Not long ago, Tyler was struck by how much fun he had teaching his 6-year-old son to play Monopoly.
“Before I got sober, I would have wanted to end the game as fast as I could, or I would have just stuck him in front of the TV,” says Tyler, 32, an Ideal Option patient in recovery from alcohol and opioid addiction.
Back then, Tyler did not like what he saw in the mirror. He wasn’t the patient, understanding dad he longed to be.
“I was always looking for a way to get out of the house and go drink behind everyone’s back,” recalls Tyler. “I supported my son with clothes and food, but I wasn’t really there.”
Even his son, young as he was, sensed Tyler wasn’t present. Now, the boy knows his dad has changed.
“He even told me the other day, ‘I used to be scared of you sometimes, but I don’t feel scared of you anymore.’”
Says Tyler: “That hit me pretty hard.”
Addicted to one substance or another for half his life, Tyler is not only becoming acquainted with his son but also with himself — his interests, his aspirations, his priorities. “I’ve never gotten to know myself as an adult,” he says.
Tyler grew up in a recovery household, with parents who became sober when he was a baby, and as a child, he opposed drinking and smoking,
But at age 17, he observed that kids who smoked weed seemed to be having a lot of fun, so he tried it for himself. Soon, he was drinking, too, and stealing Vicodin from his grandfather’s medicine cabinet.
“Probably within two to four weeks, I was out over my heels,” recalls Tyler.
A shy kid with few friends, Tyler felt the pills gave him confidence. “Before, I just kind of just hid in the corner. The pills took away my self-doubt. I had that false security that drugs can give you.”
For years, Tyler had devoted his free time to golf, his life-long passion, and he’d planned to parlay his talent and drive into a college golfing career. But his drug use sunk his grades and snuffed out his drive for the game.
“After I started partying, the things I enjoyed changed – my friends, my hobbies, everything.”
Soon, Tyler was fighting with his parents, who had caught on to his drug use and urged him to seek treatment.
“I’d always deny it or lie about it. Or tell my mom: ‘Yes, that’s my choice. That’s what I’m going to do.’”
Following a break-up with a girlfriend, Tyler fell deeper into addiction. He continued to steal from his grandfather’s medicine cabinet, feeling guilty but also trapped.
“The choice was: Do I feel physically like crap, or do I feel like crap for stealing from my grandparents?”
He would rationalize his drug use, telling himself: “I won’t take that many” or “I’ll just take them today.”
“I had major justification issues,” Tyler says.
He had more short-lived jobs than he can count, quitting abruptly when he’d run out of pills and feel sick from withdrawal. “I would feel so physically drained that I couldn’t do it anymore,” he says.
At age 25, with a son on the way, Tyler enrolled in an inpatient treatment program. After that, he replaced opioids with heavy drinking, hiding his addiction from his parents and girlfriend.
“I was hiding beer behind the seats in my truck, chugging at the grocery store. I justified it by telling myself: I’m just drinking, I’m not doing opiates anymore.”
Eventually he began doing cocaine and went on a week-long binge of alcohol and coke. The cocaine turned out to be a combination of meth and fentanyl that triggered intense hallucinations.
“I saw people crawling out of my laundry baskets and crawling around the corner of my apartment,” Tyler recalls. He called the cops, sobbing, and ended up in the hospital.
That was the turning point.
“I’ve never really wanted to be sober until I walked out of that hospital. I almost died. I scared the crap out of myself.”
At his mom’s suggestion, he enrolled at Ideal Option. Since then, he has been taking Naltrexone, a medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat alcohol use disorder.
“Naltrexone has been a complete game changer,” says Tyler. “I didn’t think it was going to help as much as it has.”
Tyler says he no longer craves alcohol, and best of all, he’s not consumed by anxiety.
“Before, I would pace around my house fixating on whether I would or wouldn’t drink. I was a ball of energy waiting to explode. Then, I’d say, ‘Screw it.’ I’d rather drink than feel like this.’ “
Now, the compulsion is gone, and Tyler can turn his attention elsewhere — to playing with his son at the park and the beach or just thinking about life.
“Sometimes I catch myself just enjoying the moment,” says Tyler. “I’ll sit on the couch and smile because I’m happy.”
Lately he’s been contemplating the possibility of rekindling his old passion: golf.
“There’s so much drinking related to golf that I haven’t been ready,” Tyler says. “I’d have to go with the right person, to protect myself. But golf is one of the things I want to get back into. I might just have to get out there sometime soon.”