How Justin Found Sobriety, Community and More at Choice House: Part 3
Some lessons in life we learn on our own. Others we discover by accident. But the best ones come from our friends, family and role models.
This is something Justin would come to learn during his time at Choice House.
He started his recovery journey skeptical, defiant and lost. He wasn’t sure who he was or what he wanted out of life, but with the help of his peers and mentors in the program, he’d begin to rediscover these things and put the pieces of himself back together again.
“I think an important part of my story is that I lost my sense of identity,” he says. “In treatment, I was able to look back and think about this stuff. That I found comfort in drugs and alcohol because it numbed me from the pain of my experience and losing my identity.”
His transformation, like so many others, began when he started to take a closer look at his behaviors and actions with a critical eye. But the real magic happened in group therapy.
“Group therapy is especially important because it builds a really strong community with the guys you’re in there with,” he explains. “You’re getting down to it in group and getting really serious and really vulnerable and that’s amazing. And then you turn around and go skiing outdoors together all afternoon, and it creates these bonds that are really unique.”
He’d come to see that when you’re willing to put in the work and share your experiences with others, a whole new world of connection, growth and opportunity becomes available to you.
And as he grew more confident in his sobriety, he’d sponsor other guys and pass on that knowledge, continuing the tradition of community and hope that Choice House is known for.
“That’s what makes Choice House different from all these other treatment centers,” he says. “If you’re willing, they create a community for you in this area. So when you get out, you know there are tons of people who are there for you.”
The Next Chapter
Since getting sober, Justin’s life has changed in ways he could never have imagined. He’s gone back to school, found a great job and reconciled with his family. All of these things and more have become not just possible, but a reality, because he has a supportive community and remains committed to his recovery.
“When I was in sober living, I started college and put a lot of work into it. And I was able to transfer to the University of Colorado, which is something I take a lot of pride in,” he beams. “I know I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I wasn’t sober. Like, no shot. My grades were so bad.”
He knows that getting his degree will provide him with even more opportunities, but he’s also excited to be working as an assistant golf professional at a nearby country club, something that he is deeply passionate about.
An avid golfer even before Choice House, he’s since reconnected with the sport and has hopes of turning it into a career someday. However, he didn’t always realize that you could do that without becoming a tour player.
“Turns out, there are lots of options in between being a caddie and Tiger Woods,” he laughs.
(Behind him, in his apartment, sits a cardboard cutout of Tiger Woods.)
One of the reasons that he likes golf so much is because it parallels sobriety. “You can’t go too high or too low because then you’re all over the place,” he explains. “And, you know, it requires some peace and serenity.”
He’s also happy with how things have turned out with his family.
“The relationship with my family has been amazing,” he says. “And my parents have done a really good job giving me more independence and trusting what I’m saying with less verification. And I think that’s a process that goes on for a while, but it’s moving in the right direction.”
All in all, Justin’s future is looking pretty bright, and he has a lot to look forward to. He also has a lot to be proud of. “All of this shows how far I’ve come in the last few years,” he notes. “Where before, I was literally at zero… and now I’m being trusted to do so many things. And people are thinking, like, ‘Justin can handle this,’ which has been really cool.”
A Helping Hand
Now that Justin has two years of sobriety under his belt, he uses what he’s learned from his friends, mentors and peers at Choice House to help others get to where he is today.
He knows that recovery doesn’t happen overnight, but that once it clicks, things begin to fall into place. At least, they will if you see it through long enough. But how do you convey that to someone who is still reeling from detox and pushing back against treatment?
“I sponsor guys now, and I’m compassionate because I get it,” he says. “They come in like, ‘I’m in rehab, my parents suck and this sucks and this sucks…’ and that was totally me. I relate to it because I was defiant too, the first time I tried to get sober.”
“But I wish I could slap them 8 months into the future,” he laughs. “Because that’s the hardest thing ever, in my opinion. To get someone who is like, a month or two sober, to see that their life is going to be amazing if they just shut up and work the steps for a year.”
Justin and the other alumni at Choice House are living proof that things do get better in recovery. The Boulder area is full of men who have graduated from the program and gone on to do great things, like going to college or starting new careers. “It’s created a really special group and connection of people in the area,” Justin says.
A lot of the recent alumni work there, too, which is something that he credits with helping him in the beginning of his own recovery.
“For me, it starts with seeing: OK, we can go snowboarding, we can go mountain biking and play golf… and this can be really fun, right? I can smile, I can laugh, I can have a good time. I have role models of guys who have gone through the program that I can look up to, who now live really cool, happy and sober fulfilling lives. It starts with seeing that’s possible.”
So like those before him, he leads by example.
“It’s cliché, but you have to take things one day at a time. If you think everything sucks today and it’s not worth it and you’re going to get loaded, I promise you tomorrow is gonna be worse. And if you’re an alcoholic of my variety, it’s going to get 10 times worse.”
He also continues to keep working a program and encouraging others to do the same. Because for him and many others, that’s one of the biggest determinants of long-term success in recovery.
“Treatment, in my opinion, keeps you sober for 90 days, but you don’t stay sober from treatment. That comes from outside. And for me, that’s AA. But you don’t find those programs unless you go to treatment and put yourself in a situation to realize that that’s what you want.”
It’s like the adage: you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.
“I stay sober with AA, but Choice House brings you as close to water as any place I could ever imagine,” he goes on to say. “And I think that’s what makes it so valuable. They give all these tools and they lower your level of care at a rate that makes sense and get you just about as close as you can get to drinking water.”
Something that his own sponsor said really helped drive this point home and resonated with him: That alcoholism is patient, so it’ll wait for you no matter how long you’ve been sober. And it’s progressive, so each time you go out, it’s going to get worse.
“I think that’s spot on,” he says.
Looking Toward the Future
Just a few years ago, Justin had a pretty serious drug and alcohol addiction. He was putting himself and others in danger, had alienated his friends and family, and landed in detox for the second time within months of his last stint after crashing his car on I-70.
Things weren’t looking good, and he stood on the precipice of a big decision: get sober or keep using and almost certainly die as a result.
But today, his life is much different. He took a leap of faith and decided to put his trust in the professionals at Choice House, who helped him get vulnerable and uncover the root of his substance abuse so he could finally be free from it.
Despite his initial protests, he’s grateful that he was given a second chance.
“What Choice House has provided me and what Alcoholics Anonymous has provided me, in terms of like, my own character development, is that I’ve been able to work through some stuff that other people aren’t granted the opportunity to, especially at my age,” he says.
So now, he looks toward the future with renewed hope and clarity. For a while, he had lost himself among his addiction, but has since reclaimed his identity and a sense of agency. And he has a clearer idea of what he wants his life to look like.
“I really love working in golf, the professional end of it, so I want to keep doing that,” he reveals. “Like eventually, I want to get into golf course property acquisitions and do that, which I think would be really cool. I think if I keep doing the work and what I need to do to stay sober, I’m gonna be able to accomplish that.”
Justin finishes his undergraduate degree this spring, so that goal will be within reach sooner rather than later. He also looks forward to spending more time with his family and continuing to repair his relationships. When he was still abusing drugs and alcohol, these things seemed impossible, but now he feels like he’s earned the progress that he’s made.
“The longer you do this, the more action over time… everything just keeps opening up and opening up. And it becomes easier to stay sober,” he says.
Choice House in Boulder, Colorado, is known throughout the area for helping men get sober and stay on the path of recovery with community, friendship and outdoor activities. Together, we work to uncover the underlying causes of addiction and mental illness to build healthier habits and behaviors that stick. Our long-term continuum of care spans a minimum of 90 days and is designed to lay a strong foundation for lasting recovery. If you or someone you care about is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse and you’d like to learn more, don’t hesitate to reach out to our admissions team for support and guidance. You can contact us by clicking here, calling 303-578-4473 or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.