Randall A. is a former client of CRW’s Pride Site and Re-integration programs, who after attempting to recover multiple times, has now been sober for a full year and is going to school to become a nurse! Below is a conversation with him reflecting back on his recovery journey.  

How did you end up getting into recovery? 

I was just tired of it. Coming to CRW was actually my third time in recovery. The first time I went to rehab for two weeks and I only did detox. I did learn a lot within those two weeks, but then I ended up relapsing a couple of months later and then I went again to Arms Acres. From there I went to St. Christopher’s and I was there for a month and a half. I did not complete that program because it was going to be my daughter’s birthday and I have never missed one of our birthdays, so I just ended up leaving early. 

I was doing pretty well and then I ended up relapsing almost a year later. I was going downhill, I was really bad when I went the second time. Then the third time, I caught myself right on time as soon as I saw kind of the same patterns that were happening. After the third time when I saw myself in a really bad place, I said, “Screw this, I need to go get my life together.” I had already started losing things that I have worked hard for, so I was determined. The hardest part was that feeling of being scared of leaving to go be around people that I didn’t know. I have trust issues and I felt like, “Oh my god, I have to meet new people now.” But in the end, I decided to come to CRW because I was just fed up and tired. I went to Arms Acres for detox on May 25 of 2021 and I was there until June 10. Then I went to Pride Site at CRW and lived there until February 25 of this year. I did Reintegration for a month and a half and then I decided okay I’m ready, and I completed. 

What was your experience like in Pride Site in general?  

When I first got there, I was second guessing whether I should stay or I should leave. I thought about going back to my family but then I was like, “Now you got to stick this time, you’re going to do it.” The first week was really tough because I’m an individual that didn’t know how to stay still in one place. I had to quarantine for seven days. After the seventh day they moved me into a room with other peers.  After that I said “Okay, if I did seven days in one room with no TV no nothing, no interaction,” I was like “I’m going to complete this program.”  

As the program went on, you know, I started going to groups. I was kind of quiet at first, I was very observant. I was doing what I had to do. And then within a month everyone knew me. Around three months I did a lot of work helping out around the community, community service. I like helping people. Then after that I became part of the structure team. 

What is the structure team? 

The structure team is work that clients can do to assist the staff. There are different levels; I ended up becoming the senior coordinator which is the highest level. Some of us coordinated, some of us had to run house meetings and make sure everyone attended, make sure the house was in order. I ended up running the structure team. Since I did a good job, they created a position just for me where I started training others that came into the structure team.  

The experience at CRW in total was amazing. When new people came in, I would give them the advice that if you put in the work you will succeed. Honestly speaking that was my case. I was there to do what I had to do to succeed. I wasn’t making excuses. Coming to CRW brought back my confidence and my security. Everything I had lost within myself, I was able to gain back in that community. Especially being a gay man, a gay father, and gaining a lot of respect from other straight men in the community, I’m grateful for that. 

What did you think was the most helpful aspect of it for you? 

My counselor Andrew (Clinical Counselor PRIDE Site) and also other staff members, like for example Ashley (Motivational Enhancement Counselor) was always supportive. They listened to me anytime I had to vent or just talk, but I really never got in trouble.  

Would you say you were you were ready this time to commit to it?  

Yes definitely, I was ready. Then I started school last semester in September and I aced the semester with all A’s. Then I started a new semester which I’m almost done with, which I’m also mostly acing. I’ve struggled with one of my classes but I understand why, I’m not beating myself up about it. I’m probably going to get a B or B+ which I’m okay with, because I know there was a lot going on with completing the program, finding an apartment, and finally moving into my apartment and settling in. Everything is coming along and I’m just being patient. Even now I’ve dealt with a couple of situations where I’ve gotten upset or it doesn’t go my way, but then I found the positive in it instead of being negative and using excuses to be upset at the world.  

What excuses do you think you were making before? 

Making excuses before was anything that would get me upset and make me say, “Eff this, let me go get high.” Now I don’t think about getting high, it doesn’t cross my mind.  

How long did it take you to get to a point where the thought of using didn’t cross your mind or you didn’t crave using anymore? 

Honestly speaking, even from the first week when I was in quarantine, I was telling the staff I’m done with using, I’m not doing it again. My counselor Andrew said that even from day one, I was determined and I knew what you wanted. Since that point, I’ve had dreams due to fear, but no cravings. 

That’s awesome! What do you think made Andrew a good counselor for you or in general? 

In general Andrew was amazing. He helped me a lot. He was one of the few individuals that was able to actually dig in and take information out of me. He’d ask me, “You want to talk about anything?” And I’d be like, “No, I’m fine, I’m good.” And he’d just start asking and I’d start remembering things that I kind of blocked out of my life. He was very helpful and he was always there when I needed him. He made sure I was doing well. He always mentioned I’ve been one of the strongest clients ever. Hearing that from him made me feel confident like, “Okay, I can do it this time.” Things got hard a couple of times and I was able to stick through it and not give up whereas in the past what I would do is give up. I was able to do things differently this time around.  

Where there any clinical groups that were your favorites or that you found especially useful? 

I did all of them, honestly speaking: LGBTQ groups, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Anger Management, Relapse Prevention Matrix, etc. All the groups were different. Telly’s (Motivational Enhancement Counselor) groups were quite intense. He had me break down a couple of times into tears. Telly’s groups were my favorite ones because he was very straightforward, he ran a couple of groups. He always took me out of my comfort zone and made me uncomfortable at first, but in a way where later on I was—I felt good that I let everything out, that I was able to express myself.  

If you could give someone struggling with an addiction or in early recovery some advice, what would you tell them?

In terms of someone struggling with an addiction, I would tell them to look at themselves in the mirror and literally ask themself are they worth it? And then I would tell them that they are worth it.

Sometimes we lose confidence, we feel like people don’t love us, or we stop loving ourselves. I would also say that no matter what, I will be here for them. When they’re ready, they’ll be ready. I would tell them to just take the first step, which is the hardest step. But as soon as you start walking, you may stumble a couple of times, but after a couple of stumbles, you’ll be fine. 

I would also tell them to not look back and dwell on the past, because that won’t get you anywhere. For someone who’s in early recovery, I’d remind them to always remember the progress they’ve made, and to not destroy what they have worked so hard for. And to always reach out to their loved ones, to surround themselves with family. Family is number one no matter what. Yes, our families might cut us out when we’re using, but that’s because we’re also causing them pain and harm and they don’t want to see us hurt, so they have to distance themselves. We are the ones that need to prove to them that we’re doing well, and they will come around. 

It sounds like have almost a year sober? 

Yes, it’s about to be a year on May 26. I’ll have a whole year sober. No drugs. Yep. 

That’s a huge accomplishment. You should be really proud of yourself. Are you going to do anything to celebrate? 

I’m turning thirty in August; I’ll probably travel and have like a mini vacation. I’m so happy that I’m a year sober from crystal meth, that drug destroyed my life. I’m just looking back and reflecting on myself and everything I’ve accomplished. I don’t need that in my life. Yeah. And that’s it, that’s what I do every day. I’m grateful every day, and I pray every night and morning, and that’s what keeps me going.