 14 months clean and sober and have just graduated the last house program.  Today, I get to be a sober example to my brother.

Prior to my arrival to last house I used drugs for 14 years straight. My drug of choice was Meth and was a needle IV user. My life was unmanageable and I was homeless. I was so dependent on meth. I put meth before my family and friends. I lost the Job my apartment, and car. I was hopeless. Coming into last house saved my life. When I first arrived there I was scared for change I was scared that I would never be able to get high again. That’s all I wanted was to get high. But when I arrived at last house I saw people who have been in the house for a while I saw people who were happy and I wanted that. I wanted to have my life back I wanted to have my family back in my life. I was put on restriction. I did not like restriction at first; I hated it because I had to do what other told me to do instead of doing what I wanted to do. I would always do what I wanted when I was out there, but having someone else tell me what I could and could not do really helped me get humble and realize that I really do need to start listening to what others are saying because they are just trying to help me. My best thinking got me where I was and that was with nothing. I was required to plan out my day each day which I have never done in my life. I was required to go to 2 AA meetings a day and get a sponsor (a sponsor is someone who you call every day and that takes you through the 12 steps of the AA program). I was to hold others accountable and hold myself accountable. I was required to do chores every day. Before recovery I did not ever clean my own place or pick up after myself. This helped me respect the place I lived in and respect others that live with me by not being a slob. At first I would half measure my chores and not care but then after a while I ended up taking pride in my chores and doing my best. The house structure was key in my sobriety I would have not have been able to stay sober without it. I would not have lasted this long if it wasn’t for the rules of the house. The house helped me work a program and taught me have to live. They would pull me up when they noticed me lacking on my step work or helped me when they noticed my behaviors being off. My favorite part of the house is being able to come home each day to a house full of guys that care about you. I called the house my safe zone. I also love the dinners and groups we have in the house. Dinner is 3 times a week were we discuss our behaviors in the house and provide feedback to others in the house that need help with situations that they are going through. There was so much I gained from those groups. Before coming to this house I had no way of knowing how to stay sober at all. I was able to accomplish so much while being a resident in the house and the house gave me the tools I needed to help me accomplish those things. I was able to go back to work in the house and suit up and show up on time to work. I never was able to hold down a job. I was able to take classes in the house to get my insurance license and ended up passing and getting my insurance license! I was able to get my Driver’s license back when in the house and was able to go home to see my family for the holidays and was able to stay clean and sober while going to see my family. Being in the house I was able to work the 12 steps of the AA program and that changed my perception on life and really changed me on who I was as a person. I was able to see my part in situations I have gone through in the past. My life has changed so much this past year I am a different person from when I first walked through these doors. I was able to do it by just listening to what others have to say to me and not running on my own thinking. I it was good to have the time in the house to invest in myself and to take care of myself. This house has really taught me a new way of life. Today I work full time as an insurance agent and also work in recovery as well. I still go to AA meetings once a day and I work a program. I am involved with the house. I work with others in the house in being there for the new guys that come through the house. This house is all about brotherhood it is my second family and I will never forget what this house has done for me and the gifts I have received from being in this house. I am happy today and have feelings today. I love being able to go and be a part of my families lives. Being able to be a positive role model to my youngest brother means the world to me. Drugs had a hold of me and I was ok with that until I found a new way of life. I do not have urges to use today I do not have the craving to use and that is a miracle in its own.

Thank you last house for saving my life!”

Miles S. – alumni of The Last House

A Story of Hope and Transformation

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A Story of Hope and Transformation

My name is Tanner R. and I am twenty-three years old and have been a resident at the last house for just under eleven months. I am currently employed as an office manager at a dui education program. The job entails me maintaining and a running the front office, taking payments and auditing files. I am a full time employee with health and dental benefits and have earned the trust and respect of my fellow employees. I say all this not to brag or boast about my life, simply to help you get an understanding of what my life looks like today. In the story I am about to tell you will see how this is completely different to how I used to live. I owe a great deal of this to The Last House. All that I have learned about life, my self, and the program of alcoholics anonyms has been gained in my residency there.

