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Alumni Weekend 2019 Speakers

Three alumni of Oxford Treatment Center will share their stories as part of the 2019 Anniversary Weekend.

On Saturday, Sept. 28, alumni and their families will gather at Oxford Treatment Center’s Etta campus for a day of tours, speakers and experiential therapy demonstrations for registered alumni and their guests.

Register Now

 Holly P.

Sharing a message of hope is the goal for Holly P., as she offers her story as part of 2019 Alumni Weekend.

Holly P.

“When you tell your story, it’s an act of service, and you never say no,” Holly said. “Something you can say can reach that one person. Maybe there is someone else out there like me: I want them to know they are not alone.”

Who I was then feels like a whole other person ago.

With substance-abuse problems stretching back even earlier than her teens, Holly was facing legal charges stemming from stolen prescriptions when she agreed to get help. She began her recovery in 2016 at Oxford Treatment Center.

Today she is a lead clinical assistant at Stonewater Adolescent Recovery Center, a treatment center for adolescent males located in Oxford.

“Who I was then feels like a whole other person ago,” she said.

“I used to feel unlovable. I would just cover up my feelings. Today, I am going to therapy and working a program. Overall I am more positive. I realized feelings are not going to kill me, and if I just don’t use, things are going to be okay.”

As alumni and their family gather for the weekend, Holly says it is important to recognize the role of families in recovery and the journey they also face due to addiction.

“In my own family, our relationships have changed completely,” she said. “We did not have a relationship even before I began using drugs, but now we do.

“I have learned how to communicate and express my feelings better. I have also learned that the way that I feel is not my fault — but that healing is my responsibility.”

Her message to others still struggling? Don’t give up. “Hold on,” she said. It’s not going to be pleasant, but it will pay off.”

 

Justin G.

Five years ago Justin G. was a completely different person — struggling with addiction, but dedicated to turning his life around.

Justin G.

I went in with the mindset that I will do whatever I need to do to get clean.

After he received a concerned warning about his addiction from his work, he decided to enter treatment. He arrived at Oxford Treatment Center’s residential campus in summer 2014.

“I went in with the mindset that I will do whatever I need to do to get clean,” he said. “I lost my job in treatment but stuck with the program. I even stayed another 60 days after I realized I was not ready to go home.”

Justin said his family has always been important to his recovery journey. He said he was motivated by his two children and supported by his parents, who helped care for the children while he was in treatment.

Since he left Oxford Treatment Center, Justin has reoriented his life around ways to give back and support others. He serves as a volunteer firefighter and is involved in various community support groups for those in recovery.

“I am always reaching out to others who are struggling,” Justin said. “If I can help someone that does not have much time in recovery, I try. And I am still learning and listening to those who have more time.”

Justin will share his story at Oxford Treatment Center’s Alumni Weekend Sept. 28. He says his message will be about the opportunity that came about through his sobriety.

Today, he is a manager in agricultural retail and active in statewide professional associations. He says he met his wife after a year and half of being clean.

Justin said he has seen a huge transformation in himself and in the relationships he has with his family.

“I am able to be there for my family more and be a better role model for my children,” Justin said. “I help with school work, coach peewee football — those things are a lot more rewarding than the life I lived before.”

 

Carol M.

As Oxford Treatment Center alumni gather for 2019 Alumni Weekend, Carol M.’s goal is to help others feel empowered through their story and to find support through community.

Recovery is possible for anyone.

Carol M.

Carol, a Nashville native whose journey to recovery began five years ago at Oxford Treatment Center, said she decided to remain in Oxford due to its active recovery community.

“Towards the end of my stay in sober living, I had made friends and connections in Oxford and began to become more involved with meetings and the larger recovery community here,” she said. “For me, Oxford was a safe place. It would have been hard to leave.”

Carol remains active in the Oxford recovery community.  She attends meetings, sponsors others, participates in recovery programs, and is a frequent speaker on the topic of addiction and recovery.

“I try to be open about my story and not keep it a secret,” she said. “I think that helps to work towards breaking the stigma and embarrassment that comes with addiction. It also opens doors for others when they need someone to reach out to.”

As someone who herself walks daily in recovery and alongside others, Carol said she wants to encourage others that their recovery is possible too.

“I did not have any hope before. I did not think healing was possible,” she said. “It does not have to end like that. Recovery is possible for anyone.”

When Carol decided to seek treatment, she said, she had lost hope in her future and in any chance at recovery. She was facing a failed drug screen and time in jail.

“I had given up on hope of a family and any relationship with my own family,” she said. “When I entered Oxford Treatment Center, I did not care about getting clean. I was more motivated to avoid jail.”

The fear of living life sober was as frightening to her as time behind bars.

“I was terrified when I entered treatment,” she said. “I did not know what my life would be like not using — being clean. I didn’t think I could do it.”

Carol said that the efforts made by the clinical team at Oxford Treatment Center slowly changed her entire thought process towards her addiction.

“I grew up knowing what alcoholism was, but I had never been taught about how it is a disease as real as any other disease,” Carol said. “At Oxford Treatment Center, it was broken down to us every single day.”

With the fear of sobriety replaced with understanding, Carol said that she remembers the day her hope returned and she realized her recovery was possible.

“I remember going through stages where I blamed everyone else,” she said. “But then I remember one day sitting in a lecture while in treatment and realizing: Maybe it is me. Maybe I am just too scared to quit, and maybe I really can stop if I try.”

Today, Carol said she lives without the fear and hopelessness she thought she would never escape when she was in addiction.

“A lot has changed,” she said. “The way I carry and care about myself is totally new.”

She said her sense of compassion, taken from her by addiction, has now returned.

“Caring for others has always been important to me, but I was not capable of doing that when I was using,” she said. “Today, I have that back.”

 

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Oxford Treatment Center is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed... Read More

Alumni meetings dive deep into recovery experience

two men in foreground listening to Amy Woodward discussing to her message on parenting in recovery.

Oxford Treatment Center residents and alumni listen as Amy Woodward, CADC, speaks at Oxford Treatment Center’s May Alumni meeting which focused on parenting in recovery.

Topical programs focus on a specific life skill each month

 It’s the first Friday of the month and more than 15 people have gathered for Oxford Treatment Center’s Alumni meeting. The topic: Being a parent when you’re in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction.

The meeting begins with a reflection on each participant’s relationship with their children. The stories are hard, but the group listens intently and each member thanks another for sharing.

For Ashley*, this spring marks the first time she has been clean and able to see her children in years. She cries as she discusses the future of her relationship with her children. “I do have hope today,” she says, “whereas I did not before.”

If love was enough, none of us would be here.

