It all started years ago with a backyard camp out. Dave Anders* remembers it well.
He was about 13 years old, and one of his friends had managed to get some wine coolers and beer. As the night progressed, Anders began to experience for the first time what it feels like to be intoxicated.
When he woke up the next morning his first thought was, “When can we do this again?”
By sharing his story, Anders hopes to help others find the path that leads to freedom from the chains that drugs and alcohol can quickly lock onto a life. He understands the struggle because it took him years to break free.
From the first taste of alcohol to his introduction to drugs, Anders’ life was dictated by a constant craving.
“My goal in life was not to be a doctor or a lawyer,” Anders says. “My goal was to get a job that would give me the most money and the most time off so I could do drugs and drink.”
Anders achieved that goal, but he also achieved full-blown addiction in the process. With a college degree and a successful career, Anders had everything a man could want — but all he really wanted was to get high.
The addiction began to take a toll as he slipped into a pattern of behavior that became frustrating and seemed to be out of his control. Anders would get a good job and excel at it for a while, but after a few months he was always back on the bottle and driving through neighborhoods where he knew drugs were sold.
He told himself he only needed to stop taking hard drugs like crack and opiates. He told himself he could still drink and smoke pot. Anders told himself he could get away with it – just one drink, just one night out at the bar, just a few beers with his friends.
But “just one” and “just a few” were never enough. He had also been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression, which only made matters worse.
After eight rehab programs, Anders was at rock bottom, and about out of options. He had no money, no job, and couldn’t see a way to get out of the trap that had been laid for him so many years before.
“There was mental anguish,” Anders says. “Life becomes miserable. You can’t wait to go get high, so everything else sucks. You start to think, ‘unless I can get high, I don’t know if I really want to be alive.’”
Peninsula Lighthouse – a Beacon of Hope
Things finally started to turn around when Anders was referred to Peninsula Lighthouse, part of the outpatient mental health services offered by Peninsula, a division of Parkwest Medical Center. Peninsula Lighthouse offers grant-based programs to help individuals who want to be free from addiction, but who don’t have insurance and can’t afford treatment. “If I had waited until I had a job to get help, it would have been too late,” Anders says. “I would have just fallen through the cracks.”
At Peninsula Lighthouse, he met with a social worker who helped him find the best way to work through his addictions and mental illness. Anders also attended group therapy sessions and he says they have been critical in helping him transition from being a slave to his addiction to owning his life.
Clean and sober for year and a half, Anders continues group therapy and participates in Alcoholics Anonymous. He’s holding down a job and he’s holding out hope for a better future. His life is no longer dictated by his addiction.
Instead of a lifetime goal of finding a way to get high, his ultimate goal now is freedom. Instead of letting alcohol and drugs call the shots, he’s fighting for the freedom to choose how to live his life. He’s also leading others into battle, and this time it’s a fight he knows he can win.
“If you need mental health services, you can get help,” Anders says, “and I’m just really thankful Peninsula gave me help when I couldn’t afford it.”
*Name was changed to for patient’s privacy