 

There is not really a perfect way to explain what makes me the addict that I am but there is a set of beliefs that I gained as a child and thru my teen years. I believe that all the events and the way that I perceived them were the perfect brewery for my alcoholism. No pun intended.

 

Just before I entered The Last House I was living in San Diego in my car. I was a daily heroin user and saw no end to my addiction. I had nowhere to go no family left to turn to for a warm or help. I lied and stole at every opportunity I had. I was a grown man with no principles no moral code and no hope. Don’t get me wrong I had plenty of fun times in the beginning but those times had long since passed. My addiction had me in its grips. One day after heavy use I got an invitation from my brother to go live with him in his R.V. and work for him at his company. I had thought that this would change things for me moving away from the city I used to love that I thought was the problem. Later I found out what this was. In the program we refer to it as “geographical”. Things continued from there not getting any better. I continued lying and stealing from my brother a man who held his hand out to me. One day while on the job I used heroin and left a rig and a cooker behind for his co-owner to find, this was the beginning of my journey into recovery. The jig was up, word had gotten back to my brother. When I got home that night he laid into me and told me that I had to make a decision. I could A. leave his motor home and continue down this path, or B. I could get honest with and ask for the help that everyone but I knew I needed. That night I made the best decision of my life to seek help.

 

My journey in recovery started at a sober living called Genesis House. The place was fantastic for the first time in a long time I had a bed to call my own and a shower to use. I firmly believe that it was exactly what I needed at that time but the financial burden it placed on my dad made it clear that thirty days was as long as I could stay there. I believe this to be a very important part of my recovery where yet again I was faced with a decision go back to San Diego where I was almost certain to fall right back into my old habits or find a place within the price range given and go there. This marked the first time I had made a choice based on my own feelings and not what others saw fit for me. After two days and multiple phone calls the therapist at my I.O.P. recommended a place to me, it just so happened to be The Last House. Armed with a number and the determination to stay sober I made the call the next day Clayton picked me up and I toured the houses.

What happened next is what I have come to see as my higher power working in my life. I was on the tour of the houses and Clayton and me began talking about our families. He had asked me where my family was from so I gave him the rundown about my mom and her roots but when I got to my dad and the mention of Jacumba came up he stated that his family used to own a ranch in that town. This may not seem to weird to some people but if you knew anything at all about Jacumba you would understand how strange it was. I proceeded to call my dad and ask if he knew the Ketchums and much to my surprise my dad named off all of Claytons aunts and uncles and that he knew his grandparents. At this point my decision had been made for me. I needed no more reason than that to pick The Last House. That day was the day that I began to firmly believe that something greater than my self was working in my life and marked my stay at The Last House. Every time I have gone thru hardship in my recovery or felt like giving up I have remember that moment and that this is where I was meant to be.

 

My stay in the last house has been no cakewalk. When I first arrived at the last house I was a manipulator, a liar, and borderline insane. Over my stay I have put my self thru the ringer all the while building a foundation that I believe will help for the rest of my life. This whole concept was foreign to me a place where we wrote essays for leaving out cups, had groups where people got give feedback to other residents and share there perspectives on what was going on I had seen nothing like it in my life. As I settled in these things became like second nature to me though. I began learning that all the rules had purpose, we residents hold each other accountable and that’s what makes this place work. I remember the first time I was receiving feedback and the amount of anger I felt. I remember thinking that all that was being said to me was because they didn’t like me in hindsight I see that they were just sharing there experience and trying to help me grow and learn. Things got easier I was on restriction had free time to relax if only I knew how and had time to get started on my steps. My housemates on official would take me to meetings with them to the store and out to have fun. They showed me a new way of life and that being sober is not only okay but it is fun.

