Today’s Face of Recovery – please meet Gavin DeFreese!
There is a great deal of confusion, stigma, shame and discrimination surrounding addiction, addiction treatment and addiction recovery. Yet those who have the disease of addiction (whether to illegal or prescription drugs or alcohol) and are in recovery live healthy, productive, engaged lives — the same kinds of lives as people who do not have this disease. But all the words and definitions and explanations in the world are not as powerful as the people themselves. To that end, we are grateful to the people in recovery who have decided to share their experiences so that we all may put a Face to Addiction Recovery.
Addiction Recovery – It’s real, it happens to real people, and it happens all the time.
It is my great pleasure to introduce Gavin DeFreese, creator of the blog, The Discovering Alcoholic, and today’s Face of Recovery.
How did it start?
Romancing the Bottle would be a good title for the documentary of my young entry into addiction. Understandably I can remember more about obsessing over alcohol in my tweens than I can about my full fledged alcoholism. As a teenage binger, I doodled away the time in school with crude drawings of “partying” and in my free time became a skilled tracker and thief of the older delinquents’ beer stashes hidden out at rural hang and make-out spots. Between the idolization of 70’s style small town hooligans that I stalked and the manly beer culture of the South that kept me so fixated on alcohol, by high school I had literally decided to make a career out of being a drunk. I can point out many things in my early years and upbringing that may have attributed to my later addiction, but none can counter the sad fact that I was a self made drunk.
What was the turning point for you?
After turning eighteen and gaining the freedom to spectacularly screw up my life, I spent the next few years seriously applying my skills as hard drinker. By my mid twenties, I had achieved the bleeding ulcers and violent tremors of a chronic alcoholic twice my age. The turning point came when my hands were shaking so bad that I couldn’t write the check I was planning to bounce at one of the few convenience stores in the county where they weren’t already displayed. The clerk freaked out because she thought I was having an attack, in retrospect I guess I was. Homeless by choice, I retreated from the failed check attempt to a desolate camping spot to drink away my last alcohol and shoot myself. I was under the rock.
What was your initial treatment?
A tale that deserves more than just a paragraph, my father never gave up on me and was there to offer help at the point when my diseased brain could no longer manufacture an alternative reality. I was checked into an in-patient treatment facility for medically assisted detox and a formal rehab program. The detox saved my life. It’s unfortunate that I feel the same now as I did then that the only effective thing about the treatment program was that I was removed from my normal environment and regained enough sane introspection to jump start my sobriety.
Do you do anything differently, today?
I take part in far more formal recovery activities now than I did in early sobriety. After doing my 90 in 90 out of rehab I did not darken the AA doors again until many years later when I began helping others struggling with addiction. Other recovery activities include my blog discoveringalcoholic.com (now written primarily by TDA editor Screedler), I developed a non-step “recovery discovery” class and lead it most weekends at a local methadone clinic, and have worked with mental health services, schools, law enforcement, and drug courts on addiction and recovery outreach. The time I now spend in recovery activities though has no way interfered with living a full life- in fact, it empowers me.
What is your life like, now?
I’ll keep my career and work separate from this discussion other than to say that I enjoy my job and the opportunity it gives me to travel and experience new things. I’ll answer the rest about what my life is in recovery with the flash card method for brevity. Family * Marriage * Family + * Health * Cats * Stability * Confidence * Sushi * Triathlon * Marathon * Ironman * Bull Riding * Sky Diving * World Travel… I’ve got a lot more cards some good, some bad, but you get the point. Recovery really is empowering.
Do you have anything you’d like to share with someone currently struggling with a substance abuse problem or an addiction? How about anything you’d like to share with their family or friends?
For those struggling with addiction, simply stop drinking and using… there is no other way. No book, pill, method or madness will make it easy so take whatever help you can get and just commit to quit. It is a straightforward task, but most people will never fathom just how complicated this is considering the mental illness aspect of addiction.
For their family and friends, save yourself. If you truly want to help an addict then guard yourself from them and stay emotionally and financially secure. Don’t let them bleed you dry; remain strong because the day may come when they do need support in recovery and that is when you want to still have the desire and resources to help. Remember, nothing YOU can do will make them sober and anything that happens to them is THEIR fault.
Yeah, my answers may seem callous but there is no sense in sugar coating the subject. Alcoholics and addicts will take every bit of help you can give, and then take the rest as they sneak out the back door for a nip. Manipulation, prevarication, and selfishness are the top three traits of an addict and one must remain wary no matter how close of a friend or family member it is you are dealing with. Know the disease and protect yourself so that you may help when the time is right.
What is the best part about your recovery?
Thank you, Gavin, so very much for sharing your story, and CONGRATULATIONS on 19 years RECOVERY
To learn more about Gavin, please visit his top rated recovery blog covering alcoholism substance abuse, treatment and recovery issues, The Discovering Alcoholic.