Personal Stories of Families Turning Challenges into Successes

Kim is the mother of Tom, a successful graduate

"Turnbridge familes share their experiences, strength and hope so that others may benefit and find the help they need for themselves and their loved ones."  

KIM & GEORGE

Couldn't Ask For More Their Her Son Kim is the mother of Tom, a successful graduate of the Turnbridge program. Like the majority of those with loved ones suffering from drug addiction, Kim has spent several years dealing with the consequences and uncertainties of this crippling disease. Through Turnbridge’s efforts and the support of Alcoholics Anonymous’ group sessions, Kim and Tom are both free from the yoke of addiction and the difficulties that come along with it. According to Kim, Tom began to veer down the path of addiction after graduating from high school. “After high school Tom didn't have a lot of direction,” Kim said. “He started smoking pot and using painkillers, they were a big thing in our town. He tried going to college; I thought he was going and he really wasn't.” Tom then began using heroin, and his addiction progressively worsened. Kim began to suspect his condition when things were missing from the house, and stories didn't add up. “We could see signs of his change,” Kim said. “He had a really good sense of humor and he liked to go out. If something was happening he wanted to be there, and all of that changed. He lost contact with the people he would normally hang out with. They knew what was going on and didn't want to be a part of it. Tom lost many of his friends and became isolated.” Before coming to Turnbridge Extended Care Sober Living, Tom was enrolled in several different drug rehab and detox programs, but nothing really “stuck.” While Tom was attempting to recover, Kim began going to Al-Anon meetings. While there she received the support that she needed at the time, and learned many things about how to best live with an addict. “Al-Anon was very helpful to me,” Kim said. “I learned how to have better, healthier responses. I still continue to go, and I’ll probably go for the rest of my life. It’s my turn to go and help support the families with children who are struggling.” In the latter stages of Tom’s initial recovery period, Kim recommended the Turnbridge program after researching online, telling Tom that it was the last program the family was going to be involved in. By that point, Tom was displaying a lot of anger, lashing out at Kim and the rest of his family, but eventually he made the call to give Turnbridge a chance. While in the program, Tom gained a reputation for resistance. “He didn’t unpack for three weeks,” Kim said. “He knew that he was welcome to walk out the door, but he stayed. Tom was angry, and I was worried and scared, but the Turnbridge staff was helpful. They listened and were supportive, using Al-Anon principles. The case managers were wonderful resources, and they helped me to create a good response when Tom was angry and lashing out.” Despite Tom’s initial resistance, he had success throughout the program and was eventually hired at Turnbridge where he continues to work. “He has a good network of sober men to be around,” Kim said. “I’m thankful that he is around them every day. He is growing into a good human being, and I’m thankful for Turnbridge. It’s been the best thing for him, and he loves being there. He’s happy to go to work, and I don’t know if you can ask for much more in life. He’s around people who are making the right choices, and he gets to see that while helping people.” “Turnbridge is a unique program, and I like that they help them work on being a good human being and a sober man. There are not a lot of programs like that. Tom is more insightful now, and he thinks about doing the right thing every day. I don’t mean just choosing not to use, but how to treat others, how to have better relationships. He’s really grown as a young man.”

 

