It was hard to catch up with Jimmy B. over the phone, but when we did, it was well worth the conversation.
He starts by apologizing for missing the calls, yet he sounds more positively at ease than remiss.
“I don’t have my cellphone on me, and when I’m here at the [Sovereign Health PRIME] house, I’m enjoying recovery. It’s the little things, you know? Some guys come in glued to their phone, but when they tell you you don’t need your cells, it’s because you don’t need a cellphone in recovery. You’re here to work on you, and that starts to feel good.”
The conversation is intimate, centered on solemn events but contrastingly revelatory.
Drugs and alcohol: the ineffectual dream catchers
Jimmy B. says as far as he can remember, he’s always had nightmares when he sleeps. He says drinking and occasional drugs helped him cope, but his sharp decline came shortly after his mother died.
“My mom was my last best friend.” He adds that it was a tightrope connecting with people at work because he’s in the nonprofit sector as a grantwriter and vocational rehabilitation director for an American Indian coalition. This had him surrounded by his own people who lived with poverty or substance abuse, listening to their dilemmas, yet being powerless to aid their circumstances.
“They just wanted to talk, but I was not licensed to offer guidance. … It was very stressful. … The last straw was when there was a rash of young kids on heroin, half my age, dying in car crashes.”
A 22-year-old woman left him a voicemail saying she was “sincere now” and ready to change. Jimmy B. says by this point he was coming into work still high and drunk from the nights before, and in his stupor, missed a life-saving moment.
“I was not in my own senses. I tried to call her back, but she died in a crash shortly after she left me that message.”
Jimmy B.’s self-medicating accelerated thereafter, to the point he was hospitalized for internal bleeding and severe pain in his limbs.
“People I knew tried to help, but [the change] had to come from me.”
A PRIME position
Jimmy B. reached out to a contracted substance abuse counselor within his nonprofit for a referral. The fellow knew several people from Las Vegas who had gone to California for Sovereign Health’s Personal Recovery Integrating Men’s Experiences, or PRIME, program. In fact, there was an open spot.
He shares his enthusiasm for how naturally rehabilitation suited him through PRIME. “I’ve started exercising; it feels so good. I even saw a picture of myself from when I came in and it was an inspiration, I look so much younger now! I had long hair, and when I came in, my housemates sat me down and gave me my first haircut in forever. I feel new!”
Jimmy B. – who’s in his fifties – imparts his appreciation of a treatment program in a resort town like Palm Desert, that’s designed specifically for middle-aged men. “We’re older; we get more freedom to be ourselves. We all come from different career paths, so right now we have some chefs and they cook for us! I had gourmet ribs last night.
“At my age, I’m just tired of waking up, barely getting up, stomach hurting, abusing my body. … I either had bad dreams or got drunk, passed out and never dreamed. Here, just 15 days in, I had the first pleasant dream I can ever recall. The activities suit us, and the equine therapy is really good, therapeutic. Last time I was on a horse I was a child. We learned about the inner workings of the brain and that was really eye-opening for me.”
Continuing the journey
At Sovereign Health, treatment is individualized. According to Jimmy B.’s team, he successfully completed inpatient residential treatment. He was set to return home, then decided to stay on for PRIME’s outpatient program.
“I recently got my 60-day sobriety chip. After I got cleaned up, I felt like I did years ago. I wanted to go back, but something told me: not yet. … If I go back too soon to the same environment, I wouldn’t have made it.”
He says he and other PRIME program alumni keep in contact. Jimmy B. says if he still feels as good as he does now, he envisions himself continuing to work instead of retiring. “I’ve been taking care of other people for a long time, but not myself.” He affirms now he can keep at it with a renewed perspective, thanks to PRIME. “I like being usefeul.”
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