By LP Hastings
By Michael Goldstein
By R. Scott Moxley
By Gustavo Arellano
By Gustavo Arellano
By Matt Coker
By Nick Schou
By Bethania Palma Markus
* * *
Petersen leads his visitor to a small reception office and introduces Richardson, who says that, as a child, he never participated in a psychological evaluation before being prescribed Adderall. This is especially troubling in light of studies that show most adult addicts started using drugs in their teen or tween years. Unwittingly, it seems, the accepted treatment for misbehaving children turned some into misbehaving adult addicts.
“Someone with an addictive personality can be shot down the path to addiction,” says Petersen, himself a former cocaine addict. “When I was in law school, I thought speed was great. But it led me to the next thing to make me feel better: cocaine. Prescription drugs appear so innocuous, so prevalent. But they are a gateway to other drugs.”
Richardson says that by his early high-school years, he was turning to crime to satisfy his unquenchable need for meth. “I had to go to hustling, stealing, lots of different stuff, small stuff at first like surfboards, skateboards and bikes,” he says. “I’d swap those out to dealers in high school for speed. Gradually, as my addiction progressed, I started stealing electronics and burglarizing houses.
“I totally rationalized this. I was feeding a hunger. I was answering a fierce voice. Getting meth, you are very motivated. The motive for me was to feel normal. Nothing could put itself in my way to getting to that.”
When the meth stopped working, Richardson went for that drive with a shotgun riding shotgun.
After the weapon jammed, he picked up the phone and called his “only sober friend.”
The friend met Richardson alongside a pitch-black road and took him home. The next morning, she sat Richardson in front of his home computer with orders to find a treatment center.
Richardson ultimately chose SouthCoast because it was the only local facility he found that banned drug use during detoxification. Many treatment centers, under the strict guidance of physicians, give decreasing doses of an abused drug, or something similar, to ease painful withdrawal symptoms. “It’s harder than jail,” Petersen says of SouthCoast’s drug-free detox.
“I wanted to be made clear in every aspect of my life,” Richardson says. “This was the only treatment center that offered that, plus life skills, personal care, a new way of living.”
Ultimately, he broke his meth addiction.
“The relationship I had with speed was so strong,” he says. “It took a lot of people and a lot of care to stop from finding other habits.”
He no longer wants drugs for anything that ails him, real or imagined. “Medications mask other problems,” Richardson says. “That’s why I picked a program with a holistic center.”
* * *
When an addict phones SouthCoast Recovery for help, he or she is immediately connected with an intake counselor. And if that addict sounds very desperate—as in preparing-to-take-their-own-life-on-a-remote-stretch-of-highway desperate—the intake counselor who usually takes the call is Richardson.
“He’s now our first line of defense,” Petersen says. “He speaks with almost everyone who comes through this facility.”
There is nothing clients can tell Richardson that hasn’t come out of his own mouth, he says. But besides having personal experience to draw upon, he now has a degree in drug-and-alcohol counseling.
To say his life has turned since that frightful night on Highway 8 would be an understatement.
“When I got here, I had no trust, no faith in anyone other than myself,” Richardson says. “I formed a bond with a counselor and learned to trust people. You can get a client sober, but you need to teach them how to live their life again.”
His father is Mormon, but Richardson grew up in his mother’s Catholic Church. Re-establishing his Christian faith became paramount after he got sober. His new life is illustrated with full-color tattoos on his lower right leg. On his shin is a picture of him collapsed in the arms of Jesus Christ. Richardson holds a hammer in one hand and a spike in the other. One side of the same leg has a portrait of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the unofficial patron saint of addicts. Praying hands are depicted on the back of that leg.
“It reminds me of what I am doing here,” he says. “Recovery presented to me a life that is very worth living. It way outweighed a life worth dying.”
Richardson credits SouthCoast with helping him learn to live again, but now he worries other addicts are not getting the message.
“America looks at addiction half-measured,” he says. “No one looks at cancer half-measured. Getting someone [who’s] impaired under control is only half the treatment.
“I see a United States that is in crisis because of these pharmaceutical drugs. I picked a place where they looked at things from the inside out. Once you take away the pills, the problem still exists.”
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