To be a family member of someone battling substance abuse is a reality that far too many have experienced. Where once, many believed that addiction only impacts the poor or the weak, many are now finding it knows no barriers. As family members, we always want the best for the ones we love. We provide for them, love them, give them all the opportunities we could imagine they would want; yet, we cannot predict or protect a person from addiction, because it does not discriminate.
Though many of us have tried to change the course or pattern of unhealthy behaviors with time or money or attention, it is near impossible to protect someone who is struggling from their own choices until they has decided the time for change is now. Zac’s story is one of tremendous hope that came from tough love and the decision to create a different future.
From Zac’s voice:
In 2012, I had come to a point in my life where things had to change. For nearly 10 years prior to this point, starting early in my teens, I started using drugs and throwing my future away. I was unhappy, not wanting to have a clear mind and deal with the mess I was making.
Every day I was out stealing things that I could sell or trade for drugs, trying to avoid the shame and guilt I did not want to feel. I didn’t have a place to call my own and spent much of the time looking for places to sleep. Usually I would sleep somewhere unsafe, but occasionally I would find a friend that would let me spend the night on their couch.
I went to rehab almost every year from 2004 to 2012, but I just kept going back to drugs and criminal activities. Eventually I ended up in the criminal justice system, starting with misdemeanor convictions and then progressing to felonies. My family wouldn’t let me come home, my life had become a mess.
In 2010, at 24 years old, I went to prison. Nine months into my three-year sentence is when I decided I needed to change. I didn’t want to look back on my life and see that it had been wasted. Men two and even three times my age lived beside me in jail, having the same problems I was having. I didn’t want to live this way forever. I wanted a wife, a family, my own house, and a dog. None of this could be my reality, I knew, if I continued to live life the way I had.
From that moment on I was determined to change.
When I was released from prison in 2012, I went to the Kansas City Community Release Center, a halfway house, because I had no place else to go. I had damaged my relationship with my family. At the Release Center, I was allowed out during the day to look for a job. Other than that, the place was a prison. KCCRC was not a place for me to be if I wanted to turn my life around. So many living there had no will to do better. I knew I needed to get out quick and that is when I applied to Hillcrest Hope.
I had heard about Hillcrest Hope from people who had gone through the program. A healthy, long-time friend of mine gave me a job and then I called Hillcrest Hope. They told me to call every day and I called every day to check-in as required. After a couple of weeks of calling I went in for an interview. The interview went great and I was invited into the program! I moved in as soon as possible.
My parents said that this is when they knew I was serious about changing. For years, I had fought against rules and authority, but at Hillcrest Hope I did everything they said. I worked hard, followed the rules, went to classes and saved money. I had the motivation and they gave the tools I needed. They gave me a safe place and a chance to save money for my new beginning. They showed me the world was still a kind place and there were still good people in it.
They helped me, encouraged me and gave me hope.
Hillcrest Hope taught me how to live honestly and independently. Today I am happily married to a beautiful woman, I have a wonderful Pit Bull named Willow, and I am going to college. I have healed the relationship with my family by rebuilding trust and have great dreams for my future. Without Hillcrest Hope, I truly believe that I would not be where I am today. I am making the most of my life, and contributing to my community, and working to create a great future for myself and my wife instead of wasting it all.
Hillcrest Hope gave me a second chance and the practical help I needed to change my life. For that I will always be grateful.