Throughout the conversation is a common theme: “I love my children with all my heart. So why could I not stop using drugs for them?”

“If love was enough, none of us would be here,” said Amy Woodward, CADC, a clinical consultant and co-director of Oxford Treatment Center’s programming for alumni. In facilitating the May meeting, she affirmed to the group the nature of drug and alcohol addiction as a disease.

“If love alone could give us the power to stop using, there would be no such thing as addiction,” she said. “The love we have for our families can propel us take the first step to get help. But it’s very difficult as a parent to realize you may have to step away from your family for a while, to get a strong start in recovery and become the healthy parent you want to be.”

Supporting people as they navigate the many challenges of early recovery has been the goal as Oxford Treatment Center redesigned its programs for alumni this winter. Rather than offering generalized support, monthly alumni meetings are now focused around a theme.

4 meeting topics in a grid format

Monthly Alumni meetings at Oxford Treatment Center now focus on practical themes for life in recovery. For 2019, meeting topics have included money management (March), health and fitness (April) and parenting in recovery (May). The June Alumni meeting will focus on how to have fun while in recovery.

Brian Whisenant, director of community relations and a co-director of alumni programs, said the shift has made meetings more beneficial for alumni and kept more people involved.

“We want people who attend these meetings to be able to leave with something that can improve their everyday life,” Whisenant said. “We’ve already had talks on money management and health and fitness. Even topics such as how to have fun in recovery invite lots of sharing and practical takeaways.”

In focusing on health and fitness during the month of April, Whisenant brought in a caterer to make a healthy meal and show participants how to do that on a limited budget. That gathering also focused on exercise and the importance of going to a doctor in addition to maintaining mental health.

“I look at the needs of the recovery community, and then we find ways to address them through this programming,” Whisenant said. “I also look at what would’ve helped me in early recovery and bring those discussions to these alumni meetings.”

Even topics like parenting can prove engaging for a broader group than one might think. At the May meeting, John* shared that he does not have children — but that, in recovery, he can now imagine a future with a family.

“I could not even think about having anyone else around me before,” he said. “But now, I hope to have a wife, to have kids one day.”

Ben*, who is continuing in outpatient treatment while living at Oxford Treatment Center’s Resolutions campus, spent most of the meeting listening quietly before revealing how much the discussion had impacted him.

“I want to share with everyone I just found out that I am going to be a dad,” he told the group, which responded with cheers. “You all have given me hope. I know that part of making myself into a better dad is to be here, building my recovery.”

Next month’s topic will be on having fun in recovery and will be held at Oxford Treatment Center’s Resolutions campus on June 7. To learn about upcoming events, follow Oxford Treatment Center on social media.

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Oxford Treatment Center is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed... Read More

Alumni Weekend 2019: Food, Fun and Fellowship

Make plans to join us for the annual alumni weekend this September

Continuing an annual tradition, Oxford Treatment Center alumni and their families are invited to a casual gathering of food, fun and fellowship on Saturday, Sept. 28.

For 2019, Alumni Weekend will be held at the residential campus in Etta, MS, from 1-4 p.m. Alumni and their families will enjoy fellowship, experiential activities and speakers. Oxford Treatment Center Executive Chef Moulay Elabdellaoui and his staff will serve Southern-style cuisine.

Register Here

“…it’s important for us to host weekends like this not only for our alumni but also for the people who’ve been their support system.”

Alumni Weekend 2019 is designed to welcome alumni and their families back to the Etta campus. The weekend aims to highlight the important role of families in a person’s recovery from addiction, said Brian Whisenant, Director of Community Relations.

“We say often that addiction is a family disease — but recovery involves the whole family, too,” he said. “That’s why it’s important for us to host weekends like this not only for our alumni but also for the people who’ve been their support system.”

Experiential therapists will be on hand to offer experiences in art, music, yoga and equine therapy that those in recovery took part in while in treatment.

“For our alumni, it’s often meaningful to bring their loved ones back to the place where their recovery began,” Whisenant said. “They’ve come this far in their recovery because of the support of their family and friends. Being able to reflect on how far they have come is truly an exercise in gratitude.”

Register Here

 

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Oxford Treatment Center is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed... Read More

Alumni return for Anniversary Weekend

Therapist Marty Murray leads an equine therapy demonstration as part of 2017 Anniversary Weekend

“This is sacred ground for me.”

 

More than 250 people came together May 6 for Oxford Treatment Center’s 2017 Anniversary Weekend. The event celebrated the center’s first five years of helping people overcome drug and alcohol addiction.

Alumni, families and staff share a mindfulness experience at the labyrinth

 The day included a chance for alumni to share their recovery stories with each other and with those currently undergoing treatment at the center.

The 110-acre campus northeastern Lafayette County is home to Oxford Treatment Center’s medical detox and residential programs. After recent expansions, it can now provide care for as many as 124 people at a time. Today, some 80 percent of patients come from out-of-state through parent company American Addiction Centers.

Billy Young, CEO, said the center’s growth and success in its first five years is due to the quality of its staff. Oxford Treatment Center employs more than 135 people in four locations, including outpatient offices in Oxford, Tupelo and Olive Branch.

“Our staff at every level share a commitment to helping people build new lives in recovery,” Young said. “From nursing and clinical care, to food service and grounds-keeping, they care deeply about our mission and apply excellence in what they do.”

David P. shares his story as the evening speaker at the 2017 Anniversary Weekend

As part of Anniversary Weekend, staff members had a chance to visit with returning alumni and their families. Counselor Jacques “J.W.” Wuichet said the chance to reconnect was rewarding.

“A lot of times, we don’t get to see the end of our work,” he said.

“When people come back, it does my heart good to see that they’re doing well and took the time to come and tell us so.”

The anniversary event gave returning alumni a chance to see new additions to the campus, including a tour of the new 12-Step Walk by landscape designer Bill Hewitt with Experiential Therapist Hank Holmes. The tour offered each person a chance to reflect upon his or her progress along the 12-Step path of recovery, and to experience the adjacent low-ropes challenge course.

Alumni and their families also had the opportunity to take part in an art therapy session with Art Therapist Eden Flora, ATR; a mindfulness session with Experiential Therapist Meaghan O’Connor, M.Ed., NCC, and Recreation Therapist Katie Kowalke, CTRS; and an equine therapy demonstration by Marty Murray and Greg Davis.

The day included both lunch and dinner served under a white tent at the side of the lake. Staff and returning alumni shared meals with their families and with those currently in treatment at the center.

The Wilburs entertained with an evening performance under the tent

Returning to the center with 18 months’ clean time behind her, Jami L. and her husband drove from Colorado and helped out as volunteers at the event.

