In Search Of Recovery: Wes Ellzey

In Search Of Recovery: Wes Ellzey

Meet Wes Ellzey – our first client to graduate CORE’s new CARE program!  

Last August CORE started our Clients Are Remaining Engaged program for those who relapse.  They are placed in-house with a credentialed drug and alcohol counselor who is well-versed in the need for 12 Step spirituality in recovery.  Our own Bruce Wood, who is a licensed CRADC, heads the program.  Wes attended his commencement formalities just last month and is now continuing as a client in our regular recovery program.  

Wes is a friendly, outgoing young man who first came to CORE in February 2020.  He’s also a veteran, having joined the U.S. Army in 2009, at the age of 17.  Following an honorable discharge he returned home to Louisiana and started partying.  That’s when he was first introduced to methamphetamines.  Wes calls meth “a trashy, dirtcheap drug that lasts so long you don’t even need much to get high.”  It wasn’t long before he was hooked, and since then he’s had nothing but trouble.  

He has quite the knack for describing addiction and, in particular, the mind of a meth addict.  His personal experience was to stay awake for three day binges.  The first day was fun, but by the second day he would be “tripping,” and the third day was “hell”:

I was so paranoid, freaking [everybody] out, hearing voices, auditory hallucinations.  I would hear people talking who didn’t even know me.  They might may as well have been talking about running errands, but I vividly heard them saying my name and that they’re out to get me.  Or I would “hear” their thoughts.  I got so sketched out.  Meth’s a crazy drug, one I don’t ever want to do again.  

Things got to the point where Wes couldn’t distinguish between what was real and what wasn’t.  By March 2016, not only did his own family avoid him, “but even the people I was doing drugs with wouldn’t hang out with me.”  In his paranoia Wes felt compelled to find solitude.  He often found places he had explored as a child and hid there.  Eventually, his existence became so intolerable that Wes decided to do something about it – take his own life.  He wasn’t messing around, either.

He says, “I didn’t think I was ever going to get out.  I didn’t see a way out.  I was too far gone.  And if this was how it would always be, I’d rather die.”  So, Wes found a .45 handgun at his cousin’s house, pointed it at himself, and fired.  

Wes woke up in the ICU surrounded by family and connected to tubes.  At the last second his cousin had walked in on him and was able to slap the gun away just enough to direct the blast from his temple.  Half his jaw was disintegrated, however, and he was breathing through a tracheotomy.  Recovery would take a year and necessitate a titanium jaw implant and brain surgery.  

Upon recovering Wes went home to live with his younger brother.  Amazingly, even after all he’d been through, his obsession for drugs remained: “I started doing meth again as soon as I was able.”  By 2018 his family couldn’t stand anymore and sent him packing.  For the next two years, Wes bounced in and out of rehabs and recovery programs searching for an answer – any answer.  Finally, a drug counselor in Mississippi recommended him to CORE.  That was February 2020.

At CORE, for the first time Wes saw the Cycle of Addiction.  “I’d never seen it before I got here,” he says, “but it’s spot on.  Somebody didn’t just make that up.”  He began working the 12 Step program upon his arrival but since then has suffered two relapses.  The reason for these will sound familiar to anybody who understands recovery:

I quit working the program and doing what I was supposed to do.  I still prayed, but that didn’t mean I was relying on Him, you know?  I started doing what I want to do, being selfish, looking out for myself and not for anybody else.  The obsession just crept in.  The scary thing is that when it popped up I couldn’t fight it.  When I’m running the show, it just happens.

Wes was so ashamed after his second relapse that he hesitated to even return, but Matt Goehrig, our Operations Assistant, reached out to him directly.  “I thought, I can’t do this again.  I’ve already let them down twice,” Wes relates, but “Matt said just come back.  I’ll call Kevin [Hunt] and we’ll figure it out.  When you’re ready to face this, we’ll face it together.”  Moreover, upon his return Wes began the CARE program.

He balked at first.  He thought it would just be a few extra drug classes, but it turned out to be a real commitment in time and energy.  “So I was upset at first,” Wes says, “but Bruce was like, you can do this thing to help you, or you can just go back to doing what you were.  So I stopped fighting, built a relationship with Bruce, and got to where I could trust him.  After that, the program turned out to be pretty cool.”

