Addiction Recovery – 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 because it’s real, it happens to real people, and it happens all the time.
It is my great pleasure to introduce today’s Face of Recovery…
Joshua Butcher Sharing His Story of Addiction Recovery
Like most teenagers, I was curious to experiment with drugs and alcohol in high school – but I didn’t expect this curiosity to completely flip my world upside down for the worst. For me, getting drunk and high made me feel bigger than life itself – and I couldn’t help but always crave more of that high.
I entered the world of substance experimentation at 15 when I had my first drink. After trying every liquor option, I moved onto drugs, such as smoking tobacco and marijuana. Marijuana, especially, was majorly abused when I was a teenager because it killed all my anxiety and completely wiped out my mind whenever I felt stressed or strangely alone in my thoughts. After a while, marijuana stopped satisfying me, and I went down the route of trying harder drugs to fuel depth of my highs: coke, ecstasy, and even a supply of Oxycontin made its way into my hands because I requested it under the prescription of a doctor to aid in some physical injuries I was recovering from. After I emptied the supply of medical opioids, I regularly bought heroin in the streets.
As you can see, I made one destructive choice after the other – and why? Well, I had nothing to lose, and there didn’t seem to be anything going for me. Therefore, I figured I might as well just stay in this “fun” phase until I was satisfied with it. But the truth was, I was never satisfied – I was addicted and spiraling without even realizing it. From 15 – 21, I was a heavy drinker, smoker, and abuser of every substance you can think of. I was arrested at least once every year, and I stopped caring about that too. Substance abuse frankly had some twisted sort of fun in the chaos of it all because getting high and drunk gave me a purpose – and that purpose was to simply survive another day.
It’s not that I was tormented with my life circumstances by any means, I just got caught up in the thrill-ride of drugs and craved substances like they were necessary for existence. If anything, I was just a kid who didn’t know any better, felt alone, got on the wrong path and consequently, followed it for too long. I was empty inside and needed to fill the void with something that felt substantial, and so I turned to alcohol and drugs.
Years of drinking and abuse blew up in my face once I found myself behind bars at 21, at the Franklin County Jail. I was found with pounds of heroin on my person and guilty of being under its influence while I was arrested. It’s the understatement of the year when I say being in jail was the worst 70 days of my life. Substance abuse can only numb you for so long until you’re dragged back to reality, kicking and screaming, and suddenly forced to confront every single thing you have done that made you end up at a breaking point.
After my 70-day sentence was up – by the grace of the universe – I was given a choice to either spend a decade of my life in prison or go into a rehabilitation program in Florida – and naturally, I chose Florida.
Initially, I thought I would hate rehab – but truthfully, I just hated myself for ending up there. But after a few days in the program, I knew I couldn’t always have an angry pity party for myself. Otherwise, I would go right back to my addictive habits. I needed to take a step forward into getting my life back. Eventually, I was able to break down so many walls about myself I wasn’t even aware of. I delved deep into my past and the sources of unhappiness that made me turn to drugs and alcohol in the first place. It made me question if I ever hated myself in the first place, or the quality of life I was living. Maybe, a part of me did hate myself because deep, deep down, I always thought I deserved better than what I was giving myself. I never had the motivation to do well in school, I acce’t stuck, I was just alone and unwilling to find what mattered to me.
Then, came the withdrawal period. You could not pay me all the money in the world to suffer it again. Detox was a painfully uncomfortable process. For months, I endured the physical pain of my body crying out for me to take drugs and drink again. I was constantly nauseous, my head would pound without mercy, and everything in my body felt cold and jittery. I was irritable and miserable every single day during that period, and nothing helped me except for accepting that I had to endure it to heal. I found it funny when I realized that your body is ironically not happy with you depriving it of substances. I had spent six years of my life dedicated to abusing them, and the consequences were not going to be kind to me – and neither did I expect them to be.
After I finished my rehabilitation program, I immediately decided that I wanted to open up a center dedicated to helping as many addicted individuals as possible. Addiction is a spiraling disease that drains people of life and happiness. Honestly, I thought if I could contribute something to this world and my town, it had to be giving the community my story and solutions. With them, I could steer others away from my path and devote my time to helping those who needed to recover and live their life again. This desire wasn’t established out of any obligation, I genuinely just felt so much empathy for those who shared my experiences that I wanted to take their pain away in any way that I could.
My experience in my past rehab program set the foundation for what the Ohio Addiction Recovery Center is today. Patients follow a long-term life-skill-based program that focuses on using community resources and utilizing personal skills to aid them in their journey of sobriety and most of all, encourage them to focus on better things and opportunities for the rest of their lives. We pride ourselves on the commitment and care we bring to our patients because we understand that rehab isn’t just a simple process of stopping drugs and moving on with life. It’s much more complicated than that, and it would be doing a disservice to look at it in such a basic manner. Everyone requires individual attention to get to the root cause of their addictions, confront the pains of their past, and take a step forward to a brighter future. Sobriety takes time, and recovering addicts need others to care about them and show that there truly is direction and purpose after addiction.
Addiction is an unfathomably dark place – but it isn’t an inescapable hole. One suffering addiction always has the ability and free will to tear themselves out of it and find the necessary tools to leave behind the past, cope with the present, and create a better future. People just have to be willing to find the light and wholeheartedly follow where it takes them.