Joe is a middle-aged Hispanic male who upon entering treatment, he described a life that had become completely unmanageable due to his addiction to alcohol and heroin. Joe had lost contact with his family, his home, his job, and was close to losing his life. During his early recovery at APT, Joe continued to have repeated episodes of drinking. His counselor found him hostile and difficult to engage at first, but met his resistance with an even more stubborn faith in Joe's ability to overcome the obstacles to his recovery.
In the past ten months, Joe has turned his treatment around. He attends his counseling sessions with a new and positive outlook and is able to express a resounding desire to live for the first time in ten years. This commitment to recovery is reflected in his complete abstinence from alcohol and heroin. His health has improved and he no longer suffers from acute liver problems. He has gone from being homeless to renting an apartment where he feels safe and comfortable. He now has a home base from which he has begun the long process of mending his broken relationships with his daughters and grandchildren. He has resumed playing his music/drums and grins with pleasure at the thought of performing in the near future.
Joe is stable on methadone. He has earned the privilege of take-home weekend bottles and has decreased his dose with the plan to detox off methadone over the next year or so. He is considered by his counselor and supervisor, to be one of the most successful cases in the clinic this year.
"I thought it was normal", those are the words of Nigel, at age eight, describing his family members passing drugs (heroin and cocaine) around the living room all day, every day. He said it wasn't until he visited his friends' homes that "I knew it wasn't normal". He says after that, he didn't feel like he fit in with the kids his age and by the age of 14 had joined his family members in the living room abusing drugs.
For the next thirty years, he bought, sold and used drugs "as much as I could get and as often as I could use". He spent his mid-twenties to mid-thirties in and out of jail and treatment facilities. He moved from the Bronx to New Haven with his aunt. "I had hoped to make some changes in my life" with the move.
Nigel came to APT newly diagnosed with HIV and "scared to death that I wouldn't be able to stop using drugs". For the first few years, he engaged minimally in treatment and then says, "The light bulb went on". His health was poor and he was not actively involved in his medical treatment. The change became dramatic. He sought help from every agency and social resource he could find and became fully engaged in his treatment at APT.
He has since successfully discharged from treatment and still calls monthly to state he is doing well. He reminds staff at APT that I am still on his "A team". He remains drug free and fully engaged in his community, though his health is deteriorating from the natural progression of AIDS. He often states that he would have been dead by now if the APT program hadn't been so supportive of him and his time to work through his own process. We have to remