29 YEARS & 7 MONTHS IN RECOVERY
48 | ROCKLAND COUNTY, NY
Ben first contacted me on Facebook in fall 2020. He told me that he was a member of the recovery world for 30 years and noted he was a life coach. He shared a video interview he had done in the past to make sure he was a good fit for the project as well as his blog. I was completely inspired by his words and I could feel how deeply he cared about helping others. His story reminded me of my brother’s in many ways and I knew Ben had to be a part of this project.
I also had the chance to speak with Ben over the phone about my project and he was incredibly enthusiastic and so excited about sharing his story. It was almost like talking to a family member because of how sincere the conversation was. I am incredibly grateful that Ben found my project and shared his recovery journey.
I was first exposed to opiates through street use.
I thought this was all a good idea, like I was some kind of tough guy or cool. I knew about cocaine and crack, but when the coke ran out and my nerves wouldn’t stop, someone told me, “Hey, you should try this” and she gave me a bag of dope. I found out about my addiction pretty fast when I thought I could just stop.
It was a good idea at the time. Then it became a chase to keep the high. Then it became a job just to keep from being sick. I never thought I would go through withdrawals. I never thought any of the stories I heard would ever happen to me. But I was wrong.
When I was a small kid, I was picked on. I had this thing called depression, but I never really knew what that meant. I had problems in school. I couldn’t do the work like other kids. I always thought there was something wrong with me. And maybe there was.
No one ever asked to be the one that gets picked on in class or to the kid that gets picked last. I was always trying to find a way to look cool so I picked the easiest image I could hide behind and it sort of grew from there. I turned into a trouble- maker. Then, I found out about the kids that smoked in the parking lot. Then, I got high and found out that being bad felt pretty good. And that’s just it. I just wanted to feel good.
I believe trauma-based
circumstances, depression, and developmental delay/learning disabilities were all factors that contributed to my substance use.
I used opioids for around a year before I ended up in the backseat of a police car.
If they never took me away, I don’t know what would have happened. I probably would have just been another statistic like the rest of my friends.
At the time of my arrest, I was around 80lbs. My skin was green. I had dark rings beneath my eyes and there was no way for me to survive in jail. The courts offered me a shot at treatment instead of prison. I took it. And that’s what saved my life.
As a condition of my sentence, I was remanded to long term treatment. I was in three different facilities and one by one, I swore I’d just get through so I could get back home. I never thought I would change, but I eventually gave in.
Eventually, I listened and I learned.
The pathways that were most helpful to me in my recovery were inpatient treatment and 12-Step modalities. There were others there that went through similar things. I found out other people felt the same way and had the same problems. They helped me structure a plan and a strategy to achieve my goals and change my life.
I wouldn’t have known what to do if I tried to clean up on my own. Plus, I never thought I could do it.
I have been in recovery for 29 years and 7 months.
I maintain my recovery on a daily basis by using self-help, mindfulness, 12-Step programs, personalized coaching and CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) skills. I had to learn different ways to replace thought with action. I needed steps to follow so that I could maintain my life in a way I could understand, otherwise, I’d go back to feeling lost. My recovery has helped me change my way and given me the tools to navigate through everyday life and achieve my best possible potential.
Some challenges I have faced during my recovery are personal insecurity, depression and suicidal ideation. I have come a long way, but when anxiety gets tough and depression comes along, I have learned to replace thought with action.
I’ve learned how to improve my self-esteem by doing better esteemable acts. I chose to educate myself about mental health and addiction.
I earned different professional credentials to not only help myself, but help others as well.
The most influential people in recovery are myself and my family. Special role models and friends that failed are also influential in my recovery. They have taught me how to live.
I have said goodbye to organized religion, but as an ordained minister, I have learned to find ways to achieve a sense of personal balance. I am certified in hypnosis. I write. I coach and teach. Most importantly, I learned to replace problematic thinking with help-based activity.
My life has changed in many ways during my recovery. First and foremost, I’m not in jail or dead.
I became a published author. I learned to reach my dreams and achieve my goals. I became a certified professional life coach, sober coach, peer advocate and I have been flown across the country for my work in the mental health world.
A goal of mine is to build a help-based facility for youngsters that were like me, scared, depressed, and looking to get help and learn how to live in a productive environment.
An important lesson I have learned is to not put others on a pedestal. We are all human.
Also, the toughest lesson I had to learn is that not everyone will survive and that I need to be mindful and grateful for what I have.
To those still experiencing addiction to opioids, there is help out there. Find it. And when you do, hold on tight and don’t give up.
The advice I would give to those in early recovery would be to find your best sources of inspiration. Not everyone is going to fit your style. Look for the people you feel comfortable with, otherwise, you’ll go back to being uncomfortable.
No one can stop you from improving your life.