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As the seasons change, the mission here at Surfside has not. We continue to move forward and guide our young men as they set out on the journey to recovery. What better way to celebrate the start of fall with another success story from the boys at Surfside.

In this month’s edition of the Surfside Alumni Spotlight, we look back and commemorate the recovery story of Terence S., a former Surfside resident and staff member who has made a tremendous impact on those around him. With his eyes set on the military early on, Terence’s life went a drastically different direction; but he ultimately found his true calling in the end… helping fellow alcoholics and addicts. Enjoy!

Surfside Alumni Spotlight: Terence S.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Terence grew up as well as any child could ask for.  With two loving parents and an older sister, he never would have imagined his life could ultimately be consumed by drugs and alcohol. However, as he looks back on his early years, he remembers a constant anxiety regarding what others thought of him. No matter who it was; his parents, his teachers, his friends… Terence always felt it necessary to appease others and make them like him. By any means, whether it be lying, cheating, or stealing, he sought to seek the approval of those around him.

By 11 years old, he had discovered another avenue to get his peers to like him: drinking. With the help of a couple buddies, Terence stole a few beers from his parents, and immediately enjoyed the rush and camaraderie around the night. It wasn’t even the beer that captured him… it was the simple fact that for one moment he was liked by everyone around him. He was the man. And that was something he could get used to.

Not long after, Terence got drunk for real. In the middle of a field, head spinning, he had finally found it. He finally found what he had been looking for.

“In that moment, I didn’t think drinking would solve my problems. I just felt really, really good,” he remembers.

Just a kid being a kid, he thought. But for a young kid, regularly drinking eventually starts taking a toll on the already fragile banking account. Not to mention, around this time in his adolescence, Terence found marijuana and realized that some weed and booze can make for a pretty awesome cocktail, albeit an expensive one. To continue drinking and drugging the way he wanted to, Terence started selling weed. A lot of weed.

Perhaps surprisingly, with all of this going on under the surface, Terence gained admission into one of the best Catholic high schools in all of New York City. A structured, well disciplined school, the curriculum and attention to detail could be exactly what Terence needed at the time to get back on track. Not to mention, it was an incredible achievement to even attend the school in the first place.

Unfortunately, Terence did rack up some additional achievements… just not the ones he necessarily wanted. He received the most detentions out of any student in the freshmen class. As it turns out, skipping school regularly to go out drinking did not sit well with the schools administrators. After one year of failing grades, the school asked Terence not to return the following year.

During this interview, Terence noted that this moment in particular was an extremely pivotal time in his life. Carrying a great deal of shame for what had happened over the last year, Terence saw his life heading in one of two directions. First, he could try to find another school, and continue his dream of one day joining the military. Or, he could continue to drink, drug, and sell the way he had been. Although he didn’t think drinking and drugging were a big part of his life at that time (they were), he knew that he could take it and run with it if he wanted to.

Unbeknownst to him, the chains of addiction had Terence fully in its grasp, and he chose to continue drinking and drugging.

He returned to another high school in NYC that more or less allowed him to do whatever he wanted to do. He continued to drink and get high, bully classmates, and sell drugs. Anything he could do to try and make himself feel better about what had happened… he would do. After a few years, the school had enough of his nonsense, and during his senior year, he had been kicked out of his second high school.

Over time, Terence started facing legal trouble with stints of jail time on the horizon. However, he found a loophole in the system. If he just plead that he needed rehab, the judge would send him to treatment rather than jail. And so that’s exactly what he did. He convinced the state that he just needed some help so that he could replace a jail cell with a nice cozy bed. His system worked for awhile, until he came to the realization that it might be time to actually get his life together.

In a last ditch effort to straighten himself out, he attended a community college in upstate New York. His field of study? Chemical Dependancy. He didn’t have any great aspirations of being a drug and alcohol counselor… he simply wanted to uncover the reasoning behind his inability to stop drinking and drugging as his life continued to fall apart. At no point did he consider taking the suggestions from those at the treatment centers, but he had become convinced that he could figure it out for himself.

