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Justin’s Success Story

I grew up in a small town. My parents have been married for over 40 years. There are seven of us in the family: five boys and two girls.

I tried alcohol for the first time when I was five. My aunt thought it would be fun and nice to let me taste it. I ran with the glass to my parents. They wouldn’t let me talk to her again after that.

As a child, I never felt like I belonged anywhere. I was weird and hyperactive. My friends, brothers, and sisters weren’t as easily agitated as me. Before my birth, my father worked as a basketball coach in a college. That’s how I got into basketball and sports. I played sports all my life: not only basketball but also tennis and soccer. It made me feel happy.

One time, when I was 13, I was writing a test at school when the teacher told me to stop. I immediately thought I was in trouble. He said I had to go with him, but did not explain what was wrong. My mother was waiting for me on the street. My brothers were in the car. Mother was crying. My brother said our sister had died the day before: two days before she turned 19. She was my best friend and always protected me.

After my sister died, I wanted to die too. We were really close. I remembered how alcohol made me feel and became addicted to booze and marijuana. By the age of 15, I had switched to cocaine and opiates. I would get drunk even on my way to school, using my sister’s death as an excuse. I didn’t see it as a problem. I told everyone, including my inner voice, “It is not your sister who’s dead. You have no idea what I’m going through.”

In the seventh grade, I had my first overdose. I woke up in the hospital. The headmaster, my parents, and the doctor told me that I had to choose between prison and rehab. I agreed to undergo treatment, but did not take it seriously. I would sit in the corner and laugh at those who really came there to talk about their problems. I saw them as losers and thought I was better than them. I wasn’t homeless and I didn’t use needles (I sniffed heroin), so I thought I was better off.

A year later, it all happened again when the headmaster caught me smoking weed. I asked a boy from my group to take my things, because I knew they would be searching them. But the boy wasn’t taking drugs and told me I needed help. They found the drugs and the pipe, which was still hot. I was given the same choice: prison or rehab. I went back to the rehabilitation center and again thought that I was better than the rest.

I still managed to finish high school, although I doubt that I deserve my certificate. The teachers most likely took pity on me because of my parents: they understood what they had gone through. I never made the effort to study, although I was always smart. I didn’t want to go to school or learn things. I wanted to die. But I was too much of a coward for that.

At 16, my brother and I played music together. He had been clean for four years at that time. We played at concerts and met with record labels. It was really cool for us. I was taking drugs, but not often and unbeknownst to him. After his fourth year, we were at a big party and my brother was acting weird. His girlfriend asked me to follow him because he was clearly up to something. I went down to the bathroom and saw him shooting up in the toilet stall. I was probably 18 at the time. I called my father and told him my brother was having a relapse.

But my brother did not stop at that. When I was 20, he called me and told me he had been robbing banks and gas stations for the past few months. He was crying. I asked him to stop, but he said that he would quickly rob another one and then come for me. He got caught and told me over the telephone that he was going to kill himself. I told my father, and he and a detective found my brother. He was blue in the face, but they brought him back to his senses. My father told me back then, “Better he ends up in prison than dead.”

I started using needles at 21, and a week later I got arrested for the first time. They pulled my car over and found drugs on me. Even then I didn’t think it was time to stop. I thought I was only the beginning of my story. I believed I would keep using drugs in jail too.

My father had very good connections and was able to get me out that time. But that was only the beginning. I would get arrested many times, then come out and start using drugs again. The judges and officers did everything they could. They even texted me, asking me how I was doing. But I didn’t give a damn. I wasn’t ready to stop.

My dad was in the real estate business, and in 2017, I stole over $30,000 from him. I was too weak to look for money myself, so I stole from those who loved me. My father protected me from prison, but insisted on rehabilitation.

A month later, I was resting in a common room in the rehab center when my therapist came in and asked to speak to me in private. I went with him, and he said, “Your father just called. They found your brother with a needle in his arm.”

At that moment, I felt like I had lost everything. I couldn’t believe it. I had been clean for less than two months. I called my mother and begged her to tell me it was a lie. That morning, my brother and I were talking about how I needed to play music again. He told me he was proud of me, that he himself was too old, but that he would support and guide me. He promised to do everything to help me.

