As The Recovery Village alumni coordinator, Christian helps people transition to a new way of life after addiction treatment — a journey that he had to navigate on his own.
Filling a Void, Fueling an Addiction
During his middle school years, Christian was acutely aware of an emptiness inside him. He felt different from his peers and struggled to relate to them. He felt that way until he discovered alcohol. “As soon as I felt any sort of alcohol in my system, I realized, ‘This is what’s been missing from my life,’” he said in an interview with The Recovery Village.
As he grew older, Christian’s drug use escalated from alcohol to marijuana and opiates, and he misused a variety of highly addictive substances. “I was using anything and everything that I could get my hands on,” Christian said. “It wasn’t about the substance, it was about the feeling.”
Although Christian misused numerous prescription drugs and illicit substances, alcohol was his undoing. “It was readily available and it was legal,” he said. “I knew I wouldn’t get arrested for having alcohol in my car, and I knew that if someone came to my house and saw it, they wouldn’t call the cops on me because it’s normal.” However, Christian’s alcohol use was far from typical, and his substance use disorder spiraled out of control.
“I would wake up, feel hopeless, try to change my behavior, and before I knew it, I was doing the same thing that I was before,” Christian said. “I thought that I would be better off if I just wouldn’t wake up.”
There is a stigma that addiction makes you less of a person, or that because you’re struggling with substance abuse that you’re morally deficient. Somewhere in my twisted thinking, I truly believed that.Christian, The Recovery Village Alumni Coordinator
For Christian, it took a drug overdose to realize that he couldn’t continue living with addiction. “I woke up in a hospital, strapped to a bed in the ICU,” he recalled. “There were multiple substances in my body and I was told that I had overdosed,” he said. “I remember seeing my dad there, who I hadn’t seen in a while. I saw the hurt on his face. It wasn’t that he was mad at me, it was that he was scared.”
The anguish on his father’s face matched the severity of Christian’s prognosis. “The doctors examined me and said that if I didn’t quit drinking I’d probably be dead or I’d have cancer in a couple years,” he said.
Even after the admonishment of the hospital staff, Christian wasn’t eager to go to treatment. “In the height of my addiction, I still thought I could do it on my own,” he explained. “I didn’t need treatment, I could just go to some meetings and I’d be fine, but it doesn’t work like that, and I didn’t understand that I couldn’t just stop.”
At the convincing of caring friends and family members, Christian decided that drug rehab was his best option. Upon checking in to The Recovery Village in Umatilla, Florida, Christian finally began healing from addiction, physically and mentally.
Rehab: A Constant Relearning Process
In treatment, everything changed for Christian, starting with how he got through the day. “I had to relearn how to wake up in the morning, brush my teeth and shower. A daily routine is something I never had before treatment, and The Recovery Village helped me find that,” he said.
During individual and group therapy sessions, Christian relearned how to think and behave. “The alcohol and drugs changed how I perceived the world,” he said. “I would think about something in a certain way and then I’d have to correct that, which took a lot of hard work,” he explained. “There were techs, counselors and even people in my programs who pointed out to me, ‘Hey I don’t think that’s the right way to think about this,’ or, ‘That wasn’t the best way to handle that situation.’”
Years after his treatment, Christian remembered the life-changing guidance of his counselors and peers. “One piece of advice that really stuck out to me was, ‘You can only coast downhill,’” he said. “To me, that meant, if I’m not actively putting work into making my life better and staying on this path, it’s only going to get worse.”
Today, as an alumnus of The Recovery Village, Christian shares this same advice with rehab graduates as the alumni coordinator.
A Guide for Alumni
When treatment ends, the transition back to independent living can be jarring. “When people are in treatment, they’re in a very controlled environment,” Christian said. “There are set wake-up times, meal times and group times. You go from this controlled environment that you’re comfortable in and next thing you know, you’re not there anymore, and that’s a big change.”
Christian eases this transition process for every new treatment graduate of The Recovery Village through offering advice, hope and guidance. Within 24 hours of a client’s discharge, Christian calls the new graduate and starts what becomes an ongoing conversation. Through these phone conversations, Christian ensures that alumni have set themselves up for success, are following their aftercare plan and are committed to their recovery goals.
Christian’s work as alumni coordinator is perhaps the most crucial when recovery is most challenging for alumni. “I know there will be situations when it’s hard to reach out,” he said. “It’s hard to tell a family member, friend or another person on your support team, ‘Hey, things aren’t going well,’” he said. “Alumni can come to me without judgment because I’ve been there, I’ve felt hopeless, I’ve relapsed, I’ve struggled. Alumni don’t have to worry about how I think of them changing.”
Take It From Christian: You’re Not Alone
If you struggle with a drug or alcohol use disorder, Christian wants you to know that you’re not alone, and that your recovery is possible. “It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, or that you’re a failure or that your family screwed you up. It means you need help,” he said. “There are people who care about you and want to see you grow. They may not be in your immediate circle, but there are people out there who care.”
To learn more about rehab or enroll in the same kind of treatment that Christian received, call The Recovery Village today at 352.771.2700 Many representatives are in recovery themselves and can guide you toward a program that meets your needs. The telephone call is toll-free, completely confidential and you don’t have to commit to a program to talk with someone who can help.
Want to Hear More Recovery Stories?
Listen to more testimonies of addiction, hope and healing from The Recovery Village staff and alumni through the YouTube series, “I’m Possible.”