Celebrating 5 Years of Living a Healthy Life, Substance Free

By Jared Henry

Today is a good day for me — today is my five-year anniversary of the last time I picked up a drink. Five years ago from yesterday, I was packing a bag for a plane ride to get the help I desperately needed. But even something as innocuous as packing for a one-way trip wasn’t without the incessant self-destruction that had defined my life for the past 10+ years.  What started as seemingly harmless social drinking quickly turned into a vicious daily cycle of truly disastrous dependence. Eventually, daily trips to the liquor store turned into multiple trips, while I kept leftover bottles always within arm’s reach — under my pillow, bed, sink, even my truck — to get me through the night until morning’s light shone through my battered blinds to inform me that the store would be open soon. I couldn’t function without the slow, warm, burning sensation of cheap liquor making its way to my gut and the “peace” my mind felt that followed shortly after. I was stumbling my way through life — literally.

On the morning of February 9th, 2016, as I drunkenly gathered what few things I could fit in a duffle bag, I fell head-first through my closed bedroom window, shattering the glass and any shred of dignity I had left in the process. This wasn’t surprising to me, as it was painfully reminiscent of the countless, inebriated blunders I committed on a near-daily basis. In the years leading up to this moment, I had been on the brink of death on a hospital bed more than once. I had decimated relationships with people I deeply cared about. The way I was burning both personal and professional bridges with such fiery persistence would make anyone, especially my family, think, “surely he sees and understands the severity of his problem.” To an extent, I did. Though I’d go days and weeks at a time of having zero recollection, my rare moments of lucidity were spent ferociously searching and conspiring for ways to get the next bottle. When conscious, an unrelenting war raged on between my body and soul and it seemed as if my body, a mere vessel for alcohol at this point, was winning. But, as my body laid halfway through my second-story window, upheld and cradled by glistening shards of glass, that internal war had finally reached a suspension of hostility; a moment of clarity in which I finally understood both the severity of my alcoholism and the significance of this chance for rehabilitation that I was gifted — because it could be the last chance I ever get.

Jared Henry

This life-saving opportunity was graciously given to me by a non-profit organization that means the world to me — Herren Project. Without their help, I would not be where I am today. Through persistence, empathy, and guidance, Herren Project afforded me the necessary tools to get the help I needed every step of the way. Today, I’m not only a Herren Project alum, but I am also a Herren Project team member, and I am in a perpetual state of gratitude for the potential they saw in me then and the purpose they give me now.

Addiction — whether to alcohol or drugs — shouldn’t be such a hard thing to talk about but for some reason, whether it be fear, a sign of weakness, a lack of understanding, etc., it is an immensely difficult discussion to have. I’m a very private person. A lot of this information may even be news to some reading this that know me. I rarely talk about my experience or broadcast my past to the public. However, nearly every time I do open up to people in a private setting, I’m often met with stories of their own struggles or the struggles of someone they love.  In fact, just last week I reconnected with someone who had a profound impact on my life who I hadn’t spoken to in almost 15 years. I was reluctant to open up about my past out of fear that I would somehow disappoint them, but it’s difficult to explain where I am today without an explanation of where I’ve been.

It turns out, they too are celebrating five years of sobriety this month, exactly two weeks from today. Call it serendipitous, divine intervention, or just plain old coincidence, but this was the last person I would suspect to have shared a similar struggle. It just goes to show that you never know what someone is going through unless you ask or you allow yourself to be vulnerable for a moment and share your story as a way to open your door as an empathetic confidant.  But as happy as it makes me to have conversations with people who are in recovery, I know far more people than I’d like to count that have lost their lives to addiction. These people were sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers — they were not bad people; they just didn’t get the help they needed in time. That is why I am sharing this now — to encourage my friends, family, or anyone reading this that knows how ruthless addiction can be and let you know that you are far from alone. There’s help out there for you — all you need is the courage to reach out your hand and ask for it.

Today is a good day for me — perhaps it can be the start of a good one for you too.

I used to pray for a life filled with purpose, integrity, happiness, and peace — today, my prayers are filled with gratitude.

Are you struggling with a substance use disorder? Are you an addict and in need of support? Reach out to a member of our treatment team today. They will help you take the first step on your journey of recovery from drugs and alcohol.