Ty Miller started taking pain pills in high school as a way to alleviate social anxiety. “It allowed me to feel comfortable, to feel OK in my skin…” Ty says. “Unfortunately, what we know about addiction is it is a progressive illness and once that progression sets in, there is no turning back.”
Hydrocodone (brand name: Vicodin) led to oxycodone, OxyContin, morphine and later heroin – which was cheaper and more readily available. “Most people can pinpoint the month or the day that it transitioned into not being fun anymore. That really happened for me in college, my sophomore year. I was living in a fraternity house. I remember waking up one morning and saying, ‘I’m not doing this for fun anymore. This is a job. This is a chore. I have to have this to feel normal.’”
Friends and family members were fearful for his life and intervened, persuading him to start treatment. “What I said to my parents was, ‘I don’t want to be doing what I’m doing but I don’t know how not to do it…It really took me making a conscious decision that I don’t want to live this way anymore.”
Today, Ty is a recovery coach at RiverMend Health Centers while pursuing a degree in psychology. “One of the paradoxes of the pain and the discomfort and the hurt I went through in my life is the ammunition, if you will, that enables me to help other people,” he says. “It really is a full circle of turning pain into beauty and allowing me to connect with other people who have yet to make that transition and to help foster that recovery in them.”
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At RiverMend Health Centers, Ty works with patients in the Structured Living Program. One of the reasons why Structured Living is so effective in helping people in recovery maintain both their sobriety and their motivation to stay sober is “community accountability,” he says.
Residents forge a fellowship with one another, based on their shared experiences and shared purpose to stay sober. After a difficult day of treatment, or during times when resolve weakens, those bonds provide support. Residents offer encouragement and friendship, while also keeping “each other accountable in coming to treatment on time, meeting treatment goals, adhering to the treatment plan,” Ty says.
In Structured Living, patients can also practice the skills they’re learning in treatment, including effective communication, receiving and giving constructive criticism, working on coping and life skills, and setting boundaries.
“One of the main things people realize when they start to progress in our program is the selfish nature of addiction, and becoming mindful of the impact that their actions have on others and becoming willing to put others needs first,” Ty says.