For Jami, the trek fulfilled a personal promise. During the last alumni reunion, she was in the detox unit and could hear the music where she lay sick in bed. She promised herself and her counselors that if she reached one year clean, she’d be back for the next reunion.

“This place saved my life — gave me a new life, actually,” Jami said. Since returning home, she has become active in her local recovery community, volunteering to lead meetings for people in jail and helping to plan an upcoming regional recovery conference in Estes Park, Colo. She’s now preparing to start nursing school.

Sarah P., who spoke as part of the event program, said her time on the Etta campus in 2012 allowed her to see how her addiction had impacted her family. Today, she’s active in the Memphis, Tenn. recovery community and helps other women work the 12 Steps as a sponsor.

“It was very ugly before I came here,” she said. “Today, it’s the flip side of the coin. Life is a beautiful thing.”

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Oxford Treatment Center is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed... Read More

A Long Surrender: David P.’s Story

Recovery Reflections from our 2017 Alumni Weekend Evening Speaker

David P. spent more than two decades in recovery circles before finally surrendering to the program. He will share his experience as the evening speaker at the 2017 Anniversary Weekend, set for May 6 on the Etta campus.

I went to my first meeting on Jan. 8, 1988. Today I have four years sober.

I was in and out of AA meetings over the last 25 years before I finally surrendered. It was after marrying the love of my life and having a beautiful boy that I was able to see the truth: That I would drink again and destroy my family before it had even really started. It wasn’t a matter of “if” that would happen; It was a matter of “when.”

I made a decision to go through the AA Big Book and work the 12 Steps. I had tried so many other methods to stay sober and live successfully. The message I want to share is this: All those other methods failed to produce the desired result.

Our Book tells 100 percent of the facts about my life, mind and spiritual condition. That is what I either failed to grasp (illusion) or was in complete denial about (dishonesty) — probably a good mix of both.

The truth is that I had no clue what it really meant to be alcoholic. I thought it was just about drinking or not drinking. I found out, through honestly looking at my experience with life, that I was alcoholic before I ever took my first drink.

I also found out that our 12 Steps — and the Power that we find as the result of working them — will solve much more than the drinking problem.

As the Book says in Bill’s Story: “I would have the elements of a way of life which answered all my problems.”

 

Hear David P. share his story as part of Oxford Treatment Center’s 2017 Anniversary Weekend, Saturday, May 6 on the Etta campus.

View the complete schedule and register

 

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Oxford Treatment Center is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed... Read More

Listen Again to Reifers’ Most Requested Talks

garry-reifers-presentation-800

At the request of our alumni, families, staff and administration, Oxford Treatment Center shares three key presentations by our most respected addiction educator.

Garry Reifers, founding program director of Oxford Treatment Center, distilled his teaching for a three-part workshop in January in Olive Branch, Miss. Videographers provided by Oxford Treatment Center’s parent company, American Addiction Centers, were on hand to capture the presentations.

Those attending the workshop included mental health professionals as well as Oxford Center alumni and family members from the greater Memphis, Tenn. area. One mother drove 50 miles from her home north of Memphis to attend.

“I was in a state of shock the first time I heard Garry speak,” she said, recalling the Intensive Family Therapy Program session she attended for her daughter in 2013. “He had a very positive influence on my daughter. Having the chance to hear him again was very helpful.”

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Part 1: “The Hijacking of the Brain”

Reifers connects his clinical observations to current theories on the brain science of addiction. Addiction is believed to trigger a conflict between two parts of the brain: The prefrontal cortex, where choices are made based on values and priorities, and the midbrain, which is hardwired for survival. Through a process that is not yet understood by science, addiction causes the midbrain to associate one’s drug of choice with survival. (84 min.)

 

 

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Part 2: “The Power of Denial”

While those in addiction will lie freely, there is a different reason why they seem to believe many of the preposterous things they say. Denial provides as a delusional perception of reality for those in addiction. It is an automatic, unconscious response to the conflict between what one believes is the right thing to do and what one actually does. Reifers explains the process of denial and how therapists can begin to overcome it through addiction treatment. (84 min.)

 

 

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Part 3: “Recovering Reality”

Adapting the Feeling Chart developed by interventionist Vernon Johnson, Reifers reveals emotional predisposition as one aspect of why some people are prone to addiction while others are not. He explains how the process of working a 12-step program can overcome the cycle of addiction and relapse — slowly, gradually — by moving someone up the scale toward happiness and even peace. (75 min.)

 

 

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About Garry Reifers

Focused today on training and education, Garry developed the clinical content of Oxford Treatment Center’s residential program and provided supervision for all counselors and therapists.

A 30-year veteran of the substance abuse treatment field, Garry served as Program Director for The Haven House in Oxford from 2000-12. There, he worked to transform the size and scope of the program and was instrumental in creating the first medically assisted detoxification program for a Mississippi Department of Mental Health substance abuse treatment program.

Read moreGarry Reifers Caps Respected Career (Jan. 2015)

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About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Oxford Treatment Center is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed... Read More

Return to OC Campus: A Time to Reflect

First-ever Alumni Reunion brought together 200 people in a remarkable recovery community

 

Angela and Sam Davis

Angela and Sam Davis

Sam Davis drove slowly as the rolling hills unfolded before him, the short-leaf pines waving gently overhead as the gravel crunched beneath his tires. From the passenger seat, his wife Angela had to smile as she watched him soak in the scene.

“Riding down here, I was so giddy,” said Davis, who made the drive from Memphis, Tenn., to share his story as part of Oxford Treatment Center’s 2015 Alumni Reunion.

“My wife says, ‘Look at you!’ But I told her: ‘This place saved my life.’ If you’re sinking on the Titanic and somebody reaches out to pull you up, you’re going to remember that person and that moment for the rest of your life. That’s what Oxford Treatment Center is to me.”

It had been more than three years since Davis came to Oxford Treatment Center to receive treatment for opiate addiction. He’d been through another detox program six times before he found Oxford Treatment Center online. Here, unlocking the emotional and spiritual issues behind the physical dependency made the difference.

“My brother was killed while I was in prison, and I had never dealt with that loss,” Davis said. “I had always just medicated, medicated. I had to be so tough for the world.”

Davis credits sessions with Clinical Therapist Barry Doughty, ICADC, for allowing him to break through his hardened grief and pain. During his stay at Oxford Treatment Center, Davis spent time beside the lake working on the assignments Doughty gave him.

“I was able to release all of that built-up frustration,” he said. “Then I started working on me — working the program, working the steps. As soon as I got out, I started going to NA meetings. The desire to use started slowly leaving. Life is so good today.”