 

The time came when I had to get a job and start being self-sufficient. I had just got off restriction and began working my life had gotten bigger. This was a time in the last house that I see to be the most important. I was in the midst of learning how to balance my responsibilities something I had never done before. I was so angry at everything during this period getting essay after essay in turn getting angrier and angrier. Thank god for my brothers around me they cared enough about me to call me out when I was feeling sorry for my self or lying to my self saying I couldn’t do it. This time in my sobriety was one of the hardest times I have gone thru in the past 11 months. I truly believe that without this house and the people in it I wouldn’t be the man I am today. I had people show up for me and care about me. Thru the support of my friends in the house I was able to make it thru this. I was able to see how childish my behavior was. I was learning to become a man by having a mirror held up to my self so that I could change who I was. This house has taught me how to show up for people.  Today, I am gainfully employed at Thrive Treatment.

 

For that I will be eternally grateful.

written by senior resident Tanner R.

Recovery Story of Father and Son

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Recovery Story of Father and Son

In March of 2011, my family was faced with a mind-blowing declaration from our son, Zack, when he confided to me and my wife, Debbie, that he had a serious substance abuse problem. Zack, who was 20 years old at the time, evidently was caught up in the prescription drug abuse epidemic that is plaguing Staten Island and he could not free himself from the grips of drug addiction.

It all came down one afternoon when Debbie realized that most of our good jewelry was gone – nowhere to be found. I ran home from work and immediately called 911 to report the robbery, not knowing that the thief was actually standing in front of me – my own kid. In the midst of the chaos, I guess Zack came to the realization that his silent world of drug use was about to blow up in his face with the strong possibility of an arrest, so he finally came forward and confessed his actions. For good or for bad, I called-off the police, and then tried to put the pieces together to see what the hell was going on.

I wondered – how could this be? How could he do this to us? We had enough problems to deal with – money, mortgage, and our own health issues, let alone trying to manage with our younger son’s severe disabilities for the last 18 years. We thought our “normal” son had it pretty good for a handsome 20-year-old guy living in New York. He was not for want of anything. Even though we were struggling financially, when he needed or just wanted something, somehow we managed to get it for him. We enjoyed providing for him and seeing him happy. He had parents that loved him and protected him, and he had our complete trust. Zack also had full access to everything we owned as a family – the house, the cars, the yard, and even an in-ground pool. With lots of friends, who were always welcome in our home, our basement was the “hang-out” to play video games and to hold band practice; our thinking was that we knew where he was – under our own roof – safe and out of trouble.

Zack is fairly intelligent and is also a very talented musician. He easily earned good grades in school, and then had the opportunity to fulfill his passion for music and attend college to secure a career in the music industry, which we fully supported. All we asked of him was to “do the right thing” – take care of your responsibilities and then enjoy life – good things will come if you just give it some effort. Unfortunately, all that was afforded to him wasn’t enough, and eventually his addiction, his disease, took control of his life and nothing else mattered to him except how to get his hands on more pills and at any expense, no matter who he hurt or what the consequences were to himself or to anyone else.

In hindsight, it should have been obvious to recognize what was festering around us. Under our careful watch, the signs were all there, but we did not pick up on them or perhaps, weren’t ready to face the reality. However, we were aware that Zack was very shy and uncomfortable in certain social settings. And, his behavior patterns were typically self-centered, compulsive, and obsessive. He also had a very negative attitude towards society and pessimistic feelings about life in general. But, we also knew that Zack smoked weed –a lot of weed, and he couldn’t wake up for nothing in the morning or the afternoon, or even late afternoon. And, he couldn’t hold a part-time job for any length of time, nor could he bear to travel to the city to go to his classes – an audio technology curriculum that was supposed to be his dream. Yet, he was able stay up to all hours of the night and managed to do the things that he wanted to do – like hanging-out with his friends, playing his guitar, playing video games, smoking weed, and sleeping. We just figured that he was who he was – a difficult teenager. Then again, you would think that the money you thought you put down “right there” or the ring or the watch you thought you misplaced would show up eventually but really never did would bring our attention to a problem here, but then you start second guessing yourself, thinking that a rational explanation would surface.

