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Surfside Structured Sober Living Alumni Spotlight- September 2019

Wow! What an incredible summer here at Surfside Structured Sober Living.  Our residents have experienced a multitude of exciting and challenging activities all along the east coast.  From camping in the mountains to surf lessons, there has been no shortage of good times here at Surfside. Be sure to check out our Facebook and Instagram page to see what our guys have been up to.

As the summer comes to a close, we are looking forward to the beautiful fall weather here in Ventnor, NJ. Our fall activities will include football Sundays, campfires, and an UNBELIEVABLE trip in October!  Check back in with us later for that one.

It’s that time of the month to check out the story of one of Surfside’s alumni.  If you have worked with Surfside in any capacity, you’ve probably had a conversation with this guy.  He came into Surfside overweight, unmotivated, and completely hopeless.  Now, almost three years later, he is a lean, mean fightin’ machine who enjoys life one day at a time.  His name is Nick G!  Let’s take a look at Nick’s story to recovery.

Nick grew up in North Jersey with a very loving family.  From a young age, Nick never felt comfortable with who he was.  Seemingly inherent was a feeling of never being good enough for anyone.  He constantly found himself on the outside looking in.

As he entered high school, Nick began drinking and partying with some buddies.  In his mind, all the “cool” kids partied, so it was in his best interest to join in on the weekend fun.  Athletics kept him in line Monday through Friday.  He always enjoyed being a part of the team.  “God forbid I was left to fend for myself,” Nick recalls.  As soon as practice ended on Friday, the long weekend party began.

After high school, Nick earned an opportunity to play baseball in college.  He enjoyed drinking and smoking some marijuana with his friends during down time. To keep up with his studies, Nick dabbled with the occasional Adderall or two.  Nothing that any normal college student wouldn’t do!

After his freshman year, a shoulder injury brought his baseball career to a grinding halt.  Baseball had constituted his identity for many years, and just like that, it was taken from him. Like many athletes following reconstructive surgery, Nick began a dangerous love affair with opioids to combat the pain.  However, he found himself able to put the drug down when he needed to. Little did he know, opioids would take on a much larger role in his life down the road.

Following college, Nick ventured into the real world without any true sense of who he was.  He sought a career in teaching but eventually gave up.  He decided to take a shot at the mental health field to help others who were struggling.  Drinking continued to play a large role in his life.  Going out for a few beers with friends routinely turned into blackouts and consequences.

Remember that love affair with opioids in college?  Well, after a painful breakup with a woman, Nick returned to his college romance with painkillers in order to ease the pain.  He began using pills daily, and as withdrawals set in, he figured he might as well keep on using them.

Around the time of the breakup, Nick worked on his master’s degree in mental health.  His grades plummeted as his sole focus became finding and using opioids.

After a six year run with painkillers, Nick entered treatment for the first time at age 30.  He wanted to be sober, but still obsessed with thought the of getting high.  Nick played the “perfect student” card while in treatment- attending all of the groups, participating in discussions, and making those around him believe that he was ready to be sober.  But in all reality, Nick’s biggest concern- “I hope my dealer hasn’t changed his number since I’ve been gone.” A mere six hours out of treatment, Nick got high.

The next year consisted of lying to friends and family, admitting to pysch wards and IOP programs, and suffering through family interventions.

In 2016, Nick was arrested for possession.  At this moment, he had never felt as much guilt, shame, and remorse in his life. He dreaded the thought of having to tell his family.  In that instance of pure hopelessness, Nick believes he had his first spiritual experience.  “Maybe it’s time I finally do something about this,” he remembers. But it wasn’t enough.  After his release, he found himself patrolling Newark trying to get high.

For the next few weeks, Nick’s mind centered around three thoughts: what am I drinking today; how am I going to get money, and if those don’t work, I might as well kill myself.  For any alcoholic and addict, it is a dangerous place to be.

In that rock bottom, Nick finally decided to ask for help.  He determined that he was ready. He spent thirty days at RCA Lighthouse where he first learned about Surfside as an aftercare option.  When approached about Surfside, Nick dismissed the idea and insisted that returning home would be the best course of action.  Following a meeting with his counselor and parents, Nick’s mom and dad gave him an ultimatum: Surfside or the streets.  There was no going home.

Begrudgingly, Nick accepted the offer to attend Surfside… He has been a free, happy, and sober man ever since!

What is your sobriety date?

August 15th, 2016

What do you do for work?

I do community outreach for Surfside.  Basically, I try to let people know about the program and help guys get their shot.

What are some of your hobbies?

I like Crossfit, hanging out with friends and family, going to the beach, and coaching a local high school baseball team.

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

Is this really what life has come to? Is sobriety actually possible?  If so, how can I actually do it and enjoy my life?  Am I going to be liked and fit in at the house?

What was your biggest takeaway from Surfside?

Throughout my life, I have always wanted to get to the end point as quickly as possible.  I didn’t care if I skipped steps in the process to get what I want.  At Surfside, I learned to love the process- that applies to work, relationships, and my recovery.  I can’t be so consumed with what the outcome might be.  If I fall in love with the process and do each step the right way without cutting corners, the outcome will take care of itself. Coming into Surfside, the outcome I wanted was to be sober.  But by loving the process, I learned how to love myself and love life.  And that’s all a result of enjoying the journey. I can’t control any outcomes, just the actions I take along the way.

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

I never did any extended care after my other treatment stint.  I don’t have much to base off of.  But when I was presented with options for extended care, the daily activities at Surfside seemed pretty cool.  Each day was truly structured and kept you busy.  I needed that.

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

Some peace and quiet now that I’m not living with 18 other guys, haha! I enjoy having my space.  But the best part is I’ve learned to live as an independent adult. I have skills to take care of myself.  For me, I enjoy the little things like keeping my apartment clean.

The most challenging part is it’s now my responsibility to take action. Budgeting money and doing chores for myself can be a challenge.  But like I said, I now have the tools that have given me a ton of confidence that I can do anything.

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

I love coming back to the house to hang out with the guys.  My job requires a lot of travel, but I really love coming back to the house to have dinner with the residents. I have real friendships from this program.

In regards to my recovery, I work with my sponsor- although I could be more on top of that sometimes- I attend meetings, stay connected with my network, and try to be of service to others.

Any final thoughts on Surfside?

Why not give it a try?  It’s a life-changing program.  It gave me a life that I always wanted but was too afraid to actually go after. It has helped me work through my identity issues and I’m starting to understand who I am as a person. Surfside has given me a chance to be present for my friends and family.  I am forever grateful.

What is your 5-year plan?

I want to finish my Master’s in Clinical and Mental Health Counseling to eventually become a licensed professional counselor.  I’d love to start working with high school and college athletes who struggle with substance and mental health issues.  I want to continue to grow as a person spiritually, mentally, and physically.  Oh… I want to finally do a bar muscle-up at the gym!

***Editor’s Note: Since the recording of this interview, Nick has completed his first muscle-up!

We reached out to Nick’s mother and father for their thoughts on Surfside.  Check out what they had to say below!

Why did you decide to send your son to Surfside?

Prior to Nick’s final stint at RCA Lighthouse, his two previous stints at treatment were unsuccessful.  Nothing stuck after thirty days. We knew he needed longer care. The people at RCA recommended Surfside following treatment.  We liked everything we heard.  It was important that Nick learn how to interact with normal life outside of treatment.  Ian and Surfside showed him how to live again, and that it is possible to live without drugs and alcohol. He had to learn how to live with his disease and still enjoy a normal life.

What should prospective parents know before sending their son to Surfside?

They need to understand the program and support what is being presented to them.  As hard as it may be, it is the right thing to do.  Don’t buck the system.  Don’t assume you know everything.  Support what Surfside is trying to do because what they do works.  You have to be willing to give up your control and leave it to the experts.  Throughout the process, Ian is always available if you have any questions.  He’s always there and willing to help. He sincerely supports the families- not just the residents- and it’s unlike any program we have seen.

How have things changed now that your son has completed Surfside?

We’ve never seen him so happy. He’s changed his whole life. He’s learned how to live a happy, successful life without drugs and alcohol. Our whole family has recovered as well. In active addiction, our entire family was negatively effected.  But now we are back to trusting and enjoying Nick.  He’s finishing school and has a job that he loves. This is all came from Ian and Surfside- they changed his life.  All of Nick’s family and friends could not be prouder!

Well, there you have it! Nick transformed his life and learned to love himself and the process of recovery.  He has been and will continue to be an important presence in the Surfside community.  Thank you, Nick!

Be sure to tune in next month as we celebrate the recovery of another Surfside alumni.  As always, if you or a loved one are struggling, please do not hesitate to reach out.  We are always happy to help point you in the right direction of treatment services.