“If you’re sinking on the Titanic and somebody reaches out to pull you up, you’re going to remember that person and that moment for the rest of your life. That’s what Oxford Treatment Center is to me.”

Hearing Davis and other alumni share their stories of struggles, success and hope were among the highlights as some 200 people gathered for Oxford Treatment Center’s first-ever Alumni Reunion on Saturday, Nov. 14. The event brought together staff and alumni alongside current patients in Oxford Treatment Center’s residential and sober living programs.

“A gathering like this offers a time to come together and reflect — and find motivation to move forward in your journey,” said Billy Young, CEO and founding partner of Oxford Treatment Center. “Our goal when we opened Oxford Treatment Center was to provide a place where people could step out of the insanity of their life in active addiction and hopefully choose recovery. For our current patients to meet our alumni and hear their stories, it lends weight to what we are telling them: When you make a commitment to living abstinently and living by spiritual principles, things will get better.”

rock circle with people walking throughIn addition to alumni stories, the full-day event on the residential campus offered opportunities to enjoy horseback riding, ropes-course sessions, fishing and art. Alumni had the chance to check out new features to the campus such as the labyrinth walk, and spent plenty of time just catching up with staff and fellow alumni.

Oxford Treatment Center’s dietary team led by Brandi Lowe served breakfast, lunch and dinner to the entire group at the reunion tent, situated across the lake from the main lodge. Head cook Charles Smith tended the smoker from sunrise to suppertime, yielding fall-apart-perfect barbecued ribs and smoked chicken quarters.

During the day, Nashville-based singer-songwriter John McAndrew connected with alumni and patients through songs like “If You Can’t Forgive” — inspired by the spiritual awakening in his own recovery. In his main set and in a separate session devoted to current patients, he engaged the group with ease as patients jumped in to form a volunteer backup choir and staged an impromptu talent show.

“For so many people who have come to us for treatment, it’s been a long time since they’ve had fun sober,” said Garry Reifers, founding program director at Oxford Treatment Center. “Having experiences like these give them a new idea of what life can be like in recovery.”

mark-lundholmLikewise, an evening session with comedian Mark Lundholm — relocated to the main lodge as the temperature dropped — had the entire room rolling. “I get to take toxic topics and put them in a funnel and they come out funny — and safe to talk about,” said Lundholm, whose verbal dance of gags, jabs and insights was a fast-moving blur.

“This place will hand you a new map, and you won’t like it,” he told current patients. “You’ll never argue with your dealer, but you’ll argue with your healer. Never ask your dealer for a bill of sale or a resume, do ya? But you’re gonna ask a counselor for their credentials: ‘Did you ever go to jail? I don’t trust you if you didn’t go to jail. What do you know?’ ‘How not to go to jail.’ ‘Oh.’”

Lundholm pointed back to the irony of resisting help several times in his routine. He wrapped up by saying he’d take questions — then suggested the therapists on staff would be better qualified. “There’s experts here,” he said. “This is what they do, treat people who don’t want to get treated. They’re the ones to ask. This is the last time you’ve ever got to start over. Happy birthday.”

“This is the last time you’ve ever got to start over. Happy birthday.”

man tending to campfire
At the close of the event, current patients gathered around a bonfire to toast marshmallows and symbolically toss any resentments or bitterness into the flickering flames. The fire’s warmth was a welcome end to the chilly evening, after the gathering had enjoyed a day of pleasantly cool fall weather.

Visiting Oxford Treatment Center for the first time, McAndrew was struck by the peace and beauty that its environment offers those seeking recovery. “Places like this are a treasure for this part of the country,” he said. “Just think of the families of all the people who’ve been through this facility. This place creates a ripple that goes out in circles, further and further.”

pavilion on edge of lakeThat’s been true for Davis, the alumnus from Memphis who drove down with his wife. Since his 45-day stay at Oxford Treatment Center in the fall of 2012, he’s gone on to receive his own counseling license and launch a program for at-risk kids.

“I’d tried to start the program in 2010, but I was still battling drugs,” he said. “My life was in shambles. My wife had divorced me. I had cases in court, and I knew I had to get my life right. I thought there was no hope for me, but when I came here, I found the spiritual experience I needed.”

Today, Davis continues to attend NA meetings and work the steps. He leads Memphis Youth Kings, a program that involves some 130 kids in sports as an alternative to life on the streets. “I’m out in the public now,” he said. “I’m out doing what I want to be doing. I’m making a difference every day, and it’s all because of Oxford Treatment Center.”

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Oxford Treatment Center is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed... Read More

‘This Place Saved My Life’ | Portraits of Recovery


Six Oxford Center alumni in early recovery share their stories

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It’s kind of weird to be back here. Since I left, I’ve been doing IOP, going to NA meetings. I got a sponsor, and I’m working the steps. Just staying plugged into the program. Just working the program. ‘Cause they say if you don’t work the program, you’ll die. And I strongly believe that.

When I was 7 years old, my mom and dad split. That night, I saw some things I wish I never would have seen. It’s kind of engraved in my head, seeing my dad point a gun at me and my mom, then at himself. I didn’t see my dad for another three years.

I took my first sip of alcohol at 13, and from that point I was pretty much an alcoholic. My step-father would discipline me by beating me with a belt buckle. I would wake up the next morning with bruises and sores where it had cut me open. I remember sitting at the kitchen table with him, joking around. Then all of a sudden he’s like, ‘No, you shut up.’ Next thing I know, I’m getting punched in the mouth.

I started smoking pot. I’d get high and not have to think about my problems. When I was 15, my mom and him went out of town for the weekend, and I threw this big party. That’s when I tried cocaine for the first time. I just absolutely fell in love with it. I began to use cocaine on a daily basis. We didn’t live but two blocks from the projects, so that’s where I would go to hang out. I got into the gang-banging lifestyle — selling drugs, carrying a gun sometimes.

When they found drugs in my room, and they told me my dad was coming to get me. So I went to live with him. I felt like my mom had abandoned me, ‘cause I’d always been there for her, protected her. So I got this resentment against her. I went into this I-don’t-care mode. I don’t care if I live or die, or make it to the next day. Each time I changed schools, I tried to make new friends. I thought it could be a fresh start. But it was always the same. I didn’t fit in. So I reverted back to the same people I always did — the druggies. You can always pick them out.

 

“I’d get high and not have to think about my problems.”

 

The first time I tried crystal meth, it changed my whole life. It became the only drug I ever truly thought that I had to have. That’s the way I lived for two or three years. I was smoking crystal meth just about every day, but still to an extent where I could hide it from people. Just enough to get me by.

