Alumni Spotlight: He Played the Tape Through and Opted to Survive

2 min read · 3 sections

Faced with the prospect of staying at rock bottom and likely losing his life, Recovery First alumnus Jonathan managed to click on a switch. He grasped a tool he had received in treatment to help gain power over addiction. It wasn’t easy, but he “played the tape through.” He thought about his situation, what was happening, and would happen if he continued to abuse substances at the rate he was going. He envisioned frame after frame of cause and effect. When he saw the whole story, something miraculous took place. He “got” it. Then he went back to rehab, this time for real.

How did Jonathan get to this juncture? It’s a story. Rather, it’s a saga. The twists, turns, and ultimate sharp right turn are indeed interesting and inspirational.

A Promising Life Interrupted

Life started well 28 years ago for this south Florida man. Gifted intellectually and athletically, Jonathan breezed through his first 12 years, filled with accolades in the classroom and on the playing field. And at home too, where his parents worked hard and supported their son in all he did. Well, that is, until he started experimenting with drugs, which went from occasionally dabbling to frequently using by high school.

Other destructive behavior led to therapy and a diagnosis of general anxiety disorder and depression. Then came prescriptions for Xanax and Lexapro, some of which he sold to get money for his drugs of choice. Football? Forget that. All he wanted to do was party. But that circuit had problems of its own. Violence took the life of his best friend. Not knowing how to deal with that loss, Jonathan got twice as high – his go-to response.

Through this all, Jonathan did not receive any harsh consequences. He managed to string together enough good days to pass his courses. And although his grade point average was below-average, his excellent standardized test scores got him into the University of North Florida.

Jonathan put in two years at college, where, as he describes it, “I partied my ass off there.” He went doctor shopping in the area to get Rx’s to convert into product to sell. That fed his cocaine habit and showered him with other favorites. Unsurprisingly, he ended up on academic probation. When his parents visited and saw disarray and paraphernalia everywhere, they demanded he return home.

Did that help? Not! Although he bartended and waited on tables, life unraveled in the off hours. He ended up hospitalized three times for panic attacks while on Xanax. When he was discharged, Jonathan stole money and jewelry from home to buy drugs. He was, in his words, “not present in life” and obsessed over one issue: Where would the next fix would come from?

Awakening from the Haze

After a hurricane hit south Florida in the fall of 2017, Jonathan began to lose ground. In a case of mistaken identity over drugs, he found himself with a gun pointed at his head. But like other times, he eluded immediate harm. Yet, over the winter, he began to isolate himself. He asked himself why these things were happening? He didn’t have a drug problem. He had a drug dealer problem. When his girlfriend and parents confronted him, he thought it was their problem, not his. Then the final straw occurred. In February 2018, a shooting at Marjory Douglas High School, Jonathan’s alma mater, claimed many lives. As he attended funeral after funeral, Jonathan felt crushed, victimized, and lost complete control. He drove his car, ran out of gas, fell asleep somewhere, and called his mother for help. Reluctantly, under pressure, he agreed to go to Recovery First.

He went for his parents and his girlfriend – not for himself. He was “just there,” he says, not committed and not honest. “My way was the right way,” he claimed and “I didn’t fully surrender.” Nevertheless, he realized this rehab was “amazing,” “safe,” and the staff “truly cared.” After 60 days, he left treatment. But did he follow through, as instructed? No! No fellowship, no meetings, no take up on suggestions and tools.

Three weeks later, he was abusing substances worse than he ever had before. Only this time it was different. After playing the tape through, he arrived at a new understanding. He had no power over his addiction and no good could come of it. He returned to Recovery First for the right reasons and with the right mindset.

The Right Mindset

Detox began on July 30, 2018, at Recovery First. After three days, he transitioned to residential treatment and, 10 days later, he started the 60-day partial hospitalization program. “I did it 100 percent for me,” he explains, and understood “I’m in a place where people can help me.” He went to every session, learned all of the tools, attended spiritual workshops and yoga, accepted different views, and addressed a lot of grief. Through process work, he recognized “using drugs is a symptom of a larger problem.”

He asked questions and listened. What are the best ways to handle recovery? How do you refrain from taking drugs? Recovery First helped him see the possibilities of staying clean and ways to do it. He changed his cell phone number to cut ties to the past and start life anew. He joined the alumni society and is an active member. He also serves as a facilitator to help others who struggle.

On July 30, 2019, Jonathan received his one-year medallion. His father presented it to him at a 12-step fellowship meeting. Many from Recovery First were there too. He’s made amends with his family, his partner, and continues to work the steps. “Get out of your own way,” he advises. “Listen to others who are schooled. Don’t rob yourself of a better life.”


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