“Most of the rehabs I went to were like, ‘Hey you need support’ but also ‘hey your insurance just ran out,’” said Tyler. “Because Guiding Light is free, that’s not an issue here, and if you’re ready and willing to change your life, this is the place to go.”
And while Tyler by his own admission is now in a good place, his time with Guiding Light has not been easy.
“My first month here was horrible, I was like ‘Why are they being so mean to me?’ Now I look back at it and I thank the staff for holding me accountable and expecting me do the things I said I would do.”
Tyler, a Rockford native, started drinking in his pre-teen years, getting into his parents’ supply of alcohol. Through the years, these weekend hijinks turned into daily drinking to the point that he was consuming during class in college. After dropping out of school, Tyler ended up getting a DUI as his problems continued. His family got involved and Tyler went into his first rehab, but he wasn’t ready to be done.
“At the time, I had this weird fear of disappointing my parents, so I’d always do things for them, but in reality, it was so I could get them off my back.” Tyler began abusing prescription pills, and his affair with drugs and alcohol went well beyond what could be described as a youthful exploratory phase.
Despite going to treatment, things got worse. Tyler’s first suicide attempt occurred in his early 20s. He stole a .44 Magnum from a job site and brought it to his parent’s house where he was living at the time, unsure what his intentions ultimately were. After getting drunk one night he thought to himself “I’m done, I’m never going to get better,” loaded the gun and went into a room upstairs. By the grace of God Tyler accidently woke his father up, who flung open the door, tackled and wrestled the gun away from him.
Although he feigned self-improvement and a willingness to get better to friends and family after this incident, Tyler’s spiritual and mental health continued to decline precipitously. Addicted to pills, alcohol, and chaos, he increasingly spiraled out of control. Tyler overdosed multiple times, crashed cars, and continued to put his family through hell.
Tyler began to experience symptoms of amphetamine induced psychosis, which is a condition caused by his excessive use of prescription Adderall. “I kept hearing these voices, and they started telling me to kill myself,” he recalls. Tyler attempted suicide again by tying a noose to the rafters in his garage, wrapping it around his neck, and walking himself off the hood of his car. But he couldn’t make himself do it.
Despite all of this, Tyler hadn’t hit rock bottom yet. His decision to get help came after another overdose, when his mother said “we’re done, we’re not doing this anymore,” and cut off contact from him. After getting discharged from the hospital again, Tyler found himself in his apartment, all alone. “I remember thinking I could keep doing this, and probably die. Or I could get help. I texted my mom and she didn’t respond. I knew I didn’t want to go on like this but I didn’t know what to do.”
That day Tyler’s mother gave one final exasperated push to get her son into treatment. “I remember I was outside and all the sudden I see my mom’s car flying into the parking lot, and I thought ‘oh no.’ I’d never really heard her swear before but she was screaming at me ‘I’m so sick of your bullsh*t Tyler! You’re going into treatment right now! Where do you want to go?’ and I said Guiding Light.”
Things changed after that day, and for the first time, Tyler wanted to get better for himself. “I remember when I was sitting in the probation room at Guiding Light and I was in my head a little bit. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get accepted or not. That was my biggest concern. It was like, ‘Here I am, I have nothing left, if I don’t get accepted the only other option is to live on the streets.’”
Tyler says the fact that many of the people who worked with him during his stay are former alcoholics and addicts made Guiding Light unique and led to his success. “They know their stuff and they know it’s free so they don’t take anything from you. And because of their own experiences, they also know if you’re manipulating or being sneaky.”
Tyler says a key part of the staff are the life coaches. “I had a good life coach; your actions speak louder than words and they want to see you follow through with it. One of the biggest things with me was my debt. He wanted me to call all my creditors, find out how much I owed and explain to them what was going on. That was a big challenge and it’s something I never would have done on my own.”
Tyler says over the past year, his relationship with his life coach has evolved from a rocky beginning into a friendship. “We go out to breakfast on the weekend, we do CrossFit together, so it’s cool but at the beginning he was my arch enemy.”
In addition to the life coaches, Tyler says the donors whose support allows the Recovery program to be free also play a big role in the success of Guiding Light’s Recovery program. “I have nothing but gratitude for the people who keep the doors open. They may not realize how big of an impact Guiding Light has. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity I had to be there.”
Tyler says he’s proof that the long-term commitment required by Guiding Light sets clients up for success down the road. He is currently staying at Iron House, Guiding Light’s transitional housing program, and working for a local IT company and has big hopes for the future. “I’ve already talked to my bosses about my goals and I want to move up to a new position with more responsibility. Physically, my goal is to get back into shape and get my strength back to where it was before I started using drugs and alcohol.”
One year since arriving at Guiding Light, Tyler is happy to say he’s in a place he could not have envisioned.
“I’m sober now, which at one point I never imagined. On top of that, I’m working at my dream job and my relationship with my parents has improved. My mom told me on the phone that she’s just so proud of me, and I had never heard that before… ever.”