Recovering What’s Been Lost Pt 2
How Justin Found Sobriety, Community and More at Choice House: Part 2
Justin had struggled with addiction ever since high school. From his very first drink, he felt like he’d found the answer to all of his fears and anxieties about the future. He then started experimenting with other drugs and within a few years, it had taken over his life.
Before things got really bad, he was an athlete, a hockey player and an all-around good guy. But slowly, he began to lose himself — he turned into someone who didn’t care about anything, abused pills every day and stole money to get high.
By his junior year of college, he’d landed in detox for the first time. Up to that point, his drinking and drug use had steadily escalated until he became a danger to himself and others. His friends and family were worried, so they sent him to Colorado to regroup.
“It was really tough,” he says. “They put me in detox on Christmas Eve. It was like a slap in the face because I had no idea what was going on.”
Afterward, Justin was enrolled in an outpatient program, where he lived in a sober house for 45 days. That wasn’t what he really needed at the time, though. “I needed to be locked down, I was out of my mind,” he explains. So predictably, he was using again just days later.
Except this time, he had no one looking out for him.
He had stayed in Colorado and was isolated from his friends and family back home. As a result, this relapse would become his worst yet, leading Justin to a very dark place and the biggest wake-up call of his life.
“I get out of rehab and I’m immediately in Denver trying to find pills,” he cringes. “Which I’d obviously find, because I couldn’t be any more desperate.”
Just months before, he was sent to Colorado from the East Coast to get clean, but it didn’t last. He wasn’t sure if he was ready yet and the type of treatment that he’d received didn’t exactly meet his needs. Coupled with the loneliness he felt, it was a recipe for disaster.
“I was pretty much isolated. I didn’t know anyone, besides the people in this, like, sober living thing,” he says. “So I was really, really, down… just really depressed. I had never felt that level of… I don’t know. I just felt like I had nothing to live for.”
This is the headspace he was in when he had one of the scariest experiences of his life. During that time, he didn’t have much else to do and would drive around aimlessly either drunk or high. One night, he crashed his car on I-70 going 80 mph.
He barreled through a construction zone and narrowly missed hitting someone else.
“I pretty much mowed through those orange construction cones and veered back onto the highway,” he recalls. “My car was destroyed, I had a concussion, and I scratched my face up a little bit. But the fact that I came away pretty much unscathed is insane.”
He was sent back to detox shaken and bruised.
“So I’m sitting there for the second time in like 4 months,” he says. “I totaled my car and didn’t have any contact with my friends from college anymore, because I convinced myself that they screwed my life up by calling my parents when I thought I was fine. And I’d sworn off my parents and brother and sister. I was just alone.”
He had hit rock bottom.
Fortunately, it would be the wake-up call he needed. He realized that he had a very important decision to make: from here on out, he could either get sober, or die trying.
A New Beginning
“I came to grips with the fact that if I kept using, I would die,” he says. “Or I would end up killing someone else. I saw that if I didn’t make a change… I had a fatal disease.”
Justin had a genuine belief that he wouldn’t survive another relapse. So when someone from the detox center suggested that he try something different, he was on board. They had recommended Choice House and thought it would be a good fit based on his active lifestyle. He wasn’t sure what to expect, but he agreed to sign up.
“I was like, ‘I will literally do whatever these professionals say.’”
His new attitude would turn out to be the key to his success. Before that, he didn’t really want to get sober. He had no control over the decision and his heart wasn’t in it. “I think willingness is the biggest thing,” he reflects. “If that willingness is truly genuine, and you’re willing to go to any length and trust in something greater than yourself, you can get it done.”
He also needed a program that was right for him. Choice House would provide the kind of long-term continuum of care that would guide him on his path to sobriety. “I needed more structure,” he figures. “I needed to be at ‘zero’ a little bit more. And I think that first program I did just allowed me to continue to disguise my alcoholism from myself.”
So when he got there, he was a lot more open to the idea of recovery. Still, it took some time to settle in. He was on withdrawal medication, severely depressed and not thinking clearly, but as he got further away from substances, he was able to really appreciate what they had to offer.
“I think it probably took two weeks from when I actually walked in the door to when I realized how cool it was,” he says. “And that’s OK, because I think it’s rare that someone’s gonna walk in the door and be like, ‘I’m so pumped about this!’ Like… you’re in rehab.”
Once he was stabilized and healthy enough to go on ski trips, Justin started to have an amazing experience. Not only was he having fun again, but he was able to get a glimpse of what his future could look like. A lot of recent alumni work at Choice House, so he saw these other guys who had been through the program and were living their lives to the fullest.
Until then, that kind of change seemed unimaginable.
“I thought, ‘Wow, this is something I can have, too.’ I can have friendships. I can have hobbies. I can have a career. I can have happiness. Prior, I didn’t believe that was possible.”
The Next Chapter
So Justin had committed to Choice House and threw himself into the programs.
He had this all-or-nothing mindset that helped drive his addiction, but for now, it would serve him well as he worked on his sobriety. Fortunately, the longer he stayed, the more he learned about himself and the easier it became to find a healthier middle ground.
“I had alcoholic thinking,” he admits. “Either I was like, ‘F— that’ or I was all the way in.”
Now, he has the tools to recognize when he needs to pause and write some inventory before acting on something. He’s gained other insights, too, and has felt fortunate enough to be able to work on these things. “Other people aren’t granted that opportunity, especially at my age.”
But perhaps one of the most important takeaways was something that he learned from Jordan Hamilton, the executive director and co-owner of Choice House. In a meeting, he said that this program isn’t for people that really need it or people that really want it — instead, it’s a program that works for people that do it. That really resonated with Justin.
“I think that’s the most true thing I’ve ever heard in my sobriety,” he says. “Like, you can have all the realizations in the world that you want, but if you don’t work some sort of program that’s going to take a deeper look at your actions and your life and your disease, you’re gonna be back in the same spot. You gotta move your feet and get it done.”
Over the next year, Justin would do a complete 180 from when he first started rehab.
He’d rediscover his dreams, his passions and his identity, but he’d also become part of an amazing group of men that show up for each other.
“If you’re willing, Choice House creates a community for you. If you complete the full length of the program, there’ll be tons of people out there who have been through the same thing.”
The next chapter of his life was about to begin.