Back when he used heroin and meth, Gavin would steer clear of his family. He’d vanish for days, weeks, months — couch surfing with his dealer or sleeping in a friend’s shed.
“I’d try to keep everything as secret as possible,” recalls Gavin, now 21 and an Ideal Option patient. “I didn’t want my family to see me at my worst or hear about me robbing people. I didn’t want to bring shady people over to the house.”
At 6-foot-1 and just 120 pounds, he also didn’t want his family to see him looking so gaunt, “with my face all sucked in.”
Today, six months into recovery, Gavin works out, rides his mountain bike, and weighs a healthy 185. “I’ve got some cheeks now,” he says.
Though he feels a bit uneasy at family gatherings, he recently attended his aunt’s 60th birthday party.
“It was good to see everyone and to hear people say, ‘You look a lot healthier and happier.’ Everyone was proud of me. It was a lot less awkward than when I was trying to hide that I was super high on drugs.”
For years, “super high” was Gavin’s typical state. He started using at age 12, when a friend suggested he get high off the Ritalin he was prescribed for ADHD. At the time, his parents were going through a divorce that took him by surprise.
“I felt like it was my fault because I hadn’t been the easiest child. I’d gotten into fights and expelled from schools. I felt like I was the reason they weren’t working out.”
Gavin added weed and alcohol to the mix, then methadone, oxycodone, and any pills he could score.
“I had a friend who set a car on fire, and I told him I’d tell on him if he didn’t steal pills from his parents for me.”
Suspended from school frequently and busy getting high, Gavin attended just 30 school days during 8th grade. By the time he was 16, he had graduated to meth and heroin, dropped out of high school, and attempted suicide by swallowing three large bottles worth of ibuprofen.
He had also enrolled in six inpatient treatment centers for addiction and mental health issues, though recovery wasn’t on his list of goals.
“It was always more of a court-ordered thing,” he says. “Mostly I was there to learn more techniques for using drugs and committing crimes.” From folks more experienced, he learned how to break into a car window without setting off the alarm.
Eventually Gavin fathered a son and, from time to time, stopped using drugs in hopes of gaining some time with him. “Every once in a while, I could turn it around and do good for a little bit,” he says.
But arrangements with the boy’s mom never seemed to work out, and Gavin fell back into the using lifestyle.
“Either way, I wouldn’t be able to see my son, so I figured: What’s the point of being clean?”
Feeling trapped in his addiction, he attempted suicide twice more. The third time, before shooting heroin at his mom’s house, he left a note: “I said I was sorry, but I just couldn’t deal with the way I was living anymore, and I didn’t see how I was going to get any better.”
But, with treatment at Ideal Option, including medication for addiction, depression, and anxiety, he did get better. He found reasons to work toward sustained recovery.
“I had been really absent in my son’s life and wanted to see him more. Plus, I was tired of letting my parents and my family down.”
Recovery, Gavin says, has been a challenge. He’s had to resist the pull of his old friends and his old ways. He had a brief lapse, smoking heroin once and instantly regretting his bad decision.
“It’s hard to leave the lifestyle you’ve known for so long,” says Gavin, who earned a GED while in jail and now lives with his sister. “It’s such a big change in your life, and that’s kind of scary.”
He has goals. Short-term, he’d like to get a job, improve his mountain-biking skills, and maybe earn a welding certificate.
“Somewhere down the road, I’d like to have a healthy relationship, a car, and my own apartment,” he says. “I’d like to hang out with people who didn’t know the old me.”
For now, he’s content hanging out at his sister’s house, playing video games, practicing meditation, riding the bike trails, and meeting up with his few sober friends.
The hardest thing about recovery, Gavin says, is “doing a lot of nothing.” But he recognizes that also happens to be the best thing about recovery: “If I’m doing nothing, it means I’m not out committing crimes and messing up my life.”