I attempted suicide after getting my first apartment after my divorce. I had just stayed with some friends for about a year and had stayed sober and clean during that time. But I relapsed about a week after getting in the apartment and took a large amount of pills and ended up in the emergency room. My psychiatrist who had known me from previous incidents with alcoholism and mental illness had talked to me and I told him I would like to go into long-term treatment.
So, from there, went to a nursing home in Amboy and I had a traumatic incident on the first day there kind of where someone was choking on some food and I had to help keep him alive. But that’s beside the point, I went from there because I had relapsed on alcohol there, I had left the nursing home and went to a gas station to buy alcohol, which was definitely what I did NOT need, I then ended up getting picked up by a CNA staff member and the police got involved because I hit a monitor at the nursing home that they brought me back to that I was at. I got transferred from there to a nursing home in Sterling. I was there for about 6 months. I decided to leave (were discharged by physician) with my then girlfriend, and got a hotel room, I went off my anti-psychotic meds, which was bad, it was wrong thing to do, ended up relapsing on alcohol again, and got into heavy street drugs for a brief time there and I couldn’t handle them, it was too strong for me, but even alcohol is too strong for me apparently, But I ended up calling 911 but it didn’t go well, the SWAT team was involved, I got tased 3 times, then I got sent back to the Sterling nursing home for about 2 years, and I was introduced to IOP and Kevin Buss and Kelly Burrow, they got me started on my recovery. That was probably 2014 or 2015 that this all started. I didn’t meet Kevin/Kelly until a year and half to a year and ¾ into my second stay at the Sterling nursing home very late in my stay there, it was close to 2016 by then.
Prior to this I had been in counseling, yes, this has been a lifelong battle, my mother died in 2004, father committed suicide when 9 months old, very strong impact on my life, just real bad. I had been raised around alcohol. I knew what it did to people, yet I was still attracted to it. At a young age I started drinking, probably around 9 years old. It took off from then.
So getting back to my story, Kevin at Sinnissippi suggested checking out the Sinnissippi Centers apartments, the one in Sterling, and I didn’t know they existed, I was interested, the Sterling nursing home encouraged it, thought it was a great idea, I was welcomed in here very well, I have had very few issues, I have had really good success here.
I started off a bit lazy, didn’t want to participate, didn’t want to have anything to do with people because I had been burnt so many times in my life, I started realizing I had a choice and I can either lay down and die or get up and fight. I chose fighting because I knew my life was worth saving, and I knew my parents would want me to keep going even though I had been through such a hell in life. So I got the energy and the muster to keep trying, the docs also helped getting my scripts straightened out so I could function and not be a zombie. I was under more heavy meds at the Sterling nursing home because of the previous incident with the police, which was probably a good idea at the time. But I have been here close to 3 years now, I have made family out of the people here, I get in their lives, I love to try and help the best I can, I know I am not a counselor, but I can be a very good friend and support to these people, they are like family, even the staff is like family now, I mean I know them all.
That’s why I wanted to do my story, was to tell people I have had brief encounters with sobriety, but it never stuck like it has now, I have been a part of AA, been in rehab 3 prior times before staying with my friends in Ottawa, they were great people, they let me live with them for a year with their family. And I never knew what a family was like, because my mother was very mentally ill, my father of course was since he committed suicide, but my mom was also diagnosed with Schizophrenia, she used to believe people were coming into our home and doing stuff, and I never thought that was wrong, I was thought that just was the way life was, and how people were, you know, I thought people were very evil, and uh would hurt you if they could instead of help you, and it was a false belief of course, so I inherited the mental illness part from them.
At 20 I was diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia, at 19 I had my first DUI crash, which I was flown to Rockford with a cerebral hemorrhage, I beat the odds there to live there, 2001, just to be able to survive (not sure that’s all accurate – check timeline), they thought I would be disabled (his words a vegetable) in a nursing home but I had a hell of a good recovery, a lot of support there, but I ended up going back to the same environment I had been in before.
I got 2 more DUI’s, trying to work jobs off and on, never had any real career type jobs, I always bounced around from place to place, didn’t really care about anything [at that time] I had that kind of outlook.
