Senior Project Manager, Evidence Based Practice Institute, LLC
Living with substance abuse disorder, depression, anxiety, and PTSD

Topher grew up in a hippie commune surrounded by substance abuse. He experienced childhood neglect and sexual abuse, leaving him with a variety of survivor behaviors, including intense anxiety and hyper-vigilance. He left home at 16 and managed to go to college. But drug addiction took hold in his twenties, leading to a vicious cycle of suicide attempts, hospitalizations, treatment, and relapse. A pivotal decision followed by intensive treatment, 12-Step programs and therapy put him on the path to recovery. Today, Topher has a great job, a partner, a home and a loving community of friends. Life is “full and has meaning.” And despite plenty of chaos and stress, he has “the tools to live happily and work through the challenges as they come.”

Topher’s Story

How did you get through it? What helped you get well?

Throughout my life, despite the depression, the chaos of addiction and self-doubt, I’ve had a profound desire to survive. I finally got to a point when I realized that I couldn’t die and I also couldn’t survive the way I was living. This was the catalyst that inspired me to ask for help – and for the first time, I really meant it. I went into treatment again and started to work at my own recovery. When I got out, I began attending 12-Step meetings in earnest, moved into a halfway house, and started seeing a therapist. Very slowly, my life started to change. Recovery was not a linear process – it would take a few more years of relapsing and trying again until I was able to finally achieve long-term sobriety and stable mental health.

How do you manage your condition and stay healthy?

There are many factors in my recovery success: Community – people who know and love me and (and vice versa) – who I can be truly honest with. Spiritual growth and connection through 12-step work. Therapy – lots and lots of therapy! Medication. Daily meditation and prayer. Daily exercise. Having a desire to seek humility. And, critically important, a desire to serve and help others.

One of the impacts of my experience is that it has led to an ability to connect with people in a deeply meaningful way. I’ve learned to use my story to inspire not only my own hope, but hope in others. I can attribute the richness of my relationships with family, my friends and community directly to my survival story and ultimately to my struggles.

What words of encouragement would you give to someone struggling with a condition similar to yours?

Ask for help when you need it – and accept it. Do the work. Tell the truth and share your secrets. Stay out of your head and get help with your thinking. Most important, hang in there! Don’t stop trying, even if you fail. If I can recover, anyone can.