Terryle H 3 Years Sober Living Success Story - Real Recovery
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Terryle's Sober Living Success Story

Terryle's Sober Living Success Story

Terryle h on the beach enjoying sobriety

Sobriety Date: December 04, 2017
Age: 58
Drug(s) of Choice: Alcohol
Alumni Interview Date: March 24, 2021

Personal Background

My name is Terryle, and my sobriety date is December 04, 2017 which is the day I moved into Real Recovery. I celebrated three years a few months ago, these last three years have been an amazing gift.

I’m 58 years old, a college graduate from George Mason University, and a military brat but I say I’m from New York because I lived there for 22 years.

I love painting, going out around town, traveling, and working out. I try to stay active in life and recovery, meet new people and enjoy fellowshipping with others.

Recovery Background

My story is more binge-using than anything else. I was in sports a lot when I was younger but gravitated to the arts in college and I have a BFA in dance. So it was. And then I gravitated in college to the arts have a BFA in dance. At the start, I wasn’t really big on drinking a lot because I was always dancing, working out, and performing.

Unfortunately, an injury prevented me from continuing my passion for dance. With dance out of the picture, drinking became more frequent, but it didn’t really get in the way of my jobs, careers, and goals, in the beginning. You could say that for the better half of my drinking career I was a “functioning alcoholic.” I could hold down a job but would binge drink over the weekend, I might go out on a Thursday or Wednesday if there was a good enough reason for us to go out… over time things got progressively worse but I still managed to stay employed and avoid institutions like jail or mental health hospitals.

How were you introduced to the 12-step program and recovery?

I was introduced to Alcoholics Anonymous in 2001 when I got into a relationship, early on my partner was just like “do you think I have a problem with drugs and alcohol? Between 2001 and 2009, was an odd time, I checked my partner into rehab on several occasions, we went to AA meetings, and I knew he had a problem but was obviously to my own because I could go literally months without touching a substance. When they were sober, I would be sober but if they relapsed then I’d use with them.

Eventually, my bingeing got progressively worse with alcohol and I started blacking out. The blackouts freaked me out, so I stopped altogether but started doing recreational drugs, and just like with alcohol… I used the drugs alcoholically. Club drugs and that lifestyle is a big part of what I used but like most people in recovery, my addiction progressed steadily and ultimately landed me in that state of “incomprehensible demoralization.”

Before moving into Real Recovery in 2016, I was effectively homeless, living out of a hotel, scared for my sanity, freedom, and lost. But in 2009, in order to save my relationship and probably save my job, I decided to check-in to rehab after a really bad binge. I didn’t go into it to stay sober for the rest of my life. But I thought I what I needed was just a timeout. Like many in recovery, I couldn’t accept that I had a problem—all the bad, in my mind, was circumstantial… I thought if I could just lay low, stay sober for a bit, do a little therapy, and what have you, I’d be okay.

I did the 30-day treatment program and got out. Not much changed.

Fast forward from New York. I moved down to Florida, my relationship wasn’t working out, and I got connected to some bad people, you know, drugs and spiraled downhill over a year or two timeframe and wound up, like I said, in a hotel room in 2016.

You know God works in mysterious ways because over the previous years I was in Florida, I ended up going to an in-patient treatment center with Patrick. We were required to have another resident from the place go out with us when we hit meetings, went grocery shopping, etc., and that was Patrick. So we talked, I remember Patrick talked about starting a sober living, how he wanted it to be different than where we were at, and to help people trying to get their lives back together.

We stayed friends online and talked occasionally but I kept going in and out of the rooms (12-step program). When I ended up in that hotel and was at my lowest point, I called Patrick and he got me into Real Recovery the next day.

Terryle's Journey at Real Recovery

How was your experience at Real Recovery?

It’s funny because when you’re in treatment, the guys always talk about their plans and how they are going to do this, that, and the other. But Patrick followed through. I had lived at a sober living place, after treatment in Florida, before so I knew what to expect for the most part but was surprised. Ya know? We had a pool, the apartments were clean, renovated, and had everything I could want, especially considering the circumstances.

Real Recovery was exactly what I needed at the time, it was nicer than the facilities I had been at before. The community was great, most people were supportive and focused on recovery. I mean the rules were just what they were, nothing too strict but again I need some discipline and structure in my life. I had been doing what I wanted when I wanted, and how I wanted… but that wasn’t working out too well.

Did I get along with everyone? No, most but you know everyone can be an asshole when they’re in that situation. Did I like sleeping in a room with another man, in a twin bed, or having a curfew? No, I didn’t, and you know, I was 54 at the time so who would at that age—but, again, it was exactly what I needed. That’s what recovery is all about, it’s not about what you want but what you need.

So I was at Real Recovery for almost two and a half years, which was great because of all the people you get to know, the amount of support in the community, and all that.

Was there anything that you did while you were in sober living that you think made a difference this time?

A couple of things I did, that made a difference this time… One, I stayed the hell away from relationships, intimate or otherwise. Codependency is a large part of my story so I knew that I needed to focus on myself and avoid relationships because I that was one area that always sidetracked my sobriety. I’d focus on the other person and make them my “higher power.”

