Justin's story

"Before treatment my life was like an institutionalized mind.  When someone is locked up for a long time they are institutionalized.  This becomes their norm.  All my life I was imprisoned by my mind, thinking that’s just how life is supposed to be. I thought I had to tough things out and some things wouldn’t change.  My life was run by depression, anxiety, fear and ADHD, and the coping mechanisms to combat them.  I was always acting out to escape myself and my thoughts.  I judged myself by the judgement and affirmation of others.  In high school, the solution at first was marijuana.  I never saw a problem I needed to control.  I tried to smoke as much as I could as often as I could.  A year later I was introduced to ecstasy and LSD.  In this I found the connectedness and spirituality I had been looking for.  Again, control at this point meant taking time off one day just to use more the next.  Despite all this, I still made it into college so I could play lacrosse, but didn't have a passion for my schoolwork and replaced studying with drinking and smoking. I failed out after one semester and lost the only goal I had most of my life.  Back home the variety and intake of drugs increased.   Legal trouble caught up to me and I had to do a year of drug court, but the psychedelics continued.  I graduated drug court which was the biggest accomplishment in life thus far.  Now there were no drugs off limits.  I tried using all of them so I wouldn’t become dependent on one.  Psychosis had caught up to me so I started medicating with alcohol so I could eat, sleep, and go to work.  This became messy and I didn’t want to get a DUI so I got prescribed benzos.  During all this time I became physically dependent on ketamine.  I used heroin to come off of ketamine and during drug court became dependent on synthetic marijuana.  When I graduated drug court I used marijuana to relieve the spice withdrawals.  I got tired of getting sick with withdrawing from benzodiazepines and the heroin so I finally sought treatment.  This is one of the most painful withdrawals I went through.  I wasn’t introduced to the 12 steps in rehab.  I relapsed immediately when I got out of treatment. I started smoking pot, sniffing cocaine, and soon shooting dope again.

I continued shooting heroin for another year and started shooting ketamine and molly, but IV cocaine took me to my knees quickly.  I really didn’t enjoy the high much, but couldn’t stop using.  I was still in delusion that I could beat this with self control or out-smart it.  My habit at this point had been a $100-200/day of heroin and an ounce of cocaine a week.  I bounced around jobs and wasn’t very aware of my friends and family being so affected and that our relationships were crumbling.  My family was unaware I had overdosed twice.  I was going to get kicked out soon.  I didn’t want to ask for help.  I wanted to do it on my own.  It was my problem.  I was running out of options but convinced I could figure it out even though I’d tried everything.  I was down to 143# and sobered up enough to realize that I wasn’t sure of the last time I had slept or eaten and knew I wasn’t going to.  I continued to shoot drugs.  I didn’t know how much more my body could take.  Even if I managed to stop for a couple of days, I knew I’d be right back where I started.  I reached out for  help.  I prayed. I’m not sure what I said but it was desperate and sincere.  Then I went to my Mom.  I remember telling her I needed help.  I had no idea what kind but I needed something serious and I was willing to do anything.  Nobody dealing with addiction chooses to keep putting themselves and their families through this.

The first part of my 30 day stay was rough.  I detoxed really hard.  The staff was more than patient with me.  I started putting weight back on and had lots of energy work done.  I felt so much better, but once the drugs were out of my system completely, the old Justin started to show up again.  My mind still wasn’t right - very angry, hyperactive, and had an authority problem.  My life was still run on the fear.  I had so much trouble controlling myself that I almost got kicked out.  This would make the third treatment I had been kicked out of.  I really wanted to complete this program.  I prayed about it and the treatment worked with me.  I was first introduced to meditation and sat still for the first time in my life.  As the end of my stay was nearing, part of me was making plans back home.  The other part of me knew that I still needed serious help and had a lot to work on.  I knew I needed to enlarge my spirituality and had my own ideas about how.  We started to look into aftercare treatments.  Most of the options I wanted were in California, and one in Austin.  I  listened to the advice around me.  After one more behavior incident my counselor said that Austin, Texas was definitely where I needed to be.  In case I didn’t have enough hints on where to go next, it just so happened that the lady who ran the Austin treatment center (Marsha Stone) was visiting the program where I was and I got to meet her. So it was decided that I would continue my care in Texas.

I had a rude awakening in Texas.  I didn’t want to comply with the rules of the program.  Little did I know, it was exactly what I needed.  I was one of their biggest pains in the butt at Spearhead Lodge.  This was unlike any treatment I had been to in the past.  This was heavily 12 steps. All the staff are in recovery and work a 12 step program.  I didn’t know how this would help me but it was the first time I’ve seen everyone genuinely happy. I still wasn’t totally convinced, but 30 days were already paid for, so I decided to eat their food, use their gym, and work their program. That way I could leave saying, “It didn’t work for me, but thanks though.”  I didn’t think I needed their help connecting to the spirit, but once I got on board and was open to a new experience, some big changes started happening, and I felt peace for the first time in my life.  This was enough for me to continue the work.  The staff was amazing and super-proud of my transformation.  There was still a lot of work to do after my 90 days of treatment.

Life after treatment is beautiful and continues to improve as long as I stay close to my program, which has been a gift. I get the opportunity to carry the message to Treatment center every month,  work with two sponsees, and have a great sponsor I look up to.  Two of my closest friends have also come to Austin and finished treatment, and are experiencing freedom today.  It’s truly a miracle that 8 people from Syracuse have made it to treatment in Austin.  I’ve gotten the chance to meet with all of them.  Nothing warms my heart like seeing the light in their eyes grow as they heal and are introduced to a new way of life.  Special thanks to Road2RecoveryCNY for helping people get the best chance they can at a new life.

Today I don’t even have time to do everything I want.  I’ve been hiking and swimming with my dog and friends, rock climbing, and going to a ton of shows.  I’m a member of the Austin gem and mineral society.  I’m nine months into an apprenticeship as a jeweler.  My favorite thing is my new relationship with my family and friends.  I get to add anything into my life like picking up the guitar and flute or yoga."