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.