The other thing that helped me besides going to meetings, finding a homegroup, and working the steps, is I started a meeting at the St. Pete house called “Rebellion Dogs.” I started it because I didn’t want to get in a relationship or start helping other people with their recovery, and it was a way for me to concentrate on my recovery. So I thought this would be my gift, this is what I would do. So I can just focus on, you know, getting sober and figuring out what the fuck was going on. Because I didn’t really know I, you know, my parents didn’t think I was an alcoholic, but I knew something was wrong. And I couldn’t figure it out.

So I was just like you might as well, they’ve [AA] have been doing this over 50 years. So my thinking at the time was “what do I have to lose?”  But I did know was that relationships were my kryptonite, I would let that take over so I knew to just focus on healing myself and my program.

I stayed at Real Recovery for two and a half years, got a sponsor, continued to work the steps, worked full-time, and overall enjoyed the experience.

Another thing is — I didn’t move out until I was ready to move out.

I saw a bunch of guys get that job, start to feel better, maybe get a car, and next thing you know they’re out looking for a relationship, then at a house meeting you hear they moved out. Guess what happens next… you see them come back in a few weeks, months, maybe next year or you hear about them getting arrested, ya know?

They stopped working a program and threw away all that work again. I didn’t want that to happen to me. It’s crazy, we’ve all seen it but that’s what alcoholics and addicts do—we get comfortable and start claiming that it’s because of me, that’s the reason for all the good… when it’s really part of the effort we put in and a lot to do with working the 12-step program, AA or NA.

Money, women, ego; those are what kills a lot of us.

After Real Recovery & Life In Sobriety Today

How’s life now?

Now, by the grace of God, I still have the job that I had when I was in there. I’ve held that job for 10 years now. I’m an artist. And I started I had a meeting today with a photographer to take pictures of all my art, so I can post it on a London gallery art site.

And my gift is staying present, nothing is guaranteed to us. Thank God for the program. Thank God, you know, Real Recovery held us accountable for our growth in sobriety. It brought us discipline. And it brought peace of mind. Which I definitely needed at the time and I hope other people you know, not everybody gets this program, but if you can have a place like that to go to, and people to talk to, it’s a good thing to always have. That’s why I’m here now talking to you all. Live in 12 steps, give it back.

What was the hardest or most challenging step for you?

The first step. Because when I relapsed before, I would want to start on the step that I last left off on, you know. I’d think—”I got all the way down to step seven, I don’t need to do step one through six.”

And then when I went into the program and said to myself, “I have to do a thorough first step and accept that I cannot pick up a drink or a drug no matter what.” I think I may have overthought it. If there’s a problem, if anything happens, do not pick up anything that alters your mind. It’s that simple. For me, I had to do some research on how addiction/alcoholism affects our bodies, mind, and found that there is alcoholism in my family tree. I think that helped solidify in my mind that I have this too and that’s what makes this so much different.

Was there a step or a point where you felt that things shifted or that you got the most relief from?

The 11th step, through prayer meditation, I’m finding that I didn’t need another person or another thing to fulfill me. Today, I don’t obsess the stuff I used to, it’s amazing. I never felt that before.

I don’t think I ever thought about the white picket fence. But I always thought I would have to have somebody, you know, the smell, the kids, that sort of thing. I didn’t desire that anymore. Meditation lets me be a vessel to receive things and to hear what I use to miss when I was stuck in the problem and obsessing. Before I wouldn’t sit still long enough to know I’m all right all by myself where I am. So that’s changed, where everything shifted. And it kind of freaks me out a little bit today sometimes because it feels surreal where I’m at today.

What three things/tips would you tell your past self or share with someone considering sober living/recovery?

The first thing no matter what, take the first step seriously, take time to truly understand what the first step is all about. But no matter what, don’t drink, or don’t use any sort of drugs or anything. You know, if there’s a fire going on in the house or life throws a curveball, call your sponsor, talk to someone in your support network, hit a meeting but just don’t pick up a drink or drug.

Work the steps. As much as you don’t want to, as hard as it is, even when you don’t want to, and just be as rigorously honest as you can with the steps.

And you might not see it now, but you’re going to be living through the steps. The steps are a living process, they aren’t something you just finish or complete, every day we try to be better—do better.

That’s where the 10th step was a revelation to me… living in the 10th step each day, getting on my knees to pray, meditate, and being conscious of my thoughts and actions throughout the day.

Humility is big too, staying right-sized and being humble but also don’t beat yourself up. I might take three steps forward and a step back but over time it’s all progress.

Do you have a daily routine that helps you stay sober?

Yes. The first thing I do when I get up, I get on my knees and I say thank you three times. And then I read from one of my spiritual sources that my mom in Illinois also reads so we often discuss that and helps us stay connected. The last thing I do before I sleep is the 10th step. I note what I did well throughout my day (my “wins” and “successes”), where I messed up or where I could have done better, and I admit my wrongs to my higher power then ask him to help me address my character defects moving forward.

But most of all… I make a conscious effort to not repeat my past mistakes so I’m always learning and striving to grow in each area of my life.

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