When I met my wife now, I hid it from her a long time, until we moved in together. I got to where I was doing more cocaine than I could really afford. But every time I’d give it up, I got sick. Then someone taught me how to cook crystal meth, and that began a downward spiral I’ll never forget — robbing people, going to certain lengths to get the things I want. Things I thought I would never do.

About five years into our marriage, we had a miscarriage. Instead of being there for her like I should have been — like a good husband would have — I was more worried about getting high. I was isolating myself and burying emotions inside myself, which made me an angry person over the years. I was holding resentments against people I should have.

We had our little boy, and then we had a little girl. When she was pregnant, I was cheating on her. I was doing my drug of choice, crystal meth, but I was also smoking pot, taking pills, basically whatever I could get my hands on. By that point, my addiction was full-blown.

My wife told me if I wanted to stick around, I had to get clean. At that time, I didn’t know about these rehab facilities. I didn’t know about these meetings or the AA program. I just said, “OK, I’ll do that.” So I switched jobs, got clean. I white-knuckled it for six months. I started back smoking pot, thinking it’s no big thing. It was once a month, then once every couple of weeks, once a week, once a day, twice a day. Then that’s not good enough. I got introduced to crystal meth again. I was drinking, smoking, taking pills, tripping acid — all of this at the same time. I mean, doing all these combinations, I should be dead. Meanwhile, another girl starts talking to me.

 

“I was going to die if I didn’t get help.”

 

hen I’m clean, I don’t think about nothing but my wife, my kids, and how I can better my relationship with them. ‘Cause my wife is like an angel sent from God to me. She has always saved me from everything I have done. I know if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here today. But this whole time, I’m talking to this girl and doing these drugs, because all these things from the past are going through my head and I don’t want to think about that stuff.

We split up, and for six weeks, my addiction spiraled out of control. I’m selling drugs to support my habit. My uncle’s letting me live in his house for free, because otherwise, everybody knows I’d be living in my truck. I’d give my wife a little child support money we agreed on, but everything else is going toward my addiction.

Then — I don’t know why, but I think it was my Higher Power working, who I choose to call God — she called me and told me she wanted to work things out. I told her I needed help, and she knew it. She could see it in my physical body: I was going to die if I didn’t get help.

I got to Oxford Treatment Center through a referral from my job. Things look different for me now. I have a sense of enjoyment now. I think for once in 18 years, I am happy. For once in my marriage, I am happy, content. My wife and I are closer than we’ve ever been. In February, we will be married 12 years. I feel like a changed person. When I was doing drugs, I was a self-centered person. It’s all about me, or it’s nothing. Now, I put other people first.


 

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I don’t think I’ll ever know what it means to be truly serene. But I’m at a level of comfort, a level of balance, in my life. My life has direction today, because I do have a Higher Power, which for me is God. The AA program is so powerful, and the steps I’ve taken with my sponsor and in finding my Higher Power — they’ve brought me to a place where I don’t have to rely on alcohol or any other substance. I don’t have to hide my feelings or mask myself, and I can just be who I’m supposed to be today.

I’m such a people-pleaser, but I don’t have to do that today. The only ones I have to please now are me and my Higher Power. I wake up every day with a smile on my face and ready to go after the day. When I first got to Oxford Treatment Center, I was real resistant. I detoxed at another place, and I didn’t want to go to 30-day treatment. I’m a marathon runner, and my plan was to go home to my son and start running. My parents said, “No. You’re going to 30-day treatment. We’re sick of this crap.” So I said, “The only place I’m going is to Oxford Treatment Center, if you can get me in there.” I thought, “No way.” Well, they got me in.

I quickly started listening, and I became open, honest and willing. I extensively did the work. I really enjoyed spending a lot of time up late doing my homework and being alone. Taking pen to paper is essential, I think. And sitting outside by myself. The teamwork on the ropes course was also important to me. And listening to Garry.

 

“I stayed in sober living, and I found me again.”

 

I still come back ever other weekend to volunteer with Oxford Treatment Center’s family program. Dee and I sit outside and have great talks. She’s still huge in my recovery. She told me: “Put God first and recovery right next to it, and everything will flow from there.” That was the case for me after treatment. I didn’t want to go to sober living. My plan was to come home and run. And I felt like I needed to get home to my son, because that was the “responsible” thing to do. I know now that if I had gone home, I would have been drinking again within a couple of weeks.

At my family program, my parents told me: “We will love you from a distance and we will fight like hell to remove your son from your care if you ever drink again.” Beer was my thing, and it always had been. At one point I was up to 36 beers a day. There was another family in our program that day that didn’t stick to their guns later. But my parents still hold firm to what they said. I tell them, “Mean it. Because this is life or death.” I know that today.

My parents wanted me to go to sober living, and I agreed to stay without much coercing. I stayed in sober living, and I found me again. I had never known me before — even when I wasn’t drinking, I didn’t know me. I had always been such a people-pleaser. I’d always done what I thought other people expected of me. Part of it is the childhood trauma that I went through: I was sexually abused as a child from early on by my biological father. I began dealing with that trauma here. I wrote about it, and we buried that when I planted a tree. It was the 14th tree planted down the hill. I’ll visit that tree today.


 

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hen I left here, I really wanted sobriety. But I wasn’t willing to stay for any kind of sober living. I still thought I could do what I wanted to do. I thought I had learned enough I could beat my disease. So I went back home, to the same job. I kept the same habits. I started going to meetings, but I didn’t get an active sponsor or start working the steps. Within a month and a half, I relapsed.

I had started smoking pot at 13, and about four months later I got drunk for the first time. I enjoyed getting drunk, but when I smoked pot, it was almost like I’d found the answer to life: This is my personality, laid back. I loved it. When I was about 15, I started doing it on a daily basis. I tried some mushrooms and other things. But staying stoned all the time was my thing.

When I was 21, I joined a fraternity, and that was the first time I ever moved on to harder drugs, like cocaine and the pain pills. I liked cocaine, but it wasn’t something I just loved. But the pain pills, I absolutely loved. It turned into a daily habit pretty quick, and I moved on from Lortab and Percocet to oxycodone real fast. I wasn’t an IV user at the time, but I was using opiates on a daily basis. I tried to stop on my own several times, but I just never could make it through the physical withdrawal symptoms.

When I found out that my first child was on the way, and I went to a doctor to get prescribed Suboxone to come off the opiates. He also prescribed me a lot of anxiety meds like Klonopin. Realizing I was going to be a dad, I kind of freaked out. I ate a handful of pills and got at DWI. That was my first and only legal consequence from the drug use. I felt like if I was prescribed them, then I wasn’t doing anything wrong. But I was behind the wheel, and I could have killed someone. I’m grateful that didn’t happen.