LEANNE

A Proud and Grateful Mother Leanne is the mother of Shane, a former resident at Turnbridge Extended Care Sober Living who graduated December 3, 2012.  Like many residents, Shane came to Turnbridge following a recommendation from a primary drug treatment program. According to Leanne, Shane began using drugs heavily in 2011, primarily cocaine and OxyContin.  “It was bad,” Leanne said.  “It began to spiral out of control, but we were fortunate to catch it soon.  He didn’t have time to do the horrible things that you hear about; he didn’t sell anything or steal any valuables from us.  Shane’s boss called and told me that I had to do something right away.  People told me I had to do this intervention and told me I had to do something that went against everything I believe in as a mother: change the locks and tell my son he couldn’t come home unless he got treatment. This time last year you couldn’t even talk to me I was so devastated with my actions.” Leanne, her family, and Shane’s boss at the time, organized an intervention on December 9, 2011.  Before Leanne’s intervention, her family and friends noticed a change in Shane’s personality that she was unable to see clearly at the time.  “He didn’t’ want to be around us as much,” Leanne said.  “Before he started using, Shane would hang out with me and my friends, but that changed.  I couldn’t see the signs at first, but looking back I can see it.” The month of the intervention was a trying time for Leanne and her family, but Shane became dedicated to his recovery and enrolled in a six-day detox at Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan.  Following his detox, Shane went to Mountainside Treatment Center where it was recommended that he transition to an extended care sober living environment after completing the drug treatment program.  According to Leanne, the counselors at Mountainside suggested several places, and Shane chose Turnbridge after researching and interviewing with all of the programs. “Our whole goal was to have him become an independent adult,” Leanne said, and she attributes Shane’s recovery to both his dedication and the Turnbridge program.  “At the end of the day it was his choice, he put in the hard work, and I have to thank Shane for proving people wrong. I didn’t lose Shane, my job or my husband. Some people actually told me I would lose at least one.  It’s amazing that I got my son back; he’s back to his old self.” “I think Turnbridge is the best thing ever created,” Leanne said.  “I can’t say enough about the program and the people who work there. A special shout out to Brendan, Chris and Dave.  I think the three phase sober living program is exactly what my son needed.  Turnbridge keeps them active, and you have to provide that for young men in recovery.  I love how they teach the residents to learn how to do things without drugs or alcohol.  I tell people that I learned so much this past year. Things that I never knew and probably didn’t want to know, but looking back; there’s Grace in those details.  There should be more programs out there like Turnbridge.” According to Leanne, Shane is grateful and appreciative following his stay at Turnbridge.  Since graduation, Shane is living in an apartment in Branford Conn with two other Turnbridge graduates, and has a full-time job at Premier Subaru.  “Having his own apartment, and being on his own means everything to Shane,” Leanne said.  “He is proud, and we are, too.  I don’t think he, or we, could be happier.”

 

MEG & DON

Will's Journey From Extended Care to Sober Living and Beyond Will R. was diagnosed with bipolar disorder during the spring semester of his senior year in high school. After outpatient drug treatment involving therapy and medication, he left his family's New Jersey home to attend college in Kentucky. Will's mother, Meg, said that he began partying and drinking heavily during his freshman year, and became addicted to alcohol and marijuana soon thereafter. A "culmination of events" led to Will's eventual admittance into a drug addiction recovery program where his dual-diagnosis of addiction and bipolar disorder were treated. Meg said, "Will was very lucky. There were no major arrests." He threw a party at his parents' home while they were away on vacation, and passed out, leading to the theft of many family possessions. "That was the last straw," Meg said. "We decided as a family that we had to do something about it." Will spent three months at Four Circles Recovery Center in the mountains of North Carolina. Meg said that Four Circles, "spent a lot of time trying to get the medications right. The biggest challenge was to get the meds right before we could start addressing the addiction issues." The Four Circles staff was fantastic and they recommended the Turnbridge Extended Care Sober Living program for Will as his next step in recovery, so the family decided it was for the best. "I think Four Circles was very important," Meg said. "Will needed to have that level of intensity for a few months." In his eleven month residency at Turnbridge Extended Care, Will's condition improved steadily, according to Meg. When Will visited the family's home in New Jersey, Meg said that the visit "felt typical; it didn't feel like I was managing his illness anymore, it felt like our kid had come home." Following his recent graduation from Turnbridge's Phase III Sober Living for young men, Will moved into a traditional sober house in the New Haven area. "He is going to meetings, staying in touch, and is committed to the sober house," Meg said. Will is now working to get into a program at the University of New Haven, and he plans to eventually attend Rutgers University in his home state in pursuit of a degree in psychology. Following his ongoing education, Will's long-term goal is to become a therapist working with people who struggle with dual-diagnosis. "I would absolutely recommend Turnbridge for extended care and sober living for young men," Meg said. "What I love about Turnbridge is that it felt like they were a partner. For every case manager and therapist, their level of communication was fantastic. I attribute Will's improvement to the amazing commitment of the staff. As long as he wanted it, they wanted it for him, and they wouldn't let him fail."

