quora pixel
 (512) 605-2955

100% Confidential

stories addiction recoveryAl Lesem’s upbringing in Houston, Texas was difficult. His mother passed away when he was just six years old and his father remarried several times after that. Although his father cared for him and had a great job as a psychiatrist, Al had no structure or guidance as a child.

“My childhood was very stressful,” he says. “I was raised by nannies. I didn’t really have anybody that would ask me if I did my homework. I was given the freedom to go to bed whenever, ride my bike as far as I wanted … there wasn’t that much parenting done on my father’s end. It wasn’t ideal.”

Al LesemAfter his mother passed away, Al was put on various antidepressants and was exposed to different sleep medications like Ambien. At one point in time, he remembers breaking his wrist and being prescribed hydrocodone. He loved how it made him feel, but he didn’t know what it was or how to get more of it.

“That feeling was kind of stained in my brain,” he says. “I knew that prescription drugs were out there and that they made me feel really good, but I wasn’t sure which ones they were.”

Al’s first recreational experience with drugs was in early adolescence. At the time, he was hanging out with a group of friends who were really into punk rock music. They would smoke a cigarette or two occasionally, but none of them had tried any illegal drugs. They quickly became curious about marijuana and Al tried it for the first time with his friends when he was 12.

“I hated it,” he says. “It gave me an anxiety attack. But my friends loved it. That was what they wanted to do, and I really liked hanging out with them. I wanted to be a part of it.”

Al would smoke pot with his friends a few times a month and eventually, the anxiety attacks stopped. He started enjoying it and was smoking weed every day by the time he was 14.

The Turning Point of Addiction

Everything changed after Al discovered opiates at the age of 18. He was a senior in high school when he started buying hydrocodone from a dealer. He was quickly consumed by the way they made him feel and it wasn’t long before he was buying them on a regular basis.

“I barely graduated high school because my whole day and life revolved around those pills, he says. “It was all I thought about.”

Al abruptly stopped caring about school and doing other things he enjoyed because everything in his life revolved around trying to find more money to buy pills. And things only got worse after graduation.

By the time he was done with high school, Al was taking nearly 30 hydrocodone pills a day. Not only was it an extremely expensive habit, but his frequent interaction with dealers and other drug abusers led him to start buying drugs from more dangerous sources in Houston’s Fifth Ward, an area of the city known for its high crime rate and gang activity.

Al was still living with his dad in Houston during this time, but they only saw each other in passing, so he was completely unaware of the drug abuse that was going on. It wasn’t until Al pawned some of his mom’s old jewelry to get drug money that his dad finally caught wind of how serious the problem was.

“He kicked me out of the house, so I was on my own for about a month or so,” Al says. “Eventually he called me and told me I could go to treatment but that I had to go right now.”

Fortunately, Al was ready. He wanted out. He wanted to stop the cycle of addiction for good, so he took his dad up on the offer.

“All the walls were caving in and I didn’t want anything to do with it anymore,” he says. “I just wanted it all to stop.”

Al enrolled in an inpatient therapy-based treatment program in Houston, went to sober living, and finished an outpatient program. He was in his third month of sobriety but had only made it through step three of the 12-step program. He was miserable and still found himself haunted by the need to use drugs.

A Whole Year, Completely Gone

Depressed and still plagued by the mental obsession of his addiction, Al was presented with an opportunity to use heroin. He gladly accepted, leaving his sober home and treatment behind. He spent the next two to three years trapped in a dark and horrible routine of addiction.

“I don’t remember any of 2014,” he says. “I was just taking tons of heroin and Xanax. What I do remember, was how horrible the routine was. I would wake up, try to find money to go get heroin, do it, and hope it was enough to get me through the night so I could sleep. Then I’d start all over again the next day. I was totally convinced that there was no other way for me.”

Al had tried just smoking pot or just drinking but none of it had been able to satisfy his appetite for opiates. Desolate and empty inside, he badly wanted to stop, but just couldn’t. He had been to five different treatment centers and nothing had worked. Attending Nova Recovery Center was his sixth attempt at getting sober.

“When I went to Nova, they had just opened their center in Wimberley,” he says. “I was one of eight guys in there. I had all this personal attention and the best part was, they totally took full advantage of my willingness and desperation.”

At Nova, Al was given specific instructions on what to do daily, he had someone walking him through the 12 steps, and he finally had the structure he needed to change his life for good. Thirty-day programs hadn’t been enough for him in the past, so he spent three full months in Nova’s inpatient program, where the staff helped him lay a solid groundwork for a life of independent sobriety.

“I had been through the 12 steps before and had sponsored other guys, but this was the first time I had been through the steps and totally believed it was my only hope,” he says. “I wasn’t just going through the motions anymore.”

Finding Freedom in Sobriety

Nova was Al’s final and successful attempt at sobriety. After years of battling his addiction and struggling to get his head above water, he was finally able to see what he was capable of.

“Life today is incredible,” he says. “My company is sending me to school to get a bachelor’s degree, I have money saved up, and I have incredible relationships with my friends, mentors and some extended family—even my father and my brother. I really never thought that I’d be in the place I am today.”

Through his personal experience with addiction and recovery, Al says he firmly believes in the importance of waiting to go to treatment until the time is right. By completely surrendering, throwing out all his old ideas, and being open to every single suggestion that was given to him, he was eventually able to set himself free from the bondage of addiction and find balance in a life of recovery.

“Recovery is what allows you to go do the cool sh*t in life you never got to do,” he says. “Like travel, backpack, go to school and find a career that you really love and then continue to grow it. It doesn’t just end with being sober. Sobriety is the start of how cool life can be. Go and make it what you want it to be because you can do anything you want.”

If you or a loved one would like more information about Nova’s inpatient or outpatient drug rehab programs, please call (512) 605-2955 today. Our admissions specialists are waiting and ready to speak with you.