Eventually, I was able to wean myself off the Suboxone. I went to a doctor and was prescribed Adderall. At the time, I thought my prayers had been answered. Life was good. I was able to quit using opiates, which I was chained to. With this Adderall I’d been prescribed, my mindset was: “I’m not using drugs anymore.” This went on about two years. On the outside, life was good. I bought a house, I was married, had a good job. I got to witness both my daughters being born. I was sober — quote, unquote. Now, looking back, I know using the Adderall was just another crutch. It prevented me from realizing just how big of a deal my drug addiction was.

 

“I didn’t have any legal means of getting the prescription I was getting. So I went to the street.”

 

hen an opportunity present itself for me to go to a doctor and legally get opiates, I seized it. As crazy as it sounds, my initial plan was to go to this doctor and sell these opiates and make a lot of cash on the side. I knew that was wrong, but I was going to do it anyway. That plan quickly turned into me becoming a full-blown addict again. For two years, I was doing very significant amounts of oxycodone. I lost three or four really good jobs. But then the doctor I was seeing was investigated by the DEA and shut down. I was stuck. I didn’t have any legal means of getting the prescription I was getting. It was such large amounts, no other doctor would have done it. So I went to the street.

There became a time when the only opiates I could find on the street, the only way you could feel the effect was by IV. So I began doing that. It opened up a lot of doors for me. Heroin’s a lot cheaper than these pills, and more potent, so it was kind of an obvious choice when it became available. I was a little bit hesitant to move to it — it has the stigma of being the ultimate bad drug. But once I tried it, I realized there wasn’t a lot of difference between it and oxycodone. The fear of the drug was gone, and that became the drug I could afford and really get high.

I remember one day, I was sitting in my car. I was in outside sales and was on my own schedule. I didn’t do a lick of work that day. All I did was sit in my car, in the same parking space in the parking lot, for hours — just shooting up heroin and cocaine. I remember closing my eyes and just crying out to God, to just do whatever it takes to change this. I believe in divine intervention, because I got a text that day from someone I went to church with, and he sent me someone’s name to contact about a rehabilitation center. That person put me in touch with Billy Young. At that time, I had no idea who Billy Young was; I thought he was just some guy that could get me into a rehab place. I called Oxford Treatment Center, and I came on my own terms.

 

“I enjoy recovery to the point that it’s my life now.”

 

I learned so much here about my addiction and myself. I mean, Garry Reifers — I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that man and look up to him. Such a brilliant individual who’s been through the struggle and can relate it very well.

But after I relapsed, things got bad, and then they got worse. I lost my house, my marriage, my job. Three more jobs; one of them was a really good one. The rock bottom I thought I had hit when I was at Oxford Treatment Center — I hit a new completely new low. One day I called someone I was at Oxford Treatment Center with, who I had gotten really close to here. I knew he was still clean and working at a public treatment center. He took me in there. That was when I started working the steps, and I did get a sponsor. I feel like I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t gone to both places within a seven-month time period. Everything I learned at Oxford Treatment Center was still fresh on my mind. The biggest difference is, I’m now willing to do the things I don’t want to do. The things that make me uncomfortable. The things that people who have been there advise.

As far as financial stability, I really have less than I’ve ever had. But I’m more at peace right now than I’ve been in a long time. I don’t have any desire to use drugs. I really appreciate the way I feel, to the point that I’d be scared to change that. I’m willing to do whatever it takes. I enjoy recovery to the point that it’s my life now. I’m around people in recovery, and they’re really the only people I associate with right now. I just take it day by day, moment by moment.


 

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I tell people about the things I’ve done, and they just look at me like, ‘Really?’ I don’t look the part I’ve played. I mean, if you hear my story, and you hear all the things I’ve done and what I’ve been through — no, I don’t look like that. Looks are deceiving.

The first time I used drugs, I was 13. This is my first time in recovery. So, 28 years in drug use. I was the child of a drug addict. It was just normal for me. One day, I was in my dad’s closet looking for cigarettes, and I found some marijuana. It was just normal for me to roll up a joint and smoke it.

From 14 to 17, I did various drugs. I drank and smoked pot. I still did good in school, for the most part. I tried cocaine for the first time at 17, and that was pretty much it for me. I’ve been doing cocaine ever since, basically. I got my first drug charge at 18. I’ve been in and out of jail. I’ve been in very abusive relationships — beaten really bad, almost to death, because I dated drug dealers. I wouldn’t go to the hospital because of how many drugs were involved. I was kidnapped and gang raped in retaliation to a drive-by that one of my boyfriends did. Just a very hard life — a life that I chose, you know, I’m not making excuses. It’s sad these things happened to me, but it was ultimately the life I chose. I’m not a victim.

 

“I’d been killing myself for so long. I was tired.”

 

I got pregnant at 22 and had my first child. I stayed abstinent for a while, then when he was 18 months, I started smoking crack. I gave custody to my mom, and it was just a downward spiral from there. Prostituting myself for drugs. My life was nothing but just smoke crack, crack, crack. I got pregnant again in ’99. I thought I would be clean again. But when I was four months pregnant, my aunt shot herself and died. I started smoking crack again while I was pregnant. Thank god my son tested negative when I had him. It was a miracle, because I smoked that day.

In 2000, I spent 15 months in the penitentiary on drug charges. After I met my husband, my addiction turned into more of a binging thing. I was still living the life, but trying to hide it. I wasn’t a mother to my children. They love their mom, but I didn’t raise my kids. My children are 19 and 16, and I didn’t raise them. I’m still trying to rebuild those relationships and trying to work on my marriage.

I used drugs really to focus, because in addition to my disease of addiction, I am also manic depressive. I have PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder. So I just medicate. That’s what I do. For most people, crack is a speed drug, but I would use it to numb everything and to keep me focused. But finally, I was just exhausted. I’d been killing myself for so long. I was tired. I talked to a friend of mine I used to use with. He’s been in recovery for like eight years, and he helps people now. He knew somebody that knew somebody that knew about Oxford Treatment Center.

 

This place saved my life — the education I got here and everything. It was absolutely amazing. I went on and did sober living. I don’t know where I would be otherwise. I should be dead so many times over. It amazes me that I’m even here today and can talk to you.

Since I’ve been home, it’s been hard. I’m still adjusting right now. I’m working my program, but it’s different at home. Because I’ve changed and nobody else has. I put limitations on myself. I don’t drive; it’s just not something I need to do. And I didn’t go back home to where my husband and I live — because my drug dealer lives half a mile down the street. So I live with my mother, on a mountain in the woods.

