John “Jay” B. never really wanted to get sober.
Most of the time, he just wanted to get the heat off himself for a while.
But like that of many people suffering from substance use disorder, Jay’s bottom rose up to meet him.
“I’d just play the game of manipulating everyone like I was going to detox and then just hang out at the crack house,” said Jay, a 41-year-old originally from Massachusetts. “The last time I went, I didn’t even plan to stay sober. I was just counting the days until I could get out and drink again.”
That last time was a trip to Pinelands Recovery Center in Medford, New Jersey. Jay had spent some time in Florida with family and eventually ended up in New Jersey when he was referred to Pinelands by another treatment center.
“As soon as (my family) got wise to what I was doing, and I had to face myself and the fact that everyone knew what was up, I had no choice,” he said. “I really wanted to talk my way out of it, but before I knew it, I had a ticket and was on a plane up to New Jersey.”
Jay arrived at Pinelands in May of 2018 with little intentions of using his time as suggested and no intention of staying sober when he left. But he said something awakened in him that he still has trouble describing.
“It took me a little bit of time to loosen up,” Jay said. “I just wanted to get through the opiate withdrawal and then plot my next move. But when they asked me to move up (from inpatient to partial hospitalization), I just agreed to it because I didn’t know what else to do.
“I was afraid I wasn’t going to be accepted when I got there, but everyone — staff and clients — made me feel at home. And on top of that, I finally got some real therapy. I had lied to any therapist I ever saw just so I could get what I wanted. But something in me got honest, and it was like a waterfall after that.”
Jay said it was especially beneficial for him to properly process the death of his father, which took place while they sat in his vehicle together. Jay’s father died as a result of congenital heart failure, and it has stuck with him for years.
“I always missed him, and I still do every day,” Jay said. “But now I can look at it as if he’s an angel looking down at me and feeling proud. And that’s all I ever really wanted.”
Jay left Pinelands in June of 2018 and moved on to sober living and outpatient care in Laurel Springs, NJ. Since then, he has collected more than a year of continuous sobriety and currently manages one of his IOP’s recovery houses.
Looking back on what’s happened in the last year, he is sometimes still in awe.
“Just waking up and truly wanting to help people is mind-blowing to me,” he said. “I always used to help people with some kind of a motive behind it. But now I don’t have those same expectations. I just want to help.
“I know it’s good to have future goals. But in all honesty, sobriety is like a roller coaster, and I love the ride.”