Living Recovery Interventions: My story of recovery

i am travis whittaker, an addict in 11 years of sustained recovery.

As I look back over my life I can clearly see events and experiences which damaged me, and led me down the path of addiction, beginning with my biological dad giving up rights to me for a $4,000 payout when I was three years old.  Shortly thereafter my mom married an alcoholic who adopted me, he left when I was ten years old.  My mom was then in and out of abusive relationships for most of my teen years, which caused me to be in constant state of survival mode.  I also often felt unwanted and worthless growing up.  I always told myself I was going to be a great husband and father, I would not fall into addiction like so many around me had, but an unexpected detour in my early twenties took me on a path just there.    

I was married with a baby boy when I suffered a back injury while playing basketball.  I was in a great deal of pain, and I had health insurance for the first time in my life and was able to see a Dr. who after several tests diagnosed me with a spine fracture along my L4 and L5 disks, because this was an injury that couldn’t be easily fixed I was prescribed Hydrocodone for pain management.  I liked the way opiates made me feel.  They numbed my physical pain, and also made me feel good, they filled a void I did not even realize existed.  As my body became accustomed to the dosage, however, I needed more and more at higher dosages to maintain this feeling.  I escalated to Percocet, then Demerol, then Oxycontin, then Fentanyl patches. I became an opiate addict slowly, without even realizing it was happening.  My life was manageable for the first five years of taking these prescriptions.  I had a great job, my wife and I added two baby girls to our family, we enjoyed time with our family and friends, vacations, life was good.  It was after the tragic events of September 11, 2001 when my world began to crumble.

i am travis whittaker, an addict in 11 years of sustained recovery.

travis_family

As I look back over my life I can clearly see events and experiences which damaged me, and led me down the path of addiction, beginning with my biological dad giving up rights to me for a $4,000 payout when I was three years old.  Shortly thereafter my mom married an alcoholic who adopted me, he left when I was ten years old.  My mom was then in and out of abusive relationships for most of my teen years, which caused me to be in constant state of survival mode.  I also often felt unwanted and worthless growing up.  I always told myself I was going to be a great husband and father, I would not fall into addiction like so many around me had, but an unexpected detour in my early twenties took me on a path just there.    

I was married with a baby boy when I suffered a back injury while playing basketball.  I was in a great deal of pain, and I had health insurance for the first time in my life and was able to see a Dr. who after several tests diagnosed me with a spine fracture along my L4 and L5 disks, because this was an injury that couldn’t be easily fixed I was prescribed Hydrocodone for pain management.  I liked the way opiates made me feel.  They numbed my physical pain, and also made me feel good, they filled a void I did not even realize existed.  As my body became accustomed to the dosage, however, I needed more and more at higher dosages to maintain this feeling.  I escalated to Percocet, then Demerol, then Oxycontin, then Fentanyl patches. I became an opiate addict slowly, without even realizing it was happening.  My life was manageable for the first five years of taking these prescriptions.  I had a great job, my wife and I added two baby girls to our family, we enjoyed time with our family and friends, vacations, life was good.  It was after the tragic events of September 11, 2001 when my world began to crumble.

I lost my job, suffered several car accidents and was arrested...

I lost my job due to the economic fall out, and as my addiction progressed, my life began to spiral into chaos. 

I lost jobs, I was in several car accidents, I was arrested for Doctor shopping. I lied, I stole, I ruined relationships, I hated myself, I felt like a failure, I was depressed, I was hopeless, I was suicidal.  I felt like I was at the bottom of a deep hole which there was no escape from. I wanted out, but did not have the tools I needed to escape. 

My wife did not understand addiction or its many facets at the time. However, she wanted desperately to help me, so she researched and found a 3 day medical detox program at a local hospital, she believed if I got through the withdrawals I would not need opiates any longer, I decided I would go, but it was just a band-aid for a gaping wound.

I ended up going through detox several more times within a few years. I would go in, withdrawal, come out with a methadone prescription, it would run out, I would go back to opiates, and the vicious cycle would repeat.  Detox failed because it did not address the underlying reasons I was self-medicating.

Becoming more and more desperate for answers my wife scheduled me to see psychiatrist in the hopes we would find a psychological reason as to why I was dependent on opiates. The Psychiatrist did not do anything to help my addiction, instead she prescribed me Xanax, a lot of Xanax.  I fell in love with the way it made me feel, it was perfect to numb any emotional pain, soon I was addicted to it as well. 

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I fell in love with the way it made me feel, it was perfect to numb any emotional pain....

My addiction was not only destroying my life, but wife and children’s as well.  My wife became my enabler, not even knowing what that was at the time.  She rescued me from consequences, she covered up for me, made excuses for me.  She had the false sense of control over me and my addiction.  She believed she could save me if she yelled at me enough, reasoned with me enough, loved me enough, made me happy enough, but all she succeeded in doing was making herself mentally and physically ill with anxiety.  There was nothing she coud have done to save me, only I could do that. My children were witness to our many fights. They saw me incoherent while on drugs.  They saw the poor decisions I was making.  They witnessed me acting out in anger at the world. Several times the police were called to our home because I was out of control.  My son witnessed me having a seizure when I was withdrawing from Xanax.  Paramedics came to our home and took me to the ER that day, but I still wasn’t done digging deeper in the hole I was in. I blamed everyone for my addiction: my mom, my wife, my childhood.  The world was against me, God was punishing me. I wasn’t ready to take responsibility, I wasn’t ready to save myself.  I was a victim. 

My addiction came to a head on April 20, 2009, I was 37 years old.  The pharmacy had mistakenly given me my refill of Xanax early, I had 220 pills I took all of them over two days. Then in a drug induced haze I decided I was leaving my home, my wife, my children. I packed up my bags, got in my car and headed to Wendover, Nevada.  I rolled my car in Utah’s west desert traveling 120 MPH.  I survived the crash and was taken by ambulance to an ER in Tooele, Utah. I vividly remember hovering above medical personal who were working on my physical body.

I fell in love with the way it made me feel, it was perfect to numb any emotional pain....

wrecked_car

My addiction was not only destroying my life, but wife and children’s as well.  My wife became my enabler, not even knowing what that was at the time.  She rescued me from consequences, she covered up for me, made excuses for me.  She had the false sense of control over me and my addiction.  She believed she could save me if she yelled at me enough, reasoned with me enough, loved me enough, made me happy enough, but all she succeeded in doing was making herself mentally and physically ill with anxiety.  There was nothing she coud have done to save me, only I could do that. My children were witness to our many fights. They saw me incoherent while on drugs.  They saw the poor decisions I was making.  They witnessed me acting out in anger at the world. Several times the police were called to our home because I was out of control.  My son witnessed me having a seizure when I was withdrawing from Xanax. Paramedics came to our home and took me to the ER that day, but I still wasn’t done digging deeper in the hole I was in. I blamed everyone for my addiction: my mom, my wife, my childhood.  The world was against me, God was punishing me. I wasn’t ready to take responsibility, I wasn’t ready to save myself.  I was a victim. 

My addiction came to a head on April 20, 2009, I was 37 years old.  The pharmacy had mistakenly given me my refill of Xanax early, I had 220 pills I took all of them over two days. Then in a drug induced haze I decided I was leaving my home, my wife, my children. I packed up my bags, got in my car and headed to Wendover, Nevada.  I rolled my car in Utah’s west desert traveling 120 MPH.  I survived the crash and was taken by ambulance to an ER in Tooele, Utah. I vividly remember hovering above medical personal who were working on my physical body.

There was someone hovering beside me...

There was someone hovering beside me, I believe this was my guardian angel.  He was not happy with me, and told me in no uncertain terms I had three choices for my life:

1. Die from a drug overdose

2. Kill someone else because of my drug use, and go to Jail.

3. Find recovery. 

I chose recovery, I was ready to receive the help I desperately needed. I awoke a short time later back in my body determined I would end my drug addiction. A few weeks later I checked into an inpatient treatment facility.  I graduated from the program 95 days later.  I did the tough emotional work I needed to, I felt great, I was full of hope for the future.  What I did not understand was 90 days of treatment was just a foundation for recovery, it did not cure me, I had a lot more work to do.

A criminal record made it nearly impossible to find a good job, after being turned down for job after job, I began to feel defeated.  I also was not working an aftercare program, because I thought I had my recovery all figured out.  Slowly, those familiar feelings of self-loathing, shame, and hate crept back in to my brain and took over. Within a few months I was back in self-destructive patterns.  I did not go back to using drugs, because I knew where that would lead, but I started other harmful behaviors like gambling, and shopping.  I began pawning anything of value I had to support these bad habits.

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I fell in love with the way it made me feel, it was perfect to numb any emotional pain....

I was searching for something to fill the void which had once been filled with drugs and alcohol.

My wife also fell back into her patterns of enabling me.  This went on for several years until our marriage fell apart.  I moved out of our home with nothing. I was homeless, jobless, felt worthless and defeated.  I nearly gave up.

During inpatient treatment I often heard “don’t give up before the miracle happens” this stuck with me, and somewhere deep inside of me I resolved to fight to be the man I wanted to become.

I truly let go and let God in for the first time in my life. I applied for and was turned down for over twenty jobs before I was offered a job, I was ecstatic to be working again.  Slowly, I was getting my life back on track. I was waking up each day with purpose and showing up to my life in simple ways. I found a place to live, I started making amends with family and friends, I began to love and care for myself. I finally learned to fill the void with positive behaviors and patterns. I then received the first of my recovery miracles.

I fell in love with the way it made me feel, it was perfect to numb any emotional pain....

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I was searching for something to fill the void which had once been filled with drugs and alcohol.

My wife also fell back into her patterns of enabling me.  This went on for several years until our marriage fell apart.  I moved out of our home with nothing. I was homeless, jobless, felt worthless and defeated.  I nearly gave up.

During inpatient treatment I often heard “don’t give up before the miracle happens” this stuck with me, and somewhere deep inside of me I resolved to fight to be the man I wanted to become.

I truly let go and let God in for the first time in my life. I applied for and was turned down for over twenty jobs before I was offered a job, I was ecstatic to be working again.  Slowly, I was getting my life back on track. I was waking up each day with purpose and showing up to my life in simple ways. I found a place to live, I started making amends with family and friends, I began to love and care for myself. I finally learned to fill the void with positive behaviors and patterns. I then received the first of my recovery miracles.

my personal life experienced a miracle

I had a strong feeling I was meant to work with addicts in recovery. A good friend, who I had been in treatment with, was working for an inpatient recovery facility. I reached out to him and expressed my desire to work with addicts. He was able to set up an interview for an entry level job working nights as a technician, I got the job. I knew working with addicts was where I was meant to be. I connected with them easily, I empathized with them, I understood the challenges and uncertainty they were facing.  I was able to give them hope for their future through my story. I had found my calling.  Several months later I was able to move into an outreach position where I began doing more community work and interventions for families desperate to help loved ones who were struggling with addiction accept treatment, this is where my true passion was realized.

My personal life also experienced a miracle during this time.  My wife and I had been separated for three years, and had mutually decided to end our marriage, but divine intervention had a plan which brought us back together.  We were able to make amends, and through a lot of hard work, forgiveness, and professional help we were able to save our marriage and family. I still work on my recovery every day, I make mistakes, I learn and grow from them, and move on.   My wife and children also continue to work on their recovery. This is a life-long commitment, and we are in it together.

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working with addicts was where I was meant to be.

I have been working as a professional in the addiction recovery industry for six years now.  I recently achieved my goal of becoming certified as an interventionist through The Addiction Academy. I know this is my purpose, I survived addiction to help others survive addiction.  Families also suffer when a loved one is an addict, it is imperative they receive professional help as well. I would be honored to help you navigate the path to recovery for you and your family, being prepared and knowing the road ahead are important for success.  I have lived through it, I know the way.

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