Really, I just want to be here. I’ll continue to come back here as often as I can. When I think about all the things I’ve done, I amaze myself: “Why are you not dead?” There’s a purpose for me to be here, and if I can help anybody with my story, that’s great. I’m drawn to the young people here at Oxford Treatment Center, ‘cause I’ve been where they are. And when I was here, everybody called me “Momma.” “Rehab mom.” It was great. Knowing that I felt like I was such a horrible mother, a lot of these kids are like, “I wish I had a mother like you.” It made me feel so good. They are getting to see a different person that my own kids didn’t get to see.


 

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For me, I see life this way: In my past, at one point, I felt like I was in a world by myself. I felt like nobody cared, and that made me not really care about anything. Now, in the present, I’m in recovery, helping people. I’m trying to get people who are in active addiction to get help in some way. For my future, I see me and my kids living a wonderful life together.

I started drinking when I was 13. At the time, I didn’t think it was a drug. But it is. When my dad died, I started doing hard drugs. I’m close to my mom, too, but he was my go-to person. Of everything he left me, his sister took everything except his wheelchair. I have nothing that belonged to my daddy except his wheelchair. That kind of took me down.

When I was in my weak stage, I ran into a crowd of people I thought were my friends. They said they had something that would make me feel better. I didn’t care at that point. I felt like I was living in a world by myself. I started doing crack, and within one day, started doing $100 a day. Then I went to pawning stuff. Taking my husband’s stuff and pawning it. Pawning my kids’ games and Nintendos. Lying. Then it went from crack to crystal meth. I started snorting it, smoking it. Then I was introduced to pills, like Xanax, Lortab and Percocet. I snorted those and popped them.

 

Somebody reported me to DHS, because my water had gotten cut off, and me and my kids were living there like that. I was going to different stores and getting water from the outside, to flush the toilet with. I was too ashamed to tell my mom, and my husband worked away, so he didn’t know much about it. When he got ready to come home, I would go out and cut the water on myself, so over the weekend we would have water.

DHS came to the door, and I was getting high when they came. Something just came over me that said, “Open the door. There’s no use in still hiding.” So I opened the door. My house was just a wreck, ‘cause I had stopped cleaning. I was just focused on getting high. So when she came in, she was like, “Oh, no. This is not livable.” And she said I had to bring my kids up to the DHS office within 30 minutes to an hour. And I did that. They were dirty. I was dirty, ‘cause we didn’t have water, so we had to wash up the best way we could. They were gonna place them in foster care. I begged them to please put them in the house with my mom. They offered me treatment as a way to get them back.

I was already in the process of getting to rehab, bit I just couldn’t afford it, because a lot of rehabs don’t take my insurance. But I ended up being able to come here. The first week, I cried. I wanted to go home. I think I was going through withdrawal. I would wake up, and my bed would just be soaked with sweat.

I went on and stayed. When I got out, I started going to meetings the next day, and I’ve been going to meetings ever since. I go to 12 meetings a week. I got offered a job by one of the churches that I was going to to attend my meetings. I’ve re-enrolled in college for the fall 2016. Next week, I get my CNA license reinstated, so I can go back to work.

My husband and I separated through all this, and when I got out, he chose not to get back with me. I can understand why, ‘cause I put him through a lot. I was stealing his stuff. He would hide money, and I would find it. He hid $500 and I found it, not knowing what it was for, even though I don’t think it would have mattered. Come to find out that was the money for the kids’ Christmas. They had a poor Christmas, because of me.

 

“If I feel any stress coming back up, I talk about it and don’t hold it in.”

 

Now, my life is a lot better. On my way down here, I changed my number, so that when I got out I wouldn’t have texts and stuff from my old smoking buddies or my dope dealer. Nobody has my phone number now but immediate family. Anyone in addiction, I don’t hang with them at all.

I talk to my therapist, and if I feel any stress coming back up, I talk about it and don’t hold it in. I tell a lot of people in the meetings I go to now — new people and old people that are still having problems — I tell them once you’ve been to treatment and you’ve got everything out on the table, leave it behind. You’ll never forget it, but you don’t have to take it with you. Just leave it behind and get on with your life.

One girl had lost her father. I told her, “Write your amends to your daddy. Read ‘em off. He’ll still hear you. Let it out.” She came to the meeting and read it to all of us, crying. She’s doing a lot better now.


 

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I’ve been a heroin addict for over 30 years. I should not be here talking to you. These scars on my arm — it’s like Jesus Christ’s hands to me. I’m here to tell a story I hope can touch another addict. Because I’ve gotten hope here at Oxford Treatment Center — just a little glimpse, and I want to open that door wider. I’m happy to be here.

Right now I’m staying in a sober living home. I’ve met some really nice people. I’m in a little town about the size of Mayberry, USA. And I love it. I put Christmas lights in front of the Baptist church last week. The people have been so nice to me. It makes me feel human again — to be able to talk to church people without them looking at you, looking at your arms.

I was brought up Pentecostal. You know, spare the rod, spoil the child? It was kind of funny, because my father was a partier: When the cat’s away, the mice will play. My mom would leave town, and then it was open game to do anything you want. You could have keg parties. There’d be women sitting on his lap. So I was very confused growing up as a child.

When I turned about 12, I tried marijuana for the first time. I thought I was on top of the world. Fast-forward a couple of years, and it was hallucinogenic drugs. The Doors was my favorite music. I tried to live like Jim Morrison. I really looked up to him. He was kind of an idol to me, to be honest about it. That’s kind of a hard person to live your life after. I hallucinated on mushrooms, acid. I was drinking, smoking pot, and started snorting coke. When I was about 16, a buddy of mine came to me: ‘You got any money?’ I went and asked my dad for money, saying it was for pizza. Then my buddy went out and scored some dope. We did some heroin together. I got real sick and threw up, but every time I threw up, I got higher and higher. I loved it. I felt very creative, almost like I did off the hallucinogens.

 

So I lived my life like a gypsy from 16 till about 28 — in and off of people’s couches, staying in Laundromats, putting quarters in dryers to stay warm. Didn’t really care, you know. I had my first daughter when I was 26. My girlfriend and I were tripping together, drinking together. It was a very turbulent relationship. I always promised myself I was going to be the best dad ever. You can’t do that when you’re drugging and drinking. I wasn’t there for her.

I hit my 30s, and I was drinking and using heroin, and when I would do that, I would fall out. I OD’d three times in my 30s and they brought me back; one time I had to be put on a breathing monitor. In my 40s, I OD’d twice more. They’d been putting fentanyl in the dope where I lived, a lot of fentanyl.