I would think that IOP had a big, big, part of my recovery, because it taught me how screwed up addictions and alcohol really are. It’s a vicious cycle, that a person who is living with that gets into. They punish themselves, beat themselves up, they want to feel good because they are so down in the dumps about things or they’re bored and just want to do something different and that involves drugs or alcohol, there are many things, the social atmosphere out there now is, I mean, is welcome open arms right now to be involved in drugs and alcohol, and it’s very sad.
But yeah, I would say IOP was a game changer, because once I realize that there were people who cared and wanted to help me and weren’t just trying to feed me a line of bull I realized I could do this, and I realized my life could be a lot better than what it had been. It broke that cycle.
I will tell you right now, you go through this phase of addiction and alcoholism, and it’s kicking your ass, and you just want something to relieve it. I don’t care if you get introduced into it later in life or as a child like I did, it’s the same damn cycle, it doesn’t care about you, it doesn’t give a damn about your family, it doesn’t give a damn about your friends, it will destroy you. And if you let it keep doing that, if you let it keep kicking your butt, sooner or later you are going to do one of two things, you are either going to end your life, or you’re going to fight for it, you know what I mean? And it came down to those two things. That’s straight up how I looked at it, and I had a choice to live or die. I had a choice to continue self-destructing, or to try and make something out of myself.
I grabbed onto the thought that my father had given up and I didn’t want to be like him. I wanted to be productive in my life, I wanted it to mean something to people, I wanted to care about people, I wanted to help other people, I didn’t want to be a statistic in someone’s book, saying oh my gosh he will never change, he will always be the same, and I got a hell of a sense of humor out of the deal anyway. You know what I mean? I learned to laugh at those things that used to piss me off the worst, and I turn them around as jokes now. [Interviewer: That’s so healthy for anybody]. Absolutely! Laughter is the best damn medicine, I agree with that wholeheartedly, you know what I mean, that’s just the way it is. If you can make someone who is suicidal that has given up hope, if you can make them smile for just a little bit and laugh, isn’t that worth it? We’re hurting right now, there’s poor people out there starving to death, and I feel for them, but I cannot let the negativity that’s out there in the world bring me down any further than it has already.
The future is bright, I am looking forward to one day having my own apartment, they are helping me get to the level of self-care where I can do that, I can accomplish those dreams. I can live on my own one day and not have to worry I can’t trust myself, you know what I mean?
Well, I would like to go back to school, I took a little bit of college but it got messed up because of transportation reasons and some slacking on my part, but I would like to go off to school and accomplish what I set off to do, I am going to take fewer courses because I kind of got jumbled in the mix of things and I took too many. Um, I was looking at the money factor and at the quality of education that I should have had, you know, and there’s was lot of BS going on in my head trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I want to be a welder someday. I love what it does, how it joins pieces of metal together that are very hard to do. It’s virtually indestructible stuff, and you’re welding it together piece by piece, that’s kind of cool to me.
I have been reading the bible with a friend, she’s got me involved in a bible study, We are going to read it in a year, so far we started in January, I am enjoying that, we do that early in the morning before my groups and everything start so we can concentrate on what we’re reading and focus on that, that’s pretty cool, um, I am learning stuff I didn’t even know was in there, I thought the bible was just a bunch of preaching and that kind of thing I thought that religion was as phony as a baloney and that kind of thing, all my life. But now I am realizing that its basically the instructions on how to live a good life, and the dos and don’ts that will keep you alive, you know what I mean, it’s kind of cool, there’s some good stories in it. I enjoy the book about Moses, of course, that was excellent, I mean all five there in the beginning. And I am just enjoying it you know, and I am not trying to push it on my friends, I am not trying to push any of that garbage on anyone else, it’s just something personal, to keep me going. And I like doing puzzles too, these guys have taught me how to do puzzles, and I mean to tell you it’s something else, it really intrigues me, because, of course, you have to find the right slot for the right piece. I mean that’s kind of cool.
I love music, I am music guy, I love the doors, I mean I am classic rock, I love you know, ZZ Top, AC/DC, all the good bands, I’m talking back in the day when they had MUSIC, not this thing they got going on now, you know what I mean?
So, I would like to tell the people out there to never give up hope. I think that’s the best thing. If you don’t have hope what are you living for? You have to have hope. And I am not trying to sell a commercial or anything like that but if people have generalized hope in life, even through COVID, we can survive it, we’ll get through this, and it’s the same way with alcohol and addiction, if you have a little bit of hope, you can make it, you really can.