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Recovery Success Stories

Todd’s Recovery Success Story

“Almost everything that came out of my mouth was a lie to protect my disease,” says Todd, a Case Manager at The Palm Beach Institute (PBI). Well-dressed, neatly groomed and highly articulate, I’m struck by Todd’s words. Once defined by lies and addiction, Todd’s reality is now defined by truth and his relationship with a higher power. As Case Manager at PBI Todd acts as an advocate, interventionist, and aftercare/discharge planner.

The lies began long before Todd started drinking. They began with Todd’s parents, who were both addicts. Raised in an atmosphere of chaos, instability, and addiction, young Todd was not developmentally ready to deal with his parents’ disease and the trauma it created. So, Todd did what many children do, he adapted to his surroundings and situation the best he could. He stuffed his feelings and bore the weight of secrets no child should have to carry.

“Our secrets make us sick. When we stuff our feelings the subconscious eats away at us from deep inside.”

By the time he was 11 years old, Todd began drinking as a means to escape. A young child, with two parents afflicted by the disease of addiction, Todd knew no other way to cope with his feelings of sadness, loneliness, fear, and anger. Over the years Todd spiraled further and further into despair as his alcoholism progressed into heroin abuse. A full blow alcoholic, heroin and cocaine user, Todd found himself lying and stealing to feed and protect his disease. In and out of detox and rehab five times, Todd’s life seemed destined to follow the tragic path of so many he grew up with…. a path that led to either death or prison.

“Little things mean so much to me now.”

12 years after his first drink, at age 23, Todd entered detox for the sixth time. Homeless for over a year, alienated from friends and family, and ‘tired of being sick-and-tired’ Todd was determined to make it work this time. And he did. During his 78 days at the drug and alcohol rehab facility, Todd began to finally face feelings that he had locked away for years. With the support of his therapists, fellow addicts, and mentors, Todd was able to work through emotional pain, physical pain, and the pain of withdrawal within a safe and healing environment. After leaving the rehab center he stayed fiercely committed to sobriety, found a sponsor and completed 90 meetings in 90 days.

No longer on a path of destruction, Todd now walks with his head high and his heart at peace. Todd tells me that the 12 step program is not just rehab. “It’s a lifestyle” he declares. Then, with a serene demeanor, Todd says, “Little things mean so much to me now. I can get up and go to work every day and love what I do. I pay all my bills on time, and am able to support my wife and two children.” The pride and gratitude in his voice clearly indicate that Todd truly appreciates the many gifts he now enjoys as a result of sobriety.

“I used to wonder why… why me? I understand now.”

I asked Todd why the sixth time in rehab worked for him, while all his previous rehab efforts failed. The answer he gave was simple, “I never gave rehab a chance before. I always wanted to leave something out…to do it my way.“ Like so many addicts in recovery, Todd’s success is a direct result of him realizing that to heal he needed help. To recover he needed to put his faith in something higher than himself, to trust the program, and to accept the outreached hands that so eagerly wanted to help.

As we wrap up our talk together Todd leaves me with one last thought, “I used to wonder why… why me? I understand now. My experience prepared me for my purpose in life; helping others. I’m able to give back and help other people get through I went through in the past.”

Just as addiction is a disease that can be tragically passed from one generation to the next, recovery is a healing that is lovingly passed from one addict to another. Through a structured residential 12 step based program like PBI’s Olive House program, people like Todd are able to transform their lives. Then, pass the gift of recovery on to the next person in need.

Recovery is hard work that requires honesty and commitment. But for those who are willing to open their hearts and minds, recovery brings many wonderful gifts.

Robert’s Recovery Success Story

Robert started down the road to addiction as a teenager growing up in Washington D.C. At age 13 he began experimenting with marijuana and alcohol. Left unchecked, experimentation became a full-blown addiction. Throughout his youth, Robert was marijuana and alcohol dependent, but he didn’t see his substance abuse as a problem. Then after 20 years of using Robert suffered a serious back injury. That’s when the pill use started. A well-practiced substance abuser, Robert’s prescribed use of pain medications soon degenerated into opiate addiction. He began abusing pills and heroin on a regular basis.

Unemployed, on state medical aid, and caught in a downward spiral, Robert checked into a state-run rehabilitation center. He entered the state-run rehabilitation center with a desire to quit opiates, yet paradoxically determined to still use marijuana and alcohol upon release.