My brother died in February, and he was my world. I just lost it from there. I would try to go to work high — and I work 800 feet in the air, building scaffolds around Navy ships. So I was high both ways. When he died, that part of my soul was ripped out of my body. I’m sorry, I’m very emotional right now. My emotions are still raw. I never grieved over him properly. My girlfriend at the time, at my brother’s viewing she was followed me around the whole time, begging me to get dope. She followed me in the bathroom, asking for dope. Finally I said, “Get in the car. I’ll go get some dope.” So I used at my brother’s viewing.

 

“I was their guinea pig. I could test their dope and fall out and come back, and tell them how good their stuff is.”

 

I was going to NA, trying that, had a home group. I was going to NA high, apologizing at the end, because I knew it wasn’t right. When I came here, I was 46. My brother had died. We were getting that heroin with the fentanyl in it. I was falling out with needles in my arm all the time. But people would come to me to be a guinea pig. I’m a 30-year heroin addict — and that’s a good thing to them, because I can test their dope and fall out and come back, and tell them how good their stuff is. I was their guinea pig, and didn’t care. Wanted to die. A death wish.

My sister OD’d, and they brought her back with narcan. She was on the ground, lips purple as an eggplant. That’s my baby sister. If I had lost her, I wouldn’t be here talking to you right now, ‘cause I’d have taken a gun and blown my brains out. Cause I was a bad brother, for using around her. I feel very guilty about that and shameful.

This whole time I’m going to NA meetings high. All they keep telling me is, ‘Keep coming back. Keep coming back.’ So I kept coming back — but there’s going to be a time when I’m not going to be able to come back, because I’m gonna be gone.

Right before I came here, I called a non-emergency number. I had gotten the syringe drawn back to 100 units — the whole thing full of fentanyl and heroin — and I do half of it. Then 10 cops show up at the front door, calling my name. I just lost it. I said, “My brother’s dead. I no longer want to live.” I let them handcuff me. They took me straight to a psychiatric hospital. I was put on suicide watch. I kept trying to leave to go use. I was treated like an animal, pretty much — and I was probably acting like an animal. I don’t remember a whole lot of that time.

 

“I feel like I’ve been re-inflated.”

 

I was diagnosed with PTSD. I’ve been jumped numerous times, as you can see from the stitches. I just shouldn’t be here right now. God has a purpose in my life, and I feel a calling to help other addicts.

In the hospital, the social worker comes to see me. I begged her, “Please, please get me help. I don’t want to be this person anymore that I have become.” So she called American Addiction Centers, and they talked to me over the phone. I had insurance through my job. She said, “Do you mind going to Mississippi?” I said, “I need to get away from here. Please, God, send me.”

So I was sent here. At first, I came here closed-minded. You know, they do art therapy, horse therapy. I was like, what is this going to do? Then the first time I ever rode a horse — it was so beautiful to me. You have to be firm and gentle with the horses, and that teaches me how to treat people.

I can’t say I had a huge spiritual awakening. It happened gradually, over the 30 days. I feel like a totally different person today. I feel like I’ve been re-inflated. Today, I have hope — just a little sunlight poking through a closed door, and I’m ready to open it wider. I need to work around addicts, to be able to remember where I came from. But this story has a happy ending. I’m so glad to be here today. I’ve got nothing in my heart but love for people now. And I love me today. I can look in the mirror and say, “You’re an all-right guy.”

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Oxford Treatment Center is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed... Read More

McAndrew: Recovery is ‘the foundation of my life

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Alumni Reunion Lineup Features Singer-Songwriter

john-mcandrew001This year’s Alumni Reunion on Nov. 14 features an inspiring musical performance from John McAndrew, a Nashville-based singer, songwriter and musician.

McAndrew is no stranger to the recovery community; he has been sharing his story for nearly three decades. In that time, he has also recorded over a dozen records, and performed at honorary events such as Eric Clapton’s 25th sobriety anniversary at Crossroads Antigua and the closing ceremony of the AA convention in 2000; and he was recently submitted for Grammy nominations.

Although he has signed with a record label and has his music playing all over the world, McAndrew knows what it takes to stay grounded.

“My recovery is first,” McAndrew says. “That’s the foundation of my life, and without that I would have nothing. My recovery has influenced what I write and sing about.”

“A big part of my recovery now is to carry these messages through my music,” he says. “I’m able to be a part of this bigger picture. It means a lot to me.”

McAndrew’s songs have a hopeful, spiritual theme that listeners can relate to.

“For all audiences, whether they’re in recovery or not, everybody is trying to get home spiritually,” he says. “But those of us who are in recovery need extra work in that.”

 

“It’s so important for people to get together and be reminded of the transformation and grace…”

 

McAndrew is passionate about engaging people through his music, in a way that invites them to explore their struggles with spirituality and find peace.

“The first requirement is to know that we can’t do it alone: We need a power greater than ourselves, and we need each other,” McAndrew says. “The hard part is to trust something higher than you. We all struggle with it.”

Even when McAndrew is on the road performing, he tries to spend extra time at treatment centers to facilitate small groups with patients focusing on music and spirituality. He is able to connect with patients on a more personal level. McAndrew is also the Director of Music Assisted Therapy at Cumberland Heights, where he leads workshops on music and spirituality.

McAndrew especially enjoys performing for those in recovery and their families at events like Oxford Treatment Center’s Alumni Reunion.

“It’s an honor for me to be a part of what works at Oxford Treatment Center,” McAndrew says. “These are the people that carry the message and take it out farther.”

McAndrew has a special fondness for seeing families come together at events like this. He sees the way they are strengthened by coming together, sharing their own stories, and knowing that they are not alone.

“To watch sobriety and recovery is really a celebration,” McAndrew says. “I just don’t think there’s anything more beautiful to see than to watch how much families can heal from the work that treatment centers do and to watch people’s lives grow. It’s so important for people to get together and be reminded of the transformation and grace and all the beautiful things that happen.”

Alumni, staff, friends and family are invited to attend the Alumni Reunion, Saturday, Nov. 14, on Oxford Treatment Center’s residential campus.

Learn more and register now for the 2015 Alumni Reunion

About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Oxford Treatment Center is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed... Read More

Sign up for Alumni & Family Newsletter

Oxford Treatment Center is extending its support for our patients in recovery with a new Alumni & Family Newsletter.

Set to debut in the spring of 2015, the quarterly Alumni & Family Newsletter will include stories, updates and resources will help you stay connected to sources of support throughout your recovery journey.

To ensure you are included on the mailing list for the Alumni & Family Newsletter, complete the form at right. Meanwhile, help us better meet your needs by telling us about your recovery experience:

  • What have been your main sources of support since you completed treatment?
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About The Contributor
The editorial staff of Oxford Treatment Center is comprised of addiction content experts from American Addiction Centers. Our editors and medical reviewers have over a decade of cumulative experience in medical content editing and have reviewed... Read More