 

JED & DOROTA

A Family's Long Journey Voytek, who immigrated to the United States from Poland when he was in his early teens, graduated from Turnbridge Extended Care Sober Living about six weeks ago, marking another critical juncture in this young man’s difficult but vastly improved life.  Turnbridge’s unique program effectively treated Voytek’s dual-diagnosis of both mental health issues and addiction to alcohol and cocaine, and he is now successfully integrating into society as a responsible and productive sober young adult. The change brought about in Voytek through his participation in the Turnbridge program also brought about a shift in his relationship with his mother, Dorota, and his stepfather, Jed.  Before coming to Turnbridge, Voytek was enrolled in two programs in North Carolina, each focusing primarily on one aspect of his diagnosis.  He attended Pavilion for his drug addiction and Cooper Riis for mental health issues.  Both of these programs are considered among the best in the United States. Both helped him in different ways, but, according to his parents, it was Turnbridge’s extended care and sober living program and the efforts of its staff that led to a truly marked improvement in Voytek’s addiction, self-confidence, and responsibility to himself and to others. Jed said that Turnbridge addresses both problems, the drug addiction and the mental health issues, extremely well.  “Turnbridge is a fantastic institution, staffed with wonderful counselors, advisors, and therapists who are incredibly passionate and dedicated.  Everyone who worked with Voytek at Turnbridge truly cared about him and about us, and we are eternally grateful,” Jed said.  Jed also said that the monthly family workshops led Diane Clark “were cathartic and very helpful, giving parents who had kids in the extended care and sober living program both practical advice and  the opportunity to interact, commiserate and learn from others in similar situations.” Jed attributes the success of Turnbridge’s program to their “tough, but loving, and extremely dedicated” attitude and their ability to devise individual solutions for individual clients. He also praised their willingness to provide second (and sometimes, third) chances to those clients who falter, without compromising their zero-tolerance approach to drugs and alcohol within the program.  Jed stated that four people were critical to Voytek’s success at Turnbridge: John Palmer, Ed Doyle, Dave Murphy, and Meaghan Gorman.  He said, “Mr. Palmer convinced Voytek that he should have the confidence to believe in and love himself,” and “Mr. Doyle was patient, compassionate, and always there when he was needed.”  Jed went on to add that “Mr. Murphy embodied true tough love by encouraging and sometimes pushing Voytek to become more responsible and stand on his own during the critical third phase of sober living at Turnbridge prior to graduation,” and “Ms. Gorman was simply the best and most dedicated professional therapist Voytek has ever had over the past five tumultuous years that he has been moving toward recovery”. Since graduating from the program, Voytek works for Turnbridge providing clients with transportation to various appointments and meetings, and as a part-time maintenance person.  Jed said that Turnbridge is still very much invested in Voytek’s success.  Jed stated that although his stepson is now providing his own structure and stability rather than having that provided for him by the program, Voytek and Turnbridge have formed a continuing relationship that “speaks volumes about their commitment to their clients’ lifetime success”.  Jed said that he, Dorota, and Voytek have spent many Sundays together since graduation and talk on the phone almost every day.  Thanks in part to Turnbridge, he said, Voytek has become a “sweet, caring, and truly responsible man,” and the relationship between him and his mother has never been better.  Jed is extremely proud of Voytek for what he has accomplished thus far, and Jed attributes much of this success to “Turnbridge’s excellent sober living program for young men and uniquely compassionate, talented, and dedicated staff”.

LINDA & WILLIAM

From Enabling To Empowering Last month Turnbridge interviewed Chris, a graduate of the program who now lives in New Haven, Turnbridge's home and a city that Chris learned to love during his stay. He says the time he spent with Turnbridge Extended Care Sober Living was transformative -- that it changed his life forever. But Chris's life wasn't the only one touched by Turnbridge. His mother, Linda, says the program meant the world to her too. Chris was finishing up a 30 day drug treatment program at Gosnold on Cape Cod when his counselor suggested Turnbridge to him for sober living. Linda and Chris found Turnbridge to be their best option. Linda says Chris wasn't ready for a traditional sober house after just 30 days. "Turnbridge teaches people about all the life skills that they missed when they were addicts, like finance and responsibility," Linda says. "I just can't say enough good things about it. Chris was on board the whole time. Every now and then he'd have his moments, but he never wanted to leave." Linda says the staff at Turnbridge ensured that Chris stayed on the right path. Even when Chris had his moments, Linda says she never doubted that he was in good hands. "That's another great thing about the program. They said if Chris ever calls you because he's having a problem or he's having a hard time, just say, 'I'm sure it will be okay' and then immediately call the staff. They want to take the responsibility off of you," Linda says."I dealt with Chris and his drug addiction for a long time, and I didn't do it the right way. I was an enabler, I was angry, I was desperate. And they want to take that off of you. They know how to deal with it. They're the professionals." When a family member wrestles with drug addiction, it is an illness that affects all everyone around them. Linda says she needed Turnbridge's help as much as Chris did. "When you have a kid, it's the world to you. And when you're watching them self destroy, it's really difficult," Linda says. "Everything that they go through, you go through -- the depression, the anxiety, the fear. It's very tough, and looking back I don't even know how I did it." Linda says that the monthly seminars held by Diane Clark, a family addiction counselor with Turnbridge, were a major part of her recovery. "She's just fabulous. Her seminars give you a much deeper understanding of what addiction is like -- how to handle it, the do's and dont's, and the enabling. She's empowering. She really is, and it helps you." Before her experience at Turnbridge, Linda says she was secretive about what she and her son had gone through. She wasn't comfortable talking about Chris's addiction with friends and family. But, in part because of these seminars, she's learned that it's okay deal with addiction openly. Since June 6, when Chris graduated Turnbridge’s Phase III Sober Living, Linda is now pleased to share that her son is happy and healthy. "I go see Chris as much as I can and we enjoy being together," Linda says. "We enjoy spending time together. It's wonderful, it really is -- it's like I have my son back. We've both been through an awful lot together, and that's made us stronger."

