Nine years of addiction, nine years of recovery and counting06/20/18 03:33:pm
Ted smoked marijuana for the first time at the age of 12. That spurred a nine-year detour into drugs and alcohol that led to detox followed by 90 days of treatment at Rogers’ Herrington Recovery Center. He’s now a financial advisor in Minneapolis and celebrating more than nine years of sobriety.
Ted often senses the silent question everyone is afraid to ask—was there something in his childhood that led to his addiction? By his own account, his family life was stable and happy. He experienced the deaths of several close friends that year, but he doesn’t know if that was a factor or not.
“The first day I smoked weed, it might have been just experimentation, but by day two it was on,” Ted recalls. “When the weed was gone, I was immediately thinking about how I could get more.”
His drug use progressed quickly to include other substances including pills. He would take anything that gave him a buzz but steered clear of alcohol because he didn’t like the taste. When he graduated from high school, he moved an hour away to attend college, and there he used drugs every day—from cough medicine to cocaine to mushrooms. Anything he was offered. He decided to give alcohol another try, too, and this time it took.
“I never discarded anything. I just added to it,” remembers Ted, who drank a bottle of brandy a day, plus the drugs. “I couldn’t get up for class anymore and I failed out.”
Because he had trouble sleeping, he remembers drinking two water bottles filled with vodka just to pass out. He would frequently sit in the middle of his kitchen floor, drunkenly clutching a knife, wishing he had the courage to end his life. However, the next morning, he would be waiting for the local gas station to open so he could buy more beer and cigarettes.
A friend who knew his struggles encouraged him to consider treatment. The very next day, over coffee, his mom suggested the same thing.
“I had nothing else going on, and I was tired, so I agreed.”
90 Days at Herrington
Just one month after his 21st birthday, Ted spent a week in detox at Rogers and then transitioned to Herrington Recovery Center where he spent more than 90 days.
In the beginning, he pushed back against treatment. He tried altering his mood with over-the-counter medicine and through binging and purging. He also resisted finding an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, a required part of the program.
“I wasn’t getting it, and I wouldn’t surrender or make changes,” he says. He credits his counselor Wendy with a tough love approach that challenged his belief that his addiction was unique and not as bad as others. “She didn’t swallow my B.S., and she was okay being the unpopular voice.”
The true turning point in Ted’s recovery was reading his family’s Impact Letters, a key part of treatment in which families write how their loved one’s addiction has hurt them.
“Those letters broke me,” Ted comments. “I realized I couldn’t hurt my brothers anymore. From that point on, I went to war with alcoholism.”
He also talked often with a Chaplain from the Spiritual Care Department, even though he was on the fence about faith. On the night of the letters, Ted asked for divine help in what he calls a “cliché moment.” But the next day, as he gazed out the window, he realized he felt peace for the first time in a long time. From then on, things improved.
Ted became active in 12 step group meetings, found a sponsor who he still speaks with every week, and moved into a halfway house after discharge. Eventually, he returned home and kept busy working and taking college classes, in which he earned straight As. A year later he transferred to Augsburg College in Minneapolis, which has the largest residential collegiate recovery community in the country. He became deeply involved and served in several student leadership positions.
After graduation, Ted moved to Duluth and worked with students in recovery at the CLEAN program, another collegiate recovery community, before moving back to Minneapolis three years later when he accepted a position in student affairs at Augsburg College, this time as a professional rather than a student.
“One thing I resent about alcoholism is it keeps us from participating in life. It’s a thief,” explains Ted. “I feel empowered in recovery. I can march through this day and know that there is nothing I can’t deal with or manage by facing it head on.”
Ted admits that going through treatment may be uncomfortable, but it’s about the long game.
“It isn’t supposed to be fun,” confirms Ted. “But 90 days in treatment has led to more than nine years of recovery and so many wonderful gifts I would not have had without it.”