“I went in knowing I was going to smoke dope and drink. I just didn’t want to be addicted to opiates anymore.”

After 17 days in rehab Robert was released, and he immediately returned to abusing marijuana and alcohol. Within a short period of time these were not enough, so Robert returned to his drugs of choice, pills, and heroin.

The second time Robert checked into Rehab he decided that it would be beneficial to get away from his immediate surroundings. He wanted to distance himself from the people and places associated with his drug abuse. Robert searched for an addiction treatment center in Florida that was small, personable and could help him medically detox from heroin addiction.

That is when he found The Palm Beach Institute. Robert entered PBI with the same self-defeating behavior he had during his last stint in drug rehab. That is, Robert wanted to quit the opiates but planned to return to using marijuana and alcohol upon release.

“About two weeks into treatment working with the therapists made me realize that if I do those other things I thought were harmless it would lead me back to where
I was. That is when I realized I couldn’t do anything.”

Over Robert’s first two weeks of therapy, his therapist, Shaul, worked tirelessly to help him realize that using pot would lead him back to the needle. According to Robert, Shaul’s knowledge, empathy, and frank words helped him realize that for sustainable recovery he would need to abstain from all substance using behaviors. Like many of the staff at PBI Shaul is ‘in the program’. A Masters level therapist, Shaul understands addiction from both a clinical and personal side. This, coupled with a deep sense of compassion, is how Shaul was able to help Robert identify and change self-defeating thinking patterns.

“My therapist (at PBI) was really good. He’s amazing. He saved my life.”

When asked, “What did PBI do for you?” Robert lights up as he replies, “PBI gave me back my life! Since I left PBI a friend of mine died of this disease, from an overdose. PBI gave me a second chance at life. I still have a lot of stuff to work on. I don’t have the job I want….the apartment I want…the car I want. But all those things will come. If I keep doing the right thing good stuff will happen.”

“PBI gave me back my life!”

Robert then sits back and talks to me about his family. While in the grasp of addiction he was estranged from his loved ones, but since his recovery, Robert has enjoyed a positive relationship with family members.

Talking to Robert makes me appreciate the beauty of the human spirit. A man formerly caught in the cycle of addiction, he is now ‘doing the work’ of recovery every day. And, he has become a valuable member of the PBI Alumni group. Not only is Robert a living example of what PBI can do to empower someone who is ready for positive change, he now gives back by helping with AA groups at PBI’s detox facility.

Robert’s positive outlook, solid support network, and desire to stay in recovery are all great indicators of success.

Justin’s Recovery Success Story

I came into recovery three and a half years ago, I had been kicked out of every halfway house in West Palm Beach and eventually landed in the last place that would take me. Despite this being my last opportunity to not be homeless again, I continued to use. The owner of the treatment center did something very different when he caught me using. He sat me down and explained the disease of addiction and why it was that I continued using despite facing such consequences.

After we talked he kicked me out for 2 weeks. I continued to use but gained a true understanding of the powerlessness I possessed due to the disease. At the end of the 2 weeks, the owner of the treatment center allowed me to come back. He appointed me a sponsor and I began to put the work in on my steps. My sponsor described the disease in medical terms and asked if I fully understood. I had resigned myself to being an addict of the hopeless variety and fully understood the limitations of human power where this problem was concerned. I understood that self-will, as defined in the literature, would mean of failure. So, I finally began to accept spiritual help.

I began an inventory of the areas of my life where my selfishness had always shown up. I reviewed my relationships with others and understood that long before the drugs and alcohol I felt loneliness, guilt, shame, anger, anxiety, and depression. These feelings were what drugs had covered up for me. However, the solution of drugs had ceased working. I had been resigned to the fact that these troubling feelings were the result of my selfishness. I talked to my sponsor with my character defects and asked God to remove them all. I made a list of the people I had harmed and began to make amends to every one of them.

The obsession to drink and use was lifted from me and never returned. The feelings I had suffered most of my life began to dissipate and life became meaningful again. I enhanced my prayer and meditation and kept a spot-check inventory. I began to carry the message I received to other addicts and contact with them became the greatest part of my days. My life began to have purpose and the things I had longed for were now coming to fruition. I became a son, a lover, a friend, and a man with integrity and honor. The gifts I have received from the steps go far beyond anything of this world. I know true joy and grace today.

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