 

ELLEN & FRANK

A Grateful Family.... When Ellen and Frank sent their son away to college, they could not have anticipated how the experience would affect their child.  Ryan C. suffered from social anxiety, and to help deal with his panic attacks, he was prescribed anti-anxiety medication.  But during his first semester, Ryan's use of the medication turned into abuse, which led to the use of opiates as well.  When he returned home after that first semester, both he and his parents knew he had a problem. Ryan sought counseling and continued his education at a local community college.  Unfortunately, his drug use continued as well.  After two years of abuse, he knew it was time to make a change. He spent 30 days in drug treatment at Sierra Tucson in Tucson, Ariz.  But when he returned home, he found that while he may have changed, his life hadn't.  Within a week he was spending time with the same people who facilitated his drug addiction.  He decided with his parents that he needed to make a serious change -- he needed to learn how to live.  That's when they found Turnbridge Extended Care Sober Living. "When we brought Ryan for his intake day, we were greeted by Brett Tiberio and Brendan Paul," Ellen says.  "They were both incredibly polite and welcoming, and instantly diffused any anxiety we were all feeling, especially Ryan." Ryan entered the Turnbridge program June, 2011.  When Ellen and Frank committed to sending their son for extended care and sober living for young men, the amount of trust that they were asked to place in Turnbridge was remarkable, and they knew it. Ellen says, "They really stressed to us that this wasn't a 30, 60, or 90 day commitment.  This is a commitment to change his life.  And they stressed to us that we were going to be a team.  It was going to be us, the staff, a psychologist and a counselor.  And we were all going to work together and we all had to be on the same page all the time.  If they were going to make decisions and Ryan was going to have consequences, we would have to support those decisions and consequences."  Frank says that Turnbridge made a difference for more than just Ryan.  The program helped fix the whole family. "We participated in workshops, weekly phone calls, and following up with their suggestions with Ryan," Frank says.  "We had family sessions every couple months with his team in Connecticut," Ellen says. "It's a real follow through.  It's a serious commitment from everybody.  Everybody has to be committed 100 percent.  Not only is the person who's suffering the addiction a broken person, but the family is broken too. Both Frank and Ellen say that it was the staff at Turnbridge who made all this possible -- that a program is only as strong as the people who work it.  Ryan's first case manager Jamie Hazelton, now Admissions Coordinator at Turnbridge, was instrumental in the family's recovery. "It wasn't just a job for Jamie.  Jamie would take Ryan out for coffee, or come see him when he wasn't scheduled to see him, or he would call him on the phone, or call us," Frank says.  "There was three-way communication between Jamie, ourselves and Ryan.  We all knew what we were talking about.  There were no secrets."Ellen says, "We constantly kept each other informed.  I found it amazing -- the commitment level of the staff up there.  We could text Jamie at any time and he would text us right back.  We could ask him anything and he would answer us back, honestly every time." Even though Ryan has successfully completed the extended care and sober living program, Frank and Ellen say they would like to continue their relationship with Turnbridge.  Frank says he and his family are hoping to support Turnbridge through donations, or in any way they can. "It's made such a difference in our lives.  An addict is not one person.  An addict is a family," Frank says.  "Turnbridge didn't just help Ryan.  It helped all of us."