His independent research lasted all of a week until he dropped out of college. While living in an off-campus dorm, Terence discovered the substance that would completely shut down any chance for him returning to “normal.”

Methamphetamine.

While high on meth, Terence conducted an extensive drug operation throughout the state of New York; shuttling drugs from the city and upstate several times per week. He had downsized his living conditions and went completely off the map while solely focusing on running the operation. He hadn’t eaten in weeks. He looked deathly ill. And in a brief moment of clarity, the thought came to him.

“I’m going to die.”

He finally called his family for help and returned to rehab. He truly wanted to stop, but he remained stubborn in taking any of the suggestions that his counselors offered. In his mind, he didn’t need to do any of the work. He didn’t need to go to sober living. He just needed to stop. Well, immediately after discharge, he relapsed.

While trying to find another fix, he called an old friend who he knew would have some drugs to sell. He always had drugs and he was always high. It was a no brainer. He picked up the phone, and couldn’t believe what he heard.

His friend was sober.

The young man had found recovery and learned to live a life free from drugs and alcohol. He encouraged Terence to attend a program in York, PA to kick off his recovery journey, and he obliged. He spent the next 2.5 years clean and sober.

However, Terence learned that recovery is a marathon… not a sprint. No matter how long one stays sober, there is always work to be done. Terence had achieved everything he thought he wanted: he had a great job, a girlfriend, and his own apartment. He didn’t need a program of recovery any longer. He had beaten addiction. In a rude awakening, after over 2 years clean and sober, he picked up once again.

He found himself back in treatment at RCA Lighthouse. While sitting in group, he met a man named Ian who ran a program called Surfside. Terence was hesitant at first, but he shared many mutual friends with Ian from his time at York. With no other options, Terence admitted to Surfside and has been a sober man ever since.

Interview with Terence S.

What is your sobriety date?

February 27th, 2019.

What do you do for work?

I work at RCA Lighthouse as a Recovery Support Specialist. I’m also in school for social work.

What are some of your hobbies?

I love CrossFit, gardening, and fixing things that are broken. I love walking into houses and figuring out what I can improve.

What were some of your biggest concerns before coming to Surfside?

Honestly, I just needed a place to live. If I went home, I would relapse, and I knew it.

What was your biggest takeaway from Surfside?

I knew that a life in recovery could keep me sober. But I didn’t think I’d be alright with it. Surfside showed me how to be alright with it all. I’m sober today and genuinely cool with it.

How is Surfside different than the previous programs you have attended?

All of the other programs were so focused on me not relapsing, getting a job, or paying my bills. Surfside’s biggest concern is what am I actually doing to improve my life. Surfside focused me to take a look on the inside and not care so much about what’s going on on the outside.

What are some of the best and most challenging parts of living independently after Surfside?

The best part is I actually have hobbies and things I enjoy doing outside my job. Usually, my life is go to work, go home, go to work, go home. There was no outlet to do anything fun, besides drink. Eventually, you just end up hating yourself. Now, I actually have stuff I get to do for fun.

The most challenging part is I have to do things without people telling me to do it. There are times I really don’t want to do anything, but I have to do it. The Surfside staff won’t always be there to tell me what to do. Now I have to hold myself accountable.

Now that you are out of the program, how do you stay involved with Surfside and your recovery?

I show up to Surfside at least once a week and stay involved with the new guys. I help out at other programs too that help young men get back on their feet.

Final thoughts on Surfside?

I love this place. Without Surfside, I wouldn’t be willing to follow my dreams. I’d settle for mediocrity. I have drive today to better my life… I’m not down to settle anymore.

What is your 5-year plan?

I like this question! I want to finish my Bachelor Degree in Social Work, my CADC, buy a fixer-upper, and love life. Then start my next 5-year plan.

Congratulations on all of your success, Terence! We are so proud of the man he has become, and we are even more grateful for the impact he has made on the Surfside community.

As always, if you or a loved one are struggling, please do not hesitate to reach out.