“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 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 heroine 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 withdrawl 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.