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Sober Living Alumni: Mike K.

Going crazy yet? Do not fear… it appears that the light at the end of the tunnel is drawing closer. We hope everyone is staying safe and healthy, physically and mentally. We are in the (presumably) home stretch of this whole crisis, so let’s continue to stand together, pull the rope in the same direction, and do what we need to do to keep everyone safe. With all of that being said, what better way to spend some more time inside by reading about another incredible sober living alumni story?

In this month’s edition of the Surfside Alumni Spotlight, we celebrate the recovery journey of Mike K., who reached every emotional bottom imaginable before ultimately finding recovery. Mike has played a large role in the Surfside community since his arrival, as a resident, as an employee, and now as a sponsor to our guys. Enjoy!

Mike grew up in Monmouth County, NJ in a supportive household filled with nothing but love from all 6 of his older sisters. His parents were very involved in his life, which allowed Mike to flourish as both an athlete and a student. At 7 years old, Mike’s parents divorced, but he continued and enjoyed a nurturing relationship with both parties.

Right before Mike entered high school, he moved in with his father in a neighboring town, which forced him to make new friends in unfamiliar territory. Mike always had that innate sense of feeling different, and struggled to connect with his peers. Being the “new kid in town” fueled an already burning fire.

In the summer before his freshman year, Mike started hanging out with a couple of his soon-to-be classmates to soften the transition into uncharted waters. One of those guys offered him a toke of marijuana, and as the new guy, Mike couldn’t say no. He immediately felt part of the crew.

Throughout high school, Mike enjoyed smoking weed and drinking on the weekends. It was all fun and games at this point, as it is for many alcoholics and addicts.

Mike decided to go to college, and probably not surprisingly, chose to attend the number one party school in the nation at that time. Could you possibly image why?

“I had the most fun I never want to have again,” he recalls.

He soon found that the party scene elevated its game when he arrived on campus. Alcohol and weed turned into more alcohol and weed, plus cocaine, Molly, and painkillers.

He didn’t see a problem with his transition into harder drugs, as he had no problem managing his party life while fulfilling his duties as a college student.

But as the nights lasted longer, and the hangovers grew worse, going to class and completing assignments became an afterthought. His life became solely about the party, and he had more or less forgotten that he was actually supposed to work for an education.

Ultimately, he couldn’t keep up, and he dropped out of school.

He moved back to his home town and found full-time employment. Not much responsibility at this point, so he found it easy to spend most- if not all- of his money on keeping the party going. The party lasted even after the guests departed, and Mike found himself heavily using drugs every day by himself.

One night at a party, a buddy introduced Mike to Roxicodone, another form of oxycodone- a powerful opioid.

“That’s what I had been looking for my whole life.”

After that first affair with Roxies, he didn’t have a care in the world. Any sort of negative emotion or thought could be quickly drained out as he entered into an oblivion. On that fateful night, Mike took the first step into a full blown opioid addiction.

The consequences started to pile up.

In the midst of his addiction, Mike had found his best friend dead of an overdose, had been kicked out of both of his parents’ house, and had been arrested.

After his friend’s death, Mike decided to lay off the hard stuff for awhile and just stick to alcohol and a little weed. To his surprise, he went three months without touching an opioid. He didn’t have a problem!

Well, plot twist, Mike did have a problem. After a short spell, he picked the Roxies back up, and off to the races he went as though he had never put them down.

A crippling opioid addiction is not, what you would say, financially sustainable. As money became tight, Mike sought out a cheaper alternative to find the peace of mind that he needed.

Cue heroin.

In a million years, Mike never would have imagined the life he had now found himself living. He had become a full-blown heroin addict.

He entered his first rehab, and during an initial group session, a young man from Ventnor spoke to the group about aftercare, and the benefits of living in a structured environment after addiction treatment. His name: Ian. The program: Surfside. The man handed Mike a business card and went on his way.

“Not for me. I had a bunch of ‘stuff’ I had to do back home,” Mike convinced himself.