The next morning, I flew home to attend my brother’s funeral. I buried him clean, but I didn’t want to be clean anymore. I talked to my sponsor. I was walking around him, crying and telling him, “First my sister, and now my brother. I don’t want to be clean, I want to get high.” People took care of me and tried to make it easier for me.

In the end, I had to go back to the rehab center: my parents didn’t think it was enough. Everyone in the center tried to talk to me about my brother and sister. I was angry at my brother for not being there for me, so I lashed out at those who were. My sponsor told me that if I didn’t try to solve the problem and talk about it, I would break down again. I told him to worry about his own health.

But he was right: not a month has passed before I ran away and got high again. My parents didn’t know where I was or if I was fine. I turned off my phone and chose the role of a victim again: it hurts too much, you can’t even imagine what I’m going through.

They threatened to turn me over, so I returned to the treatment center. Still, the result was the same: I met a girl and ran away. After two weeks, I got arrested again. It was my sister’s graduation, and I tried to use that as an excuse for them to let me go. The lawyer and district attorney were on my side, but the judge said, “If I let him go, his parents will have to bury a third child. He is going to the rehabilitation center.”

That time I promised myself I would stay clean: I did not want my parents to lose a third child. I was working on myself, but met another girl at the rehab center. My sponsor told me to stay away from girls, because relationships would result in a relapse, and I obeyed. After a month of treatment, someone suggested that I go to EcoSoberHouse. I wanted to go home, but my parents said that I wasn’t welcome at home: the Child Service was looking after my nephews, and I could no longer return there.

When I arrived at EcoSoberHouse, I was still angry with everyone, but quickly realized that everything was different here. It seemed crazy that the managers would get to know the groups and customers in person. I ended up here in August 2017, seven months after my brother died. It would have been his birthday on September 6. I tried talking about it, but failed. I wanted to get high. I had a relapse on September 6, and EcoSoberHouse tried to persuade me to come back. I refused.

That night, I slept outside under a picnic table. My phone died. I spent all night crying. My mom said she would call the police and tell them to arrest me if I entered their territory. I couldn’t believe it. It was the end. I ended up calling EcoSoberHouse, begging them to let me come back. They took me in, and that was when I took the groups seriously for the first time.

After my brother died, I promised myself never to return to music, but I have recently recorded a tape with another recovering addict, and now I am making a record for the radio. The consultant told me it wasn’t even the beginning. When I heard it for the first time, I thought it was nonsense, but he wasn’t lying. Each time is really better than the last. I had a panic attack during my first performance, because I thought I would never be able to play without my brother. But the people from EcoSoberHouse supported me. So I went out and played my music, ending my performance with a song I wrote together with my brother. It was amazing.

In the past, I had no self-esteem. And today I have it, because I have come here myself and taken everything seriously. I still need to process my resentment towards God for the death of my brother and sister, but it will not take long. My consultant says that if I do not rely on higher powers, I could start acting on my own and return to drugs. I think he’s 100% right.

My life is wonderful now. I’m going home, and my parents don’t mind it. My dad leaves his wallet on the nightstand—in the past, he would go as far as take it to bed with him. He once told me that I would never get to be alone with my nephew, but now I can spend time with him alone. He is two years old, and he means the world to me. He has never seen me with substances—and he never will, as long as I do what I do.

Six months later, I realized that I liked what was happening. I like being clean. I like waking up and having the energy to get out of bed without drugs. I like feeling good. All this is happening because I go to meetings and talk to other people, who are recovering just like me. I am honest with them. I can even cry in front of them. I must do this to stay clean, and I don’t care if you judge me.

I am a recovering drug addict, and I write music. My music will give hope to others, to people like me. I don’t want parents to bury their children. It’s wrong. My parents will never recover from what they had to go through.

If it weren’t for EcoSoberHouse, this would never have happened. I didn’t want to change anything. But here I feel love and care. I have never felt it before, even though I have been to over 60 detoxes and over a hundred treatments. In two weeks, it will be 17 months since I have last used drugs, and all this time I have been with EcoSoberHouse. This is really a step-by-step work. And everything else falls in place by itself.