August 2019 Surfside Alumni Spotlight
It’s that time of year again! Sunny, 75 degrees, and a light breeze seems to be on repeat here at Surfside, and the boys can’t get enough of it. As much as we are sad to see the summer go, we have a lot to be excited for this upcoming fall.
But first, let’s take a minute to check out the August Alumni Spotlight with one of Surfside’s most proud alumni. In the spirit of anonymity and per the request of our alumni, we are going to refer to him as… Jim! C’mon folks, use your imagination. To wrap up this summer, let’s check out Jim’s story of a hopeless, chronic relapser who is now a clean, sober, and free man!
Ol’ Jim started out like many of us young alcoholics and addicts. From an early age, he had a feeling that everyone around him had everything figured out, and that he was the odd man out. He considered himself to have “terminal low self-esteem,” and he believed that life was always going to be this way. Being raised in a very successful household, Jim also had a crippling fear of disappointing his parents and not living up to their expectations.
As Jim entered high school, he concentrated solely on his school work with his sights set on college and beyond. He struggled socially and making friends did not always come easily. One day, a buddy introduced him to marijuana, and things began to change for shy Jim. Coming together with friends to smoke weed made Jim feel a part of something… although it might not have been the best for him, he felt a part of nonetheless.
Jim entered college to study business management. But the prospect of complete freedom excited him much more than the university curriculum. Like many college students, Jim sought out additional drugs to compete with his heavy marijuana use. He found alcohol, psychedelics, and the future love of his life… opioids.
If you have been around addiction, you have probably heard the term unmanageability. Well, if we take a look at the next five years of Jim’s life, it is hard to fall on another word besides unmanageability.
Over the next five years, Jim admitted to 8 treatment centers and multiple psychology wards. He was arrested and sent to jail 3 separate times, including one DUI. Throughout the chaos, Jim thought a geographical change would fix his problems, and he decided to move overseas for two years. When I asked Jim if it helped, he chuckled and replied, “No, it made it a lot worse.”
Several overdoses, friends dying… Jim’s life was a mess. He had an incredibly bright future ahead of him and it was quickly slipping away.
During one treatment stint in 2016, Jim sat in a counseling group with his peers, and a red-headed man with glasses walked in to talk to the guys about extended care. That man turned out to be Surfside’s Executive Director Ian. Jim would like to say his journey to recovery began there, but he still had some more running to do. But the seed had been planted, and sometimes that’s all you need.
Finally, in 2017-2018, Jim spent nearly half the year in long-term care, where he relapsed MINUTES after leaving the facility. After a brief discussion with his parents, he returned to RCA Lighthouse for another shot at treatment. While sitting in RCA, a couple of Jim’s buddies who were sober began asking him about Surfside. Jim had remembered the man from a few years prior, but the thought of structured sober living wasn’t very appealing at that point in time. Jim’s friends eventually spoke with his parents, and that conversation changed everything. Jim conceded and agreed to attend Surfside. He has been clean and sober ever since!
What is your sobriety date?
April 12th, 2018
What do you do for work?
I work in the quality assurance department of a pharmaceutical company.
What are some of your hobbies?
I’m still trying to find some more, but I like hiking, reading, and playing ping pong.
What were some of your biggest concerns before coming to Surfside?
It was a time-consuming program. There was a lot of uncertainty about how long I would be there, but I knew it was going to be a long time. I didn’t want to be away from work for that long, even though I could barely hold down a job anyway. I had a lot of fear because I’d been hopeless for so long and I thought nothing else would work.
What was your biggest takeaway from Surfside?
Being consistent in my recovery. I always have lacked discipline, and Surfside taught me how to set small, manageable goals which would then turn into bigger goals. That way of thinking has kept me disciplined and on the right path.
How is Surfside different than the previous programs you have attended?
Surfside focuses on 12-step recovery which is the real solution. You are forced into a house with a bunch of guys, but you eventually form a bond while you live there with them. You form a tight bond with the staff because many of them went through the program themselves. A lot of that stuff is forced on you, but thank God it was. If I had to do this alone, I would be high and drunk again.
What are some of the best and most challenging parts of living independently after Surfside?
I now have the ability to live a completely independent and free life. I can take care of my responsibilities and actually be a productive member of society. I’m contributing to live. I can do what I need to do and help others along the way.
The most challenging part is consistently making time for my recovery. At Surfside, you think about recovery 24/7. Once you leave the program and life starts happening, you have to actually make an effort to do things for your recovery. But all I have to do is fall back on the principles Surfside taught me and I’m ok.
Now that you are out of the program, how do you stay involved with Surfside and your recovery?
Since I have moved back north, I come back down to the island to visit the guys every couple of months. But I make it a priority to stay in contact with Surfside. At least once a week, I am talking with a Surfside guy that I went through the program with.
I keep my recovery simple, just like Surfside taught me- I have a homegroup, a sponsor, and a desire to help others.
Final thoughts on Surfside?
If there is anyone struggling, I would highly recommend this program to you. At Surfside, you can work on yourself and get to know who you are. I have formed friendships that I never thought I could have. I’ve never had real friends before, and now I have brothers.
What is your 5-year plan?
Continue to be consistent with my recovery, but strive to learn more about myself. I would like to improve at my job and begin investing for long-term wealth growth. One day at a time!
We reached out to Jim’s mother to collect her thoughts on Surfside. Let’s see what Mama Jim has to say!.
Why did you decide to send your son to Surfside?
I didn’t know anything about Surfside. It turned out to be a miracle. Before treatment, I was a helpless mother. No mother wants to see her child slowly dying… it could have been any day. But one day, a former peer of Jim recommended that he consider going to Surfside. That stuck in my head for a long time. During his final stint at RCA Lighthouse, I found the Surfside website and did some more research. I spoke with Ian and he walked me through the process. During our conversation, he reassured me that Jim would be a great fit for Surfside. After speaking with my husband, we realized Surfside was the best option.
What should prospective parents know before sending their son to Surfside?
Surfside is a place that works. What these young men are able to engage with others and activities, it changes them. I refer to the theory of two mice all the time… this is why Surfside works! These boys are reintroduced into society and not isolated from the rest of the world. Unlike other rehabs, when Jim left Surfside, he could handle any situations that the real world throws at him. I am so proud of him. He is a good person.
How have things changed now that your son has completed Surfside?
Everything has changed completely… 180 degrees! He has become part of society where he can mingle with people. What really makes me happy is that he can be around family and friends and not feel the need to drink. He can hold down a full time job. He is active in his recovery- going to meetings, working with others and his sponsor. It is part of his life now. I couldn’t be happier!
How about Jim! With hard work and help from others, he went from chronic relapser to a productive member of society. He has a genuine serenity around him, and he continues to play a large role in the Surfside community. We couldn’t be happier for you, Jim!
If you know a chronic relapser, like Jim, and are ready to have a conversation on how to change, please feel free to contact us. Our Executive Director is eager to help connect you to treatment services.