There was a time in his life when Bill Davis thought he wanted to die. He’d been disowned by his family, dropped out of school and lost his job. He’d been to jail more than once. He remembers walking around downtown Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, at one of his lowest points wondering, “what would I look like if I jumped off one of the tall buildings in the square?”
Contemplating death and grappling with isolation, loneliness and disappointment is not uncommon for people who struggle with addiction. The disease does not discriminate and can take hold of even the people you’d least expect.
Bill grew up in a supportive family. He was a good student and was active in groups like the Boy Scouts, wrestling team and band. He remembers taking his first drink at a young age – sneaking a little glass of wine after a family dinner when he was 10 or so – and feeling a cool buzz that made him feel full. That momentary high would be the buzz Bill chased throughout his relationship with substances, but one he’d never fully recreate again.
The first time he smoked pot, he remembers being aware that he was doing something he shouldn’t. “We draw these invisible lines, and we say we’ll never cross them,” he recalls. “Then we slowly tiptoe our way towards the line and what do we do? We step over it and draw a new one.” He remembers rationalizing his behaviors by thinking, “well, at least I’m not doing the hard stuff,” and then, “well, at least I’m only doing cocaine, not pills,” and then, “at least it’s not heroin.” Until he stepped over each of those lines, too, and things continued to get worse. Eventually, after hitting rock bottom and having suicidal thoughts, he decided to get help.
He can’t put his finger on the exact thing that led him to seek treatment, but he remembers reaching a point at which using no longer left him with the feeling he’d tried so desperately to recreate since taking his first drink so many years ago. He realized he could no longer go on living that way.
Bill enrolled in a medication-assisted treatment program. Of his first clinic visit, he recalls, “I was sitting in the waiting room and there was a big mirror. I looked in it and kept thinking, ‘I can’t do this because I can’t come here every day and have to look at myself in that mirror.’” But he did it.
“Medication saved my life,” Bill says. “It helped me get stabilized and kept me alive to a point where I could actually begin to function and live my life again.”
Success didn’t happen overnight. Early recovery was an emotional rollercoaster and at the beginning, he just wanted to get his medication and sleep. He struggled to open up in support groups and counseling sessions. But over time, with the help of his counselor, he became more comfortable.
“She was always nice to me, always smiling,” he recalls. For someone who was not in touch with his family and didn’t have reliable friends, her small acts of kindness meant a world of difference. She helped him reassess his attitude towards the program and life. Through her encouragement, he began to try harder in support groups and eventually was able to open up and find a community of people who had walked in his shoes at some point in their lives. He credits these support groups with helping him better understand himself.
Today, more than 13 years later, Bill helps other people along their recovery journey as Director of Recovery Services at CleanSlate. He guides his CleanSlate colleagues in their pursuit to put patients first and makes sure they have the resources and relationships to help patients be successful in their recovery. He has a good relationship with his family, and he went back to school and finished his degree.
But still, his old ID from the MAT clinic where he sought treatment hangs in his office. Patients come in and ask him who it is and laugh in disbelief when he says it’s him. It serves as a constant reminder of where he was at his lowest point and how far he has come.
“I dreamed too small,” Bill says of his recovery. When he first contemplated what recovery could mean for him, he was just hoping he would find a job and get a new girlfriend. But looking back now he says, “I got so much more.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, contact CleanSlate today at 833-505-HOPE. We’re here to help, no matter where you are on your recovery journey. You can do this.