As Wes got further into the CARE program, he found himself becoming more open and honest. “I told Bruce things I never told anybody,” he says.  He also made a trip out to the Seahawk House to do a lengthy Fifth Step with house manager Jeff Sage, during which he made full disclosure.  After that, Wes began to “lean into the program and take suggestions.”  One important suggestion was that Wes become more active in his devotionals.  “When you get into that habit,” he discovered, “it’s a really good habit to have.”  

Wes speaks highly of Bruce and of CARE.  He tells us that Bruce is “awesome, I know why you all picked him.  He’s good, and you can’t BS him.”  And of CARE, he says “oh yeah, if you relapse and can come back, it should be mandatory.  It costs a little more, but it’s your life.  Looking at the pros and the cons, the pro is your life.”  We at CORE completely agree!

We also foresee a bright future for Wes if he sticks to working his 12 Step program.  He’ll be plenty busy in the near future.  His graduation from our regular recovery program is still eight months away.  He also recently enrolled as a new student at OTC.  He begins school in January and has registered for the LPN program, which Wes sees as a necessary stepping stone toward becoming either a paramedic or RN.  He’s also a key-holder and floor manager at his place of employment.  So, yes, Wes will be very busy!  Rest assured, CORE is here to encourage and help him wherever we can.

What Is A Spiritual Experience?

What Is A Spiritual Experience?

It was a frigid and foggy Christmas Eve in Victorian London – a fitting time and place for the transpiring of marvelous, supernatural events.  There, in the heart of the city, in a gloomy suite of rooms, lived a miserly financier named Ebenezer Scrooge.  The place where he hung his hat was as melancholy as the old man himself.  His heart was cynical and cold, for Ebenezer lived without love.  As he prepared to retire for the evening, Ebenezer could scarcely imagine the ghostly visitors who were about to appear, for the purpose of removing the sickness from his soul.  Yet, even as he crawled into bed and pulled the covers over his head, Ebenezer’s reclamation as a human being indeed was at hand.

To his great surprise and wonder, Ebenezer’s sleep is disturbed by none other than three apparitions: the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.  They reveal to him visions of experiences and events that are deeply personal to him and to others.  In one he painfully relives his long-forgotten hope from youth to find love, family, and friendship.  He had since abandoned these noble aspirations to pursue his career.  In another he sees several persons, all of whom he knows, who in fact acted on their hopes.  Though they are moderate in wealth, they are charmingly rich in happiness and love.  In an especially heartfelt moment, he also witnesses the unfailing optimism of a terminally ill child, Tiny Tim, who cheerfully gives thanks, saying “God bless us, everyone!”  Finally, Ebenezer sees his own death.  The worldly wealth he leaves behind incites others toward the same selfish greed that fouled his soul.

Ebenezer staggers under the emotional burden of these visions and feels deeply moved.  “Spirit,” he begs, “show me no more.”  Whereupon, the scales fall from his eyes, and his heart and mind are opened.  “I am not the man I was,” he begins to sob, “the man I would have been but for these visitations.”  He thus vows to live an altered life.  Happily, Ebenezer turns out to be better than his word.  He dances, cries, and laughs out loud upon awaking to find that it’s Christmas Day.  He begins making amends immediately.  Ebenezer eventually becomes like a second father to young Tiny Tim who, thankfully, does not die.  Ultimately, he becomes as good a friend, and as good a man, as the City of London ever knew!

And so concludes our little presentation of Charles Dickens’ immortal classic, A Christmas Carol.  It’s been retold in print and on-screen more times than anyone can imagine.  Nevertheless, we are especially happy to recount it here for two reasons:

First – Merry Christmas!  We at CORE wish the Reader all happiness, warmth, and love this Christmas Season.  And a Happy New Year too!  As we enjoy the trimmings and traditions of the holidays, let us treasure in our hearts the real reason for the season, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  In Him is life, and this life is the light of all humanity.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never overcome it!

Second, pertaining to the recovery topic at hand, every recovered addict worth their salt hearing Dickens’ tale will nod with understanding and approval.  We readily see that the main character has had a profound and life-altering spiritual experience which, minus the ghosts, is altogether similar to our own.  It is the foreseeable experience of everyone who turns their will and life over to the care of God and works the 12 Steps.  In fact, we fully suspect that Dickens drew from oft-told accounts of religious conversion as the inspiration for his work.

