What an incredible time of year! As the weather turns colder, we hope you curl up in front of the fire and enjoy another incredible recovery success story from Surfside.
In this month’s edition of the Surfside Alumni Spotlight Interview, we celebrate the recovery journey of Bill S., who battled addiction for 15 years before ultimately finding recovery at Surfside. For anyone out there that is struggling, or cannot seem to break the cycle of addiction, this story is for you. Enjoy!
Growing up in Pittman, New Jersey, Bill enjoyed a happy, healthy childhood despite an underlying nervous disposition. Surrounded by a loving family, he excelled in sports throughout his youth and found athletics to be somewhat of a therapeutic outlet. Despite anxiety, Bill never had trouble making friends and actually considered himself to be one of the more “popular” kids in school.
Like many of us entering high school, drugs and alcohol make their way into social circles and become priorities of any gathering. As a freshman, Bill came face-to-face with marijuana for the first time… and couldn’t refused. Immediately, he felt the world lift off his shoulders and became obsessed with the new reality that weed could create for him. Day in and day out, Bill smoked weed… a lot of weed. And if he wasn’t smoking weed, he was thinking about smoking weed.
Now a massive “pot head,” Bill became ready to up his party game. His older sibling, who at that time was a senior in high school, frequented parties and allowed Bill to tag along. Access to free booze had never been easier. Every weekend transformed into a party from Friday to Sunday. The free-flowing alcohol gave Bill that extra sense of ease and comfort, along with a feeling that he could do or say anything he wanted to. The aggressive weekend partying brought its fair share of danger, of course. Drunk driving, blacking out, ditching the cops. All in good fun, he recalls. But there is no doubt that his life centered around the weekend and the shenanigans that followed.
“If we weren’t drinking or partying that weekend, it wasn’t a good weekend,” he remembers.
So far, you might be thinking to yourself, that doesn’t sound so bad. High school kids like to party, right? You’re not wrong. But the game changed when Bill entered his final year of high school.
One day while hanging out with a friend, Bill faced a question that would ultimately alter his life forever.
“You ever try Percocet?” his friend inquired.
“Let’s head to Philly.”
Without hesitation, Bill and his comrade made the trip down to Philadelphia.
“It was like a light switch that turned on,” Bill recalls.
From the first Percocet, Bill’s entire sense of life and the world around him changed. As he looked around and saw everyone happy and living their lives, he assumed they must all be taking opioids. There was no other way. In that moment, opioids had clenched their grasp on Bill’s mind.
After high school, Bill attended HVAC training to begin a career in the trade. He had no physical addiction to the pills at this point, but mentally he was hooked. Much like marijuana a few years prior, Bill found himself constantly high on pills. And when he wasn’t on pills, he was thinking about being on pills.
Fortunately, for Bill, as a tradesman he was making solid money as a young 20-year old. Living at home gave him the luxury of little-to-no expenses, so all of his funds could go towards pills. At times, he spent $150 a day on Percocets.
At 23 years old, Bill attended his first treatment center in Florida. Deep down, he knew something was wrong. He could sense that his life could spiral downwards at any moment. But he didn’t want to stop. His counselors suggested a course of action for his post-discharge care, but Bill kindly declined any help. Not long after, he returned home and got high once again.
A few years later, in the midst of a full-blown pill addiction, just when he thought matters couldn’t get worse… they did.
Unable to secure the pills he wanted for that day, Bill panicked. He didn’t know what to do, but he knew he couldn’t be sober for another minute. So he called up a buddy for help.
“Try heroin. Go to Camden; it’s easy to find there.”
So Bill went to Camden.
For the next 15 years, Bill cycled between an active heroin addiction, 10 treatment centers, 6 psych wards, and a never-ending bottom that sunk deeper and deeper.
During this time, he did secure over 2 years clean and sober while living in a sober living facility. He didn’t do much work on himself, although he did regularly attend 12-step fellowship meetings with some guys he lived with. However, to vanquish boredom, he threw himself deeper and deeper into his job. The indescribable void he felt in his life, to his knowledge, could be filled by making money. Chasing the green ultimately collapsed his life around him, and Bill got high once again.
Finally, at 35 years old, Bill sat in a counseling session at RCA Lighthouse in Mays Landing. The man in charge of the group ran a sober living facility in Ventnor that helped young men get back on their feet.
Completely beaten and broken down, Bill approached the man.
“Just tell me what to do.”
“You’re coming to Surfside,” Ian replied.
Bill admitted to Surfside as the oldest resident at the time, and has been a sober man ever since.
Spotlight Interview: Bill S.
What is your sobriety date?
May 25, 2019
What do you do for work?
I’m the maintenance guy at Surfside. I take care of all the properties and make sure everything is working.
What are some of your hobbies?
I love mountain and road biking. Recently, I’ve gotten into CrossFit.
What were some of your biggest concerns before coming to Surfside?
I thought I was going to mess up this opportunity, too. I tend to self-sabotage, so I figured that’s what would happen again.
What was your biggest takeaway from Surfside?
I can actually have fun without getting drunk or high. Pretty wild, right? More importantly, I was forced to sit down and do the work at Surfside. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have done it. I would have gotten only so far, stopped, and got high again. That’s what I always did.
How is Surfside different than the previous programs you have attended?
At Surfside, we learned to do stuff for ourselves. It’s not like rehab where everything is done for you. You learn how to cook and do laundry; regular human-being-stuff that we need to do. I was in my 30’s when I came to Surfside, and there were things I didn’t know how to do. As a resident, I was shown how to do things for myself and not rely on Mommy and Daddy. It was challenging in the beginning, but Surfside offers a lot of support along the way.
What are some of the best and most challenging parts of living independently after Surfside?
The best part is I can have fun without drugs and alcohol. I never thought that was something I could actually do.
The most challenging part is staying on my recovery at all times. It’s easy to forget how bad it was. I have to rat on myself when I’m slipping up. At Surfside, they make you call 3 people in the recovery community. That skill has saved my life more than once so far. When I’m feeling some kind of way, I have to pick up the phone and call one of my guys.
Now that you are out of the program, how do you stay involved with Surfside and your recovery?
I talk to my sponsor and other sober guys every single day. I pretty much just do what I’m told. I continue to listen to others that know what they are talking about.
Any final thoughts on Surfside?
It’s a special place, man. If you’ve been struggling, in and out of rehabs, it’s time to try something different. That’s what I had to do. I had to stop trying to figure things out, and let others help me. I was a 35-year old child. Surfside helped me grow up.
What is your 5-year plan?
I’d like to have my own business and be able to hire newly-sober guys. I want to show them that there are things out here for them to do. I just want to keep giving back.
Just when you thought you were hopeless… recovery is possible. Bill’s story highlights that it doesn’t matter how bad things have gotten; if you take the right suggestions, you can turn your life around. We are so proud of the man Bill has become!
As always, if you or a loved one are struggling, please do not hesitate to reach out. Our Executive Director is ready for your call to point you in the right direction for treatment services.