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Stories from Backstage

My Story of Life Recovery

Three years ago was when my drug and alcohol use hit its pinnacle. That’s when I started experiencing problems in both my personal and business relationships.

I started my recovery about three years ago, and I’d do well for months and then I’d relapse. I have the benefit of having gone through delirium tremens eight times. I’ve done AA, twelve steps, I have two sponsors, I’ve been to intensive outpatient on my own. I’m a very devout Christian; I tried faith-based, but nothing seemed to work.

A friend of mine who was battling addiction told me briefly about SIMS. I didn’t think much of it at the time. I was at the height of my alcohol addiction, in denial, relying on self-will.

Last year I went through the longest dry period that I had in the last three years: seven and a half months. I was doing well, I was going to meetings, I had a sponsor. Then toward the end of the year I experienced what a lot of alcoholics experience after a length of time sober: complacency. I grew overconfident, quit taking my medication, quit going to meetings, quit calling my sponsor, then two months in, bam. Relapse.

My binges had grown into a handle of vodka every 24-36 hours. I’d drink for 3-4 days, extremely hungover, then get back on track by Monday or Tuesday — I’ve always been extremely fit — I’d get back on my exercise and eating regimen. Soon binge drinking gave way to day drinking. Then day drinking gave way to morning drinking. Then after a while I got to the point where it was so bad I couldn’t even be in public anymore. So I would just isolate myself with my handle of vodka and drink myself into oblivion.

On March 30 of this year, my mom came down. I’d been drinking for 30 days straight. And she said “that’s it, you’re going to rehab.” I’d been fighting that for two and a half years. So we started looking at facilities and came to find out it’s expensive. One facility was going to charge us $14,000. I didn’t have insurance.

Then it dawned on me. I said “my friend told me about this organization, SIMS.” She Googled it, and said, “Here it is. It’s a two-page application, let’s get it in.” Within 10 minutes, Sofia called. In what seemed like less than an hour, they found me a bed at Right Step in Wimberley, and within two hours I went and checked into detox.

It was a thing I had avoided for too long. I had a business, musicians, bookings, clients, contracts. When you’re in one of those facilities, you don’t have a phone and limited computer access. But I had reached a point where if I didn’t get help, didn’t go to treatment, I was going to lose my business anyway.

As with any addiction, your addiction becomes your god. I was a no-show to a lot of gigs, I didn’t pay musicians money I owed them, I reneged on contracts with clients. I had no choice but to go to treatment. I didn’t hit rock bottom, but I was staring into the abyss. It’s scary. It’s pretty dark and it’s pretty deep.

I went to treatment funded by SIMS. It was hard not having a phone. Your counselors want you focused on you and your recovery. Two weeks in, I became overwhelmed. But by the second week in treatment, I surrendered to God, and that’s when things changed for me. When I quit drinking is just my sobriety date. That moment of enlightenment is what I consider when my recovery began.

From that moment I was so focused, on groups, on my materials. I started paying attention to all the aftercare that was available to you: Sober living, IOP, psychiatry — because I’m dual diagnosis, I have bipolar disorder. Altogether it’s your therapeutic alliance.

With my counselor and with the help of SIMS, we developed my solid aftercare plan, which started from the day I was discharged from treatment, straight to sober living, then the following week into IOP, five weeks at Seton Mind Institute.

What I learned there was that [due to my bipolar disorder], during hypomania I would have my big accomplishments: musicianship accomplishments, real estate. But during depression and anxiety periods are when I would turn to drugs and alcohol.

When she saw me, Patsy at SIMS couldn’t believe it was me because of how bad I looked in detox. I still have my picture [of the day I checked into treatment.] I’m going to frame it, put all my sobriety chips around it, and put a good picture next to it. I gotta remember that guy that checked in that day.

Patsy has been with me every step of the way. SIMS has funded every aspect of my behavioral health: from treatment to IOP to my therapist to my psychiatrist. That organization and what they do for musicians; even if I paid back every red cent, when they have done for me, I could never repay them. Had it not be for SIMS helping me through this entire process and giving me the opportunity to see what recovery involves and allowing people to help me. I have SIMS to thank.

Getting sober is not just about quitting drinking or drugging, it’s about changing your life, it’s about changing you.

My next phase of recovery is leadership. Patsy put me in touch with Recovery People, and they do an incubator and see you through the entire process of building a business model for people who want to open up a recovery home. I have an iconic band, so might as well be as iconic in the community as I can.

I never envisioned any of this going into treatment. I just wanted to get sober. But it has turned into not just sobriety but also life recovery.

Right now, Gabe is focusing on growing and managing his band, Mariachi Estrella, and he’s pursuing certification for leadership, peer-to-peer training and mentoring.

This story was told to Kayleigh Hughes and has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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