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Fighting Back from Addiction

Reprinted with permission from American Addiction Centers

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My name is Ryan, a 33-year-old former police officer; I'm also a recovering alcoholic and addict. It's been a long road.

Though growing up as the son of a New Jersey police officer seemed rather "normal," I remember feeling as if I did not "fit in" from a young age. Looking back, I was overly sensitive. I always had a lot of friends, and I was very active in a myriad of sports. But if someone had a best friend other than me, I would be like, "Something is wrong with me."

With a construction business on the side, my Dad was rarely home and on the rare occasions he was working around the house, he was drinking Michelob. As time progressed, my parents began to argue more and more. Again, I thought that these arguments were a result of something I did.

What I remember about junior high school and high school was being constantly compared to my over-achieving older sisters. I even had an English teacher who once asked, "Why aren't you smart like your sisters?"

Bad Turn of Events

When I was thirteen, my father, the manliest of men in my eyes, sat me down and did something I had never seen: he began to cry. He told me that he and my mother were having marital problems and that he would be moving out of the house. I recall running out of the kitchen crying, again feeling that these events were all my fault.

My father leaving was the most traumatic experience of my childhood. With my sisters out of the house, and my mom gone to work over an hour away, my after-school life suddenly became unsupervised for lengthy periods of time. Still thirteen, I drank my first beer, smoked my first cigarette, and smoked marijuana for the first time. I did these things with friends and it made me feel accepted. Furthermore, I was going to be my own individual. I had finally found the solution to the empty hole that occupied my stomach and soul.

I began drinking heavily on weekends, whether it was at a party, with much older friends, or on my own. The supply was plentiful. On May 11, 1999, my best friend, Gregg, died after a cliff jumping accident. Gregg and I had been best friends since the age of five and he was the closest thing I had to a true friend. After Gregg's death, I began to suffer from panic attacks, severe anxiety, and depression. Alcohol helped me numb myself.

On my birthday during senior year, in the middle of increased alcohol consumption to deal with my anxiety and depression, my uncle lost his business, fell into a month-long binge of alcohol and cocaine, and hung himself. After several more months of my own substance abuse and nearly not graduating from high school, I finally had decided that I needed to clean up my act if I wished to succeed in life.

Although I still drank occasionally, I attended college and majored in Criminal Justice, earning a 3.84 GPA. For once in my life, I felt proud of myself for doing something great on my own. I then tested for and passed the physical fitness test and written exam for the alternate route program at a residential police academy. After graduating, I had been contacted by a local department that wished to hire me.

This has been, until I got sober, the greatest accomplishment of my life. I finally felt part of something. I had a girlfriend that I had been dating for six years, I had the career of my dreams, and I was making excellent money.

I excelled at my job, being the recipient of several awards, which began to bring about animosity from several co-workers who felt that it was a competition. I continued to do my job to the best of my ability. After approximately a year on the job, I began a relationship with another female while I was still with my girlfriend. This continued for a year, during which time I began to drink every day I was off of work as a way to cope with my guilt, shame, and anxiety. As my relationships deteriorated, I began to exhibit signs of PTSD.

I continued to drink heavily and the consequences of my actions grew heavier to match. I began to experience shakes and sweats. My behavior while drinking was becoming more and more unpredictable and I began to get into accidents with my personal vehicles. After crashing a vehicle drunk, my Chief of Police sent me to an in-patient rehabilitation center away from home. Denying that I was an alcoholic, I did not attempt any of the aftercare. After a drunken text message, threatening my then girlfriend, she filed for a restraining order. I again went to rehab. Two more times, in fact.

Racking Up Consequences

Following this third rehabilitation center, I was able to put together 3 years of sobriety, through the fear of losing my job and my son. I attended AA meetings for a while and then I stopped, thinking that I could stay sober on my own will-power. In January of 2013, I was on a medical call at work when I blew three discs out in my upper back. Due to the severe pain, I was prescribed several opiate pain medications as well as muscle relaxers. Because I was not working a program of recovery, I took the pain medications and shortly began to drink again.

Prior to this injury I had gotten married, had two children, and bought a house in an affluent northern New Jersey neighborhood, all while in sobriety. I would later lose all of these things as a result of prescription pain medications, benzodiazepines, and alcohol.

Over the next two months I was ingesting thirty-plus pain pills a day, Xanax for anxiety and alcohol to avoid withdrawals. It all came to a head on March 1, 2013 while visiting a friend in Brooklyn, New York. I was arrested for DUI after hitting a parked vehicle with my truck. I continued to use benzodiazepines and drink, all while my department was going through the proceedings in an attempt to fire me. After retaining an attorney, my department allowed me to resign, therefore keeping my Police Training Commission certification.

Prior to this injury I had gotten married, had two children, and bought a house in an affluent northern New Jersey neighborhood, all while in sobriety. I would later lose all of these things as a result of prescription pain medications, benzodiazepines, and alcohol.

Life After Police Service

After resigning from my position as Police Officer, which I had served for 9 years and 4 months, I continued my abuse of pain medication, crack-cocaine, Suboxone, Xanax, Ativan, alcohol and an experiment with heroin. I attended 7 separate rehabs during that time period and still refused to recognize my disease. I again got behind the wheel of my vehicle intoxicated on alcohol and Xanax. I was on a major highway and I rolled my vehicle three-times. Luckily, by the grace of God, I was not injured nor was anyone else.

It was at this time that I had contacted American Addiction Centers in attempts to get into Singer Island, an AAC facility in Florida. I was told that my New Jersey Medicaid was not accepted outside of New Jersey but that they would look to see if any scholarships were available. I was contacted shortly thereafter and learned that with the help of Mark Lamplugh something could be worked out.

My experience at American Addiction Centers was indeed a positive experience. I was able to identify with other alcoholics and addicts and my counseling was top-notch. I was able to sit down with Mark, who assured me that I was in the right place and that things would get better if I followed a simple program of recovery. I was granted this opportunity when I needed it the most. I was suicidal and did not care who or what I damaged in the process. The dark hell of my alcoholism and addiction took nearly everything from me, and by the grace of God, I was able to regain myself through American Addiction Centers with the help of Mark.

Today, I am busy claiming my life back from addiction. I have six-months sober with no desire to use intoxicating chemicals to deal with my recently diagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Bi-Polar, or anxiety. I am currently working towards obtaining my certification to become a drug and alcohol counselor as well as my paralegal certificate. I again have joint custody of both of my children, and I am gaining my life back one day at a time; all thanks to American Addiction Centers and Mark Lamplugh, @FireEMShelpline.

Mark Lamplugh Jr is a 4th generation firefighter and former Captain with the Lower Chichester Fire Company. He is now a national treatment consultant with American Addiction Centers specializing in First Responder Services. Mark has placed and referred 100's of firefighters nationwide. Mark dedicates his life making sure every firefighter gets the help they need for Addiction and Mental Health issues. He can be reached for comment at

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