Stephen grew up in Oklahoma City and was one of five boys. His parents both worked hard to provide a great life for their children and they all attended private Catholic school. Stephen says he never wanted for anything as a kid and he enjoyed playing a variety of sports.
Stephen’s mom struggled with alcoholism, and when he was 13, she went to rehab in New Mexico. Although his parents divorced a few years later, his mom has been sober for the last 16 years and is one of his biggest inspirations.
“I was very blessed,” he says. “My upbringing was great and I couldn’t have asked for a better situation. I just made the wrong decisions to end up where I am.”
Stephen’s substance use started young. He had his first alcoholic drink as an early teen and although he mostly just liked to smoke pot, he started drinking regularly in high school. It wasn’t until the age of 16 that he first experienced opioids. At the time, he was snowboarding competitively and sustained a serious injury while on vacation. Doctors gave him opioid painkillers for his broken neck and he took them with alcohol. He really liked the feeling he got and wanted to experience it again.
After that, he abused OxyContin heavily but stopped briefly once he graduated high school. At the time, he didn’t even realize he was already addicted and unknowingly going through withdrawal.
“I thought I was just really sick for a week or two,” he explains.
After graduation, Stephen worked at Panera Bread for a short time but ultimately decided it was time to go to college. He enrolled at Oklahoma State University and rented a duplex with his brother, who had recently moved back home after some traumatic personal experiences. He describes that time as “isolating” and he felt trapped in an unhealthy living situation with his brother.
“I was just going to school and coming home. I wasn’t socializing much,” he says. “I just got stuck in this routine of drinking and smoking in the duplex.”
The next year, Stephen decided to go Greek and pledged a fraternity. Although he managed to break free from the isolation of his duplex, he was imprisoned once again by a lifestyle of partying and drinking. His fervor for academics completely deflated and his grades plummeted. Defeated, he decided to withdrawal from school and move back home.
Pills, Alcohol, More Pills, Repeat
Stephen may have escaped his painkiller addiction for a few years, but he fell right back into it after moving home. His overnight hours at the 7/11 convenience store made it all too easy for him to drink and do pills while he worked. Once the pills got too expensive, he resorted to stealing from his employer to fund his addiction.
Even still, no amount of money was enough to fuel his need for more. Stephen received a timely two-part inheritance of $30K, which he blew through in a matter of months. To make matters worse, he lost his job at 7/11 once his boss discovered he was stealing from the store and barely dodged jail time by the skin of his teeth. Soon after, Stephen got a new job as a driver at BMW and started each morning off at the liquor store. He spent his days driving around drunk while on the clock.
Isolated and depressed, Stephen was in a very dark place. In a brief attempt at getting sober, he attended a 30-day rehab program but was back to drinking just a few weeks later. Jobless, he lived at home with his mom, used her money to get drunk, and needed more and more alcohol just to feel okay. Stephen had reached a new low.
“When I woke up in the morning, I couldn’t eat any food or drink any water until I had liquor in my stomach,” he says. “If I woke up before 10 o’clock, I was having panic attacks and felt like I was going to die if I didn’t have any alcohol. I would throw up bile and blood until I could drink and I’d be waiting outside the liquor store just puking.”
At one point, Stephen didn’t have any money, but he could walk into either of the two liquor stores that were near his mom’s house and they would front him alcohol because they knew he would be back in a few hours.
“I’d always scrape up enough money to buy a small bottle that would last me like an hour or two, but I would freak out when I saw there was just a little bit left in the bottle,” Stephen says.
Sobriety or Death
Around Christmas time, a friend knew that Stephen was struggling to find work so he offered to let him help renovate a house with him to earn some money. It was cold outside that day and Stephen says he remembers feeling “off.”
“We were laying bricks and I felt really weird,” he says. “I got really hot so I went inside and took off my jacket. I was sweating really bad and paced around for a little bit because I couldn’t pinpoint what was wrong with me. I went back outside and was working for a few more minutes and got really cold, so I put my jacket back on and that was the last thing I remember. I woke up on the ground and Zach was talking to me.”
Stephen had just experienced a severe seizure. In the moments after, he was very disoriented and confused so his friend took him home and his dad immediately rushed him to the hospital. He had another seizure while waiting in the ER and woke up two days later. When he finally opened his eyes again, doctors were surprised to see him awake.
“The doctors told me that I was an alcoholic and that if I didn’t stop, I was going to die,” he says. “I was scared.”
The threat of death was as serious as they come, but even that wasn’t enough to make Stephen change. He found himself drinking again just two days later. He was out of control and he couldn’t stop.
Stephen spent that Christmas drinking alone in bed, while his parents, siblings, and nieces enjoyed the holiday together. He spent the next few months in a drunken daze, utterly depressed, isolated, and hopeless. It was February before he finally came to the life-changing realization that he didn’t want to die.
He reached out to his dad for help and together, they found Nova Recovery Center. Stephen’s parents were nothing less than supportive and grateful that he was ready to get treatment for his addiction. He flew down to Texas the very next day and headed to detox at Briarwood Detox Center before starting a rehab program at Nova.
“It was the best decision I’ve made this far in my life,” he says. “I have a great appreciation for Nova and what they do.”
Stephen completed Nova’s 90-day rehab program, surrounded and supported by caring counselors, peers, and his family. He had spent more than a decade enslaved by his alcohol addiction but he had finally broken free and started to live his life.
“Starting your life over again at twenty-eight isn’t fun, but I am so grateful that I get the opportunity to do that instead of putting my parents through the pain of having to bury one of their sons,” he says. “I fully intend on using this new life.”
Today, Stephen has been sober for 16 months and he is continually inspired by his mom’s sobriety and her own personal strength in recovery. He has a solid job in management and is currently completing a certification program to become a personal trainer and nutritionist. He stays plugged into the recovery community and works hard to make the world a better place by helping one person at a time.
Stephen says his recovery from addiction was a long and arduous process, but that it continues to be well worth the effort.
“When you’re at your worst, your addiction is telling you that you don’t need help,” he says. “You definitely feel embarrassed and no one likes to ask for help, but that was my own biggest turning point—when I decided it was time to ask for help. And that was the best decision I ever made.”
If you’re struggling with addiction, it’s not too late to get help. Call (512) 605-2955 to speak with a Nova representative now.