The Big Book of Alcoholic Anonymous identifies spiritual experience as the essential prerequisite for recovery:

If, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely, or if when drinking, you have little control over the amount you take, you are probably alcoholic. If that be the case, you may be suffering from an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer.

It defines spiritual experience as “the personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism” and explains this as tapping into an “unsuspected inner resource” – a reference to our Higher Power, God.  

Newbies in recovery initially scratch their heads at these Big Book statements.  They simply mean that the precise hows and whys of the marvelous transformation within us are beyond human understanding, but we readily attribute them to God.  Nothing in a science or philosophy textbook could possibly explain the personal experience of God doing for us what we are powerless to do for ourselves.  It implicates sobriety, yes, but also much more.  As the Big Book says:

[W]e have had deep and effective spiritual experiences_which have revolutionized our whole attitude toward life, toward our fellows and toward God’s universe. The central fact of our lives today is the absolute certainty that our Creator has entered into our hearts and lives in a way which is indeed miraculous. He has commenced to accomplish those things for us which we could never do by ourselves.

Therefore, every spiritual experience necessarily includes the complete removal of the obsession to use.  We had lived powerless over drugs and alcohol, having backed ourselves into a corner that we couldn’t fight, cheat, lie, steal or buy our way out of.  We were trapped.  The familiar resources – family, friends, doctors, and ministers – were of no avail at all.  But there was still one source of strength, and He never fails.  God grants us a power not ordinarily our own.  When we humbly offer ourselves to Him to do with us as He would, a miracle happens – we find that we neither want nor need to drink or drug.  What once seemed impossible is now common, daily experience.  We can face the world without persistent cravings.  They’re gone and no longer seem important.  We have entered an altogether new dimension – freedom under God. 

It’s more than simply living sober, too.  Abiding in God’s will enables us to find everything that we futilely searched for in a bottle or a pill.  Everything relevant to a better life is made possible by His help.  Thus, in addition to overcoming addiction, we also find ourselves living in a new and wonderful world.  We begin a process of becoming the best version of ourselves, being less and less interested in ourselves and more and more interested in seeing what we can contribute to life.  Broken and damaged relationships begin to mend.  We further enjoy peace of mind, and we lose our fear of today, tomorrow or the hereafter.  From within we feel as if we are reborn, the quintessence of spiritual experience. 

In closing, keeping with the holiday spirit we freely borrow from Dickens’ text and affirm that, having had a spiritual experience, we are blessed beyond measure to live upon the “Total Abstinence Principle”, ever afterwards.  And may it always be said of every recovered soul, and especially us at CORE, that we know how to keep Christmas well, if anyone alive possesses the knowledge. May that be truly said of everybody, and all of us!  And so, as Tiny Tim observed, 

“God Bless Us, Every One!”

#GivingTuesday Is Almost Here!

#GivingTuesday Is Almost Here

November 30, 2021

Your Gift Will Help Families and Children In Need During The Christmas Season!

#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.  It follows the widely celebrated Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, and is a reminder to give back this holiday season.

Last year, your generosity helped CORE raise over $4,000 for the purchase of software that allows us to take our Annual Auction online.  With your help we are able to hold our major Spring Fundraiser Event and promote auctions at other times of the year.

This year we again are asking for your help to raise $4,000.  CORE has partnered with Hollister School District to provide toys and life necessities to needy families and children this Christmas season.

The toys and necessities are donations by that will arrive to CORE’s warehouse via tractor trailer.  CORE and Hollister School District staff will spend hundreds of hours sorting and organizing these items to make them available to people who need them.  While these items are generously donated, it is up to CORE to cover trucking and administrative costs, which may run up to $5,000 or more for a single truckload!

We’ll Even Match The First $1,000, So Your Donation Can Have Double The Impact!

Here’s How You Can Help Us:

Please consider how you can help us reach our goal this year.  Your contribution will make an impact on local families and children in need, whether you choose to donate or simply help spread the word.  Every little bit counts.

Thank you for your support!