Mike L. graduated from Turnbridge’s extended care program on February 19, 2013. His journey over the past few years has been a difficult one, but he is now fully immersed in the recovery process and ready to proceed with his life. Following attempts at two different primary treatment centers in the northeast, he came to Turnbridge in New Haven and is currently planning his future while working as a member of the Phase I support staff.
Throughout high school and into his early college years, Mike was a passionate music fan. “All I really did was play drums in my band,” Mike said. “If I wasn’t doing that, I was going to see other bands.” When he was 17, Mike experienced the loss of a close friend in a drunk driving accident and the incident caused severe emotional stress that affected many facets of his life. “I lost all faith in God and my attitude changed toward the world in general.”
“Looking back, we partied a lot and it gave me a feeling of invincibility,” Mike said. “I thought nothing could touch me in high school.” After graduating from high school, he tried several different colleges but finished with “almost no credits to show for it.” At this point, Mike’s father told him to “go to work full-time, or move out.” His father’s friend owns an oyster boat business running out of the Long Island sound and he went to work. “It was always an option, but it was hard work and I wasn’t willing. When I failed at school my last semester, I gave up.”
Mike’s addiction to cocaine surfaced while he was working on the oyster boats. The long hours led to many late nights and Mike used the stimulating effects of cocaine to extend his after-work partying. “I was working about 65 hours a week,” Mike said. “Eventually the long hours, and the scenario of being on a boat all day, made me want to party that much harder when I got off. It felt like I earned it. The long hours led to cocaine use on the weekends so that I could drink more and stay up with my friends. I used it like clockwork on weekends for about a year.”
After a bad breakup with a girlfriend, Mike’s alcohol and cocaine abuse spiraled further out of control and he began using both on a daily basis to “numb the pain.” “I hid it from everybody,” Mike said. “My brother didn’t know, my parents didn’t know. One day my dad found an empty coke bag on top of my wallet in the basement from the night before. I denied and denied, but he was on alert after that.” When Mike’s original dealer went to jail, he began dabbling in inhalants and his father eventually found some leftover cans. “My parents were in shock, and upset they weren’t able to tell.”
Following the recommendation of a family friend, Mike initially tried a 28-day program in October 2011 but relapsed soon after leaving. He went back on Jan 1st, 2012, but relapsed again during a weekend visit home. After this, Mike entered a different program, and then found success in his original treatment center before graduating and coming straight to Turnbridge.
“The first time I was just going through the motions,” Mike said. “The second time I was willing. I listened and paid attention. I got something out of it but I wasn’t willing to change the people, places and things. I wasn’t really ready to let go of any of that. It wasn’t until things got really bad that I found any willingness, and a little is not enough. My last relapse scared the heck out of me. I didn’t really plan it; it just happened. There was no thought process, it was a compulsion. It showed me how really powerless I was.”
Mike’s family was introduced to Diana Clark, a therapist who presents family workshops at Center for Change. She recommended Turnbridge’s extended care program. “That probably saved my life,” Mike said. “I wouldn’t have stayed sober at the other program. I didn’t want to do it at first. I didn’t want to be here for a year but that year is what saved me.”
“At Turnbridge, there is much more involvement from the staff,” Mike said. “The length of stay definitely helps. If I hadn’t been here after eight months, I definitely would have relapsed. I had a hard time there between sponsors. I let it go longer than I should have and I wasn’t working my program to the best of my abilities. I was depressed and I hated everyone and everything. I bounced back and got a new sponsor between Phase II and III. I hit the ground running and everything has been great since. I’ve tried to change everything about my personality because it wasn’t working before. Now I have the motivation to do the best that I can at whatever I do.”
Since completing Turnbridge’s program, Mike has moved into the Harry Rosen House in New Haven. In the fall, he plans to return to college where he will study personal training and addiction counseling, two fields about which he is very passionate. In the meantime, he continues to work as a member of the Phase I support staff and one of his main goals is to remain self-supporting.