And then there were the strange and unexplained aches and pains that Zack constantly complained about. He also didn’t eat well and he basically looked like crap. So, as any parents would do, we took him to several different doctors and specialists, who examined him and ordered all kinds of lab tests, (except drug abuse tests, by the way); meanwhile, Zack played along under the radar with his antics. Of course the lab results were negative, but the doctors concluded that Zack suffered from chronic depression and treated him with an anti-depression medication. It’s amazing to me that not one of those professionals picked up on signs that I now see as pointing to a possible problem with addiction, but then again neither did us, so I guess we’ll leave it to the fact that Zack, being the addict that he had become, had an incredible ability to deceive the best of them. Looking back, there were so many indications brewing that would eventually lead up to the “storm of the century” for our family.

Our first reaction on that awful night when he acknowledged to us his addiction to prescription pills was to get him help – not to kick the living crap out of him like I wanted to, not to throw him out or turn our backs to him. Of course those thoughts did cross my mind, but I knew not to go there. Sure I was devastated, distraught, angry, afraid, and even embarrassed, but at least Debbie and I had some sense to know something had to be done about this crisis and done first thing in the morning.

We knew of the YMCA Counseling Service by word-of-mouth and from our family, so we decided that that’s where he would go – very simple – the plan was that he would stop abusing the pills, go to the program for a few weeks, get cured, and get on with his life. Wrong answer! We never fathomed that he was in such a serious life or death situation.

When Zack entered the out-patient treatment program at the Y, we thought it would be quick and easy. After all, “he wasn’t that bad” compared to other people’s stories we had heard. As we know now, addiction is addiction and the journey to recovery is a slow and conscious process. Unfortunately, in the beginning phases of his treatment, Zack was stringing everyone along, leading everyone to believe he was clean and doing what he supposed to be doing, but in reality he was only fooling himself. Yes he was going to treatment, wasn’t getting high – so we thought – be he was still sneaking around and picking up drugs. After six weeks, I guess when he realized that the Y was “on to him” and getting on his case despite his several successful attempts of fooling the random drug tests, Zack decided that he was “done” with the program and that he was “good,” “That’s it – done,” as he said. However, little did he realize that for the last six weeks Debbie and I were beginning our journey to recovery too; getting stronger and stronger and more educated about addiction and our “family” disease. As was strongly suggested, we came to Nar-Anon and kept coming back.

When I first stepped into the Nar-Anon in August 2011, I thought I was there to fix my son’s addiction, but I soon learned that was there to fix myself. From the get-go, the words, “This meeting is for you” stuck in my head. I needed something for me. I was completely engulfed in the chaos and symptoms of his addiction – the lies, the manipulations, the stealing, and the false promises. My whole life was revolved around what he was doing or not doing, where he was going, and who he was with. I was even doing most of the work for his treatment – I was keeping account of his schedule, reminding him of his NA meetings, driving him to meetings, making sure he was on time , calling people for him, even yelling at him to take a shower when I wanted him to. I was not only neglecting myself and the rest of my family, but I was also driving myself crazy. In fact, I was addicted to him.

I learned after a few weeks at Nar-Anon to “Say what I mean and mean what I say”. So, when Zack chose to leave the ‘Y’ in May, Debbie and I finally had the strength and courage to give him the opportunity to make a decision – we told him you can stay in treatment and work at getting healthy, or you can decide not to stay in treatment, but you’ll then have to leave our home. “We’re not going to stand by and watch you slowly kill yourself.” That morning his choice was that he would not return to treatment, so as difficult as it was, we told him he could no longer live in our home. However, in the heat of the moment, we didn’t exactly follow through with our word; we sort of caved in at the eleventh hour as he was literally packing a bag to leave and we offered him “Plan B”. That plan was to do 90/90 (90 NA meetings in 90 days), get a sponsor, and go to one-on-one counseling. Of course he agreed, then again who wouldn’t in order to stay nice and comfortable in their own home, and so we began the next chapter of his addiction. Again, he went through the motions and did what was asked of him, doing it his way, but something was still wrong – he wasn’t doing it for himself – he wasn’t ready. As we believe everything happens for a reason, sadly he relapsed – an unfortunate reality of the disease, but this time I was prepared, and I was prepared because of Nar-Anon.

This time around, the symptoms of his addition were so obvious that we all knew what had to be done to save his life. Zack himself finally realized that in-patient treatment was what he needed and he finally surrendered in July of 2011. Ultimately, we took control of our house and made it known that active addiction will no longer have a place in our lives or in our home. We flew him out to Los Angeles with the help of my nephew, and Zack signed himself into a residential drug treatment facility. He then followed through with what was suggested to him- he humbly worked the Twelve-Step Program. After 2 months, Zack was prepared to enter a transitional living arrangement (a sober living house) in LA, called “The Last House”, and he also signed up for 2 months of intensive out-patient treatment. He successfully completed his out-patient and graduated from sober living after 8 months. When I visited him in LA, he proudly showed me his name inscribed on the house’s commemorative graduates’ plaque – Zack was one of the only three clients at that time that has completed the program in the last two years since the house opened.

This time around his recovery was not for anyone else but himself. He is learning to practice the tools he needs to cope with life on life terms to sustain his sobriety “one day at a time.” In his early recovery, Zack continues to do his step work with his sponsor, attend his meetings regularly, make his commitments, and reach out to his people when he needs to. He decided after sober-living to stay in Los Angeles and he re-enrolled back in the same audio technology program that he attempted in NY. However, his last month in LA had been trying for all of us with Zack’s emerging health issues with his kidneys and him questioning his plans to stay in LA, we made a conscious decision that he should come back to live at home in NY -with the pros of this choice outweighing the cons. We believe that Zack is strong enough at this point in his recovery to maintain his sobriety no matter where he is geographically. With guarded optimism, I am proud to say that my son is now clean and sober for twenty-three months! His behavior, his honesty, his attitude and his actions are proof of his accomplishments. There is renewed hope for his future and his relationship with us, which is really all we ever prayed for. It was a blessing to hear him say last year that he was so grateful that we were attending Nar-Anon meetings. I am now truthfully able to tell him that, “I get it – I understand.”

I know that Nar-Anon is where I need to be every Tuesday night. It is here that I feel I am not alone. I meet other people and families that share my feelings and I realize that my story may be different, but my situation was not unique. “My people” at Nar-Anon really understand where I’m coming from – they can relate. It is so comforting to know that in our meetings we can say anything about what we are going through without being judged or criticized, while knowing that we have complete anonymity. There are some folks that are further along in the program and some with more experience with addiction, but because of their sharing, I gain more knowledge every week and become reassured in what I have to do for myself to stay healthy. Even the newcomers can shed some light by reminding me what has led me here, and it also gives me the opportunity to give a little back. It feels good to know that you might make a difference in someone else’s life. I know that there is no magic cure for this disease, but I also know that I can cope with it and I can grow at my own pace. I’m better prepared to make the decisions that are right for me. I leave every meeting in a better frame of mind than when I walked in. Others may sympathize with us, but they really have no clue. We need to be with those who are experiencing similar situations so that we can all help each other.

I cannot say enough about everyone in Nar-Anon and the information and comfort that they have imparted on me by sharing their feelings. Everyone makes themselves available beyond the meeting time for any questions and or help, or just to listen, no matter how big or small the issue. The education I’ve gained about addiction and its effects on the family are invaluable. I learned about the addict, how to respond to him instead of reacting to him, and how to try to have a good life despite with my addict is in a good place or not. I learned that Zack has to follow his own path. I cannot do it for him, for I have my own path and my own journey. Our paths can run parallel, I can love and support him, and cheer him on, but he has to make his own life choices and I must let him. If he falls, he must learn to pick himself up, seek help, work it out, and get back on track. I also have learned that I can help him, but not enable him, I can “walk” next to him in his journey, but I cannot “carry” him, and I learned that that I have to continue to concentrate on my own recovery. I now know that in order to help my son – my qualifier, my addict – who I love dearly, I have to first get my own life together, stay healthy and focused, and most importantly take care of myself. The group has given me the tools to do this and I am forever grateful.

…written by a father of one of our alumni