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How I Am Finding Recovery in the Hills of West Virginia

By Jacob's Ladder 08/08/16

[Sponsored] On a recent visit, my little girl wanted to hold onto my sobriety tag. So now I always get two, one for myself and another to give to her, to always remind myself.

Finding Recovery at Jacob's Ladder

Jeff H. is currently in recovery from heroin addiction at Jacob’s Ladder in West Virginia. This is a glimpse into what his life used to be like and what he’s currently experiencing with a little over six months clean and sober:

I did a lot of heroin with my wife. After having an altercation that resulted from finding her with another man, I hit my bottom. I cooked a gram of dope in a spoon and shot it up and tried to kill myself. The last thing I remember is releasing the tourniquet. I went out, then when I woke up, it was close to midnight. I went to my wife’s mom’s house. At the time, I wasn’t allowed to be around my kids. My mother-in-law was their foster parent. She let me come in because my younger daughter wouldn’t go to sleep unless Daddy was there to tuck her in. She was still wide awake, waiting on me.

As soon as I took steps forward from the dark and knelt into light, she stopped like a deer in headlights. It didn’t dawn on me until then, I was covered in blood from the altercation. I was so high, I didn’t realize it. I got high and forgot all about it. She wouldn’t come to me. She was scared to death. She thought I was a monster. I needed to get help.

Cops had been after me for forging checks, shoplifting and pawning other people’s gold. They interrogated all the ones I loved and were always on the hunt for me. I called a state trooper and told him I was tired of running and ready to turn myself in. He said to meet him at his office in 15 minutes; I told him I’d be there in 10. I changed my clothes, washed the blood off, left the dope behind, went to his office and waited on him. He arrived and he handcuffed me. That was the beginning of my road to recovery. It’s a hard thing to see your wife with someone else and your children scared of you.

I was in jail for three months and after a lot of back and forth between my lawyer and judge, who initially said no to rehab, I was told I could go to rehab if I could find one in a month. That’s a chance, you know?

I went back to jail and talked to a counselor there; she gave me a list of all these rehabs so I start calling them. No one sent me money. My family wasn’t going to help me because I’d stolen and lied. I collect-called places. Ones that wouldn’t answer, I mailed a letter; ones that would, I told my situation. A lot of them only accepted insurance. I told them I have Medicaid. Some wouldn’t accept it or they’d put me on a waiting list, saying there were others who needed the help more.

Then my lawyer came to see me with a pamphlet for Jacob’s Ladder.

I read over the packet and was told a guy named Dr. Kevin Blankenship would be giving me a call. He called immediately, while my lawyer was still there, and I told him my situation, about the legal charges and the drug use. He said he’d like to have me there but I needed to get the charges behind me and talk to the judge. Then my hearings came up again and two different judges I had for different charges approved my going to Jacob’s Ladder. I got back in touch with Dr. Blankenship, told him I got everything behind me—I was ready. He showed up to get me and brought me here.

My first night I sat in my room on this really nice comfortable bed that I wasn’t used to lying on. In jail, I had been locked in a cell for 23 hours a day and slept on a two-inch mattress on the floor. I was so thankful. I remember climbing off my bed and getting on my knees and thanking God about a hundred times, for helping me get here and not giving up on me. Everybody was so welcoming and so loving to me. I walked in the room and everybody had open arms. For the first time, I felt love.

The farming aspect here isn’t new to me because I grew up farming. Both my grandfathers—I called them my “Paps”— farmed. My dad was a really abusive person. Once my mom left him when I was three, he took his anger out on me. He would beat me. My pap was a safe space. He protected me. He bought me a flip phone and said, “When Dad gets mad and angry, I want you to call me.” I loved taking care of animals on Pap’s farm. Now there is a guy here named Ed who owns the farm. He’s an older man and reminds me so much of my pap. I remember the first day I talked him; I came back and cried. My pap is in this guy.

I am working the 12 steps. I just finished my second step and am sharing it with a group of guys. The first step was easy because I knew I was powerless. My life was unmanageable. I lost my coal-mining job due to drugs, lost a home I bought and remodeled myself, lost an Audi and BMW and my kids. I was living on the streets and eating out of the dumpster. This disease took over.

It took me a while to believe in God. I went to church as a kid but it was forced upon me. I knew someone greater than me was looking over me though. I OD’d almost nine times. I have been in a car accident then woken up with a collapsed lung and preacher at the end of my bed. I had technically died three times on the way to the hospital. It’s amazing up here (at Jacob’s Ladder). It’s like a dream. I’ll think, "Is this place really real?" You pinch yourself and you know you’re not sleeping.

I meditate twice a day. I do it with a couple peers here. We find a quiet place, burn sage and do it for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. It helps get your thoughts back together, relax and let go some of the stressful things throughout the day. And yoga is now my thing. When they forced me to do it, I watched yoga instructors and thought, "There is no way I can bend and flex like that; this ain’t gonna be for me." I was open to try it though. I am not that flexible but the more I’ve been doing it—twice a week for three months—I’m not too far off. It’s crazy how your body changes and adapts.

As far as the other men in recovery at Jacob’s Ladder, they’ve all got a lot of love. I didn’t think a house full of guys could get along so well. Everybody pitches in and they care about one another. Sometimes we go deep on some really personal shit. You’ve got to feel uncomfortable sometimes because if not, you aren’t going to grow. Everybody is truthful and honest and cares about each other. You’ve got to see it to experience it.

The main takeaways I’m bringing back to the real world are working the steps, reading the Big Book and not picking up no matter what. No matter what the situation is, no matter what comes up, don’t pick up no matter what. No matter what the hell it is, you don’t pick up. That’s something I’ll take to my grave. One’s too much and a thousand’s not enough.

I now have six months clean. My little girls came up to visit me recently. I put old clothes on them so they could go outside and be kids and play in the mud. They saw the 12-step sobriety tags and I told them what they meant. My oldest said she wanted to hold onto them. So now I always get two, one to keep for myself and another to give to her, to always remind myself.

Jacob’s Ladder at Brookside Farm is a long-term mindfulness-based, residential recovery program for young men, situated in a private and majestic farming community. Peers and clinical partners facilitate healing through multiple methods, including: mindfulness, meditation, and yoga; 12-step programs; music and arts programs; outdoor recreation excursions; facilitated therapy (individual, group, and family); all while immersed in farming and sustainability programs. The private company is self-pay and maintains a limited number of charity beds, subject to availability and financial hardship qualification.

Want to learn more about Jacob’s Ladder? Reach Jacob’s Ladder by phone at (304) 239-1214 or by email at [email protected]. Find Jacob’s Ladder on Facebook.

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