Undoubtedly, Mike learned a lot about himself during his stay at treatment. The counselors had convinced him that he did, in fact, have a problem with opioids. But the good news, in Mike’s mind, he could continue to drink and smoke weed with no problem. A full-proof plan!

Well, fast forward a week after discharge from treatment, heroin reentered his life.

He entered a second rehab shortly after, fully understanding the fact that he had a problem. But in all honesty, he didn’t really care.

He found himself high within a half an hour of leaving treatment, and then started a period of utter calamity and chaos.

He bounced around several oxford houses, completely hopeless about the direction his life would ultimately take him.

In an attempt to end the pain once and for all, Mike intentionally overdosed, hoping and praying, that he would not wake up.

As the paramedics rushed in, and revived him with Narcan, he laid there… utterly disgusted and disappointed that air still filled his lungs.

You would suspect that after an experience like this, it may be a turning point in someone’s life. Well, for Mike, hours after he laid lifeless from an overdose, he found himself getting high once more in the bathroom of his hospital room.

From that point on, Mike was homeless, shooting heroin, sleeping on the beach or in outdoor showers. A once promising life had drifted away and he stood at the gates of hell.

One morning, covered in mosquito bites, Mike woke up, knocked on his father’s door, and asked for help one last time.

For everyone in the family, including Mike himself, this was the final straw.

He entered rehab in New Jersey, and he became paralyzed with fear as the thought loomed that one day, he will have to leave and be on his own once again. He didn’t want to get high anymore, but he didn’t trust himself not to seek out the drugs at the first sign of freedom.

As he sat in the counselor’s office, the topic of aftercare started to be tossed around. Mike had a thought.

He pulled out his wallet, and pulled out a card that years ago, a man in a treatment center once handed to him.

His name: Ian. The program: Surfside.

With everyone on board, Mike entered Surfside and has been a sober man ever since.

Sober Living Alumni Interview

What is your sobriety date?

September 4, 2018

What do you do for work?

I am an admissions coordinator for a drug and alcohol treatment center in New Jersey.

What are some of your hobbies?

I love playing basketball and the guitar. When I’m just hanging out, I like movies, video games, and reading books.

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

The whole aftercare thing was going to take too long. I so badly wanted everything done and handled quickly, but that turned out not to be the case. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

What was your biggest takeaway from Surfside?

With a little structure and responsibility, alongside a spiritual program, anyone can turn their life around. For me, I needed to make the decision to put my faith into this process, and so far it is working out pretty well.

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

Surfside funneled me towards the 12-steps, and integrated me into a community of guys who have been through what I have been through, and they are now living good lives. The whole thing seemed incredibly appealing to me once I was ready.

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

The best part is I have my family in my life, but I don’t have to rely on them for financial means, or to be a crutch. I have a genuine relationship with them. I don’t want anything from them except to be in their lives.

The most challenging part, by far, is budgeting. I was so bad at it for so long. Surfside taught me how to manage my money. Today, I have my own apartment and can pay my bills. It was definitely a struggle in the beginning just because I had no idea what I was doing. But I learned so much from Surfside and I have much more confidence in myself today.

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

I still sponsor a few guys at the house. Before this whole COVID-19, I came by the house frequently. When I’m not working, I try to spend as much time with them as I can.

Any final thoughts on Surfside?

I am so thankful. Without Surfside, I would not have learned how to balance life- all of the responsibility, the highs, the lows- while staying sober. If you’re out there struggling, you don’t have to live that way anymore.

What is your 5-year plan?

I want to stay down in Ventnor, for sure. I’ve really built a beautiful life here. I plan on obtaining my CADC and becoming a counselor in the addiction field.

We are so grateful for all that Mike has done for the Surfside community. Now as a sober living alumni, he continues to show up and impact the lives of our residents. Thank you, Mike!

As always, if you or a loved one are struggling, please do not hesitate to reach out. As Mike said, you don’t have to live that way anymore. A new way of life is one phone call away.