Born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee a Pax IOP alumnus, whom we’ll call John Doe for the sake of anonymity, grew up in an affluent family. In high school, he was an all-American swimmer and attended the University of Georgia for undergrad and the University of Tennessee to get his MBA. While attending graduate school he lived with his then-girlfriend and eventually received a position as a Teaching Assistant for one of his professors, for which he received a stipend. According to him, this was when his partying worsened and his addiction starting surfacing. The position was initially supposed to be full time, but ended up only being about 10 hours a week, the unexpected idle time plus his regular income opened the door for excessive drinking and partying with no real consequences during the work/school week.
“I had a large flow of income at a young age. It was hard not to party”
What seemed to be the turning point in his addiction was during this time period he attended a wedding and had been drinking heavily, he fell and injured himself right after the wedding. Neglecting this injury led to a pretty serious infection that he eventually had to be admitted to the intensive care unit at a nearby hospital. While getting the infection treated he was put on intravenous opiate pain medication. This was his first exposure to opiates. During the month it took to heal from the infection he began to drink even more and started abusing his prescribed opiate medications. His problem with drinking and cocaine had suddenly morphed into a problem with opiates, which took him to rehab for the first time. Shortly after leaving that first rehab his opiate addition worsened.
Another mile marker in John’s addiction was when he was 29-years-old. He had been selling pills and was owed money from one of his customers who was also a friend. Subsequent to messaging the friend regarding the money he was owed John received a phone call alerting him of this friend’s suicide as well as the anger the family felt towards him. Scared and aware that his life was falling apart he called his father and asked for help, he then started attending a Suboxone clinic. This clinic allowed him to put together a few months of relative sobriety together before he met his next girlfriend and started working for State Farm. They were together for almost four years and towards the end, they started using speed together.
“She had children and I feel like I abandoned them when I overdosed and was released eight days later to go to another treatment center in Knoxville Tennessee.”
According to John, this round of rehab didn’t seem to help much as he relapsed with the first hour he was released. That’s when he decided to fly to southern California to attend treatment in Pasadena, California. It was there that he started working the program of Alcoholics Anonymous and was able to form a great life, but was missing the gratitude. Gratitude for AA and for the rehab in Pasadena that introduced him to AA was what was really missing from this now great life he was living. Throughout the next year and a half, John was in and out of various treatment centers in Pasadena and eventually was arrested on a five-day spree after having four months sober. Due to his prior arrest history, he received a two-year prison sentence. This was a new type of bottom for someone who thought they had already experienced desperation. His perspective is that find out what all of that truly meant he needed to be locked away from everything for two years. For him, the comfort of rehab wasn’t enough.
“On February 6, 2017, I caught the chain to the California Department of Corrections and that is where everything began to change for the better in my life.”
At the beginning of his sentence, he stayed sober mainly due to lack of access to drugs, but once it became accessible he says something divine allowed him to say no. From that point forward he began maintaining regular communication with his sponsor from the outside, prayed, and meditated daily. Today he is five months out of prison and says he is scared not to continue doing the work because he realizes how easily and how quickly his life could become what he had seen it become for so many of his fellow inmates. He faced the choice of surrendering to being a criminal and a junkie for the rest of his life or to lean the other way and ask for help and live a life beyond his wildest dreams. Halfway through his term, his life started to gain more purpose than ever before; he saw his mother more frequently that he had for the previous eight years of his life. The program allowed him to mature and grow immeasurably, even within the confines of steel bars. Gratitude has taken on a new definition for him these days, gratitude towards AA, rehab, and his current relationships, not to mention a place called Pax House.
“Upon release, I knew that my drug and alcohol treatment needed to continue and I reached out to Pax House and they accepted me into their outpatient program. I came out institutionalized and Pax House help tear down those walls for me and open up. It’s allowed me to be comfortable in the free world with compassion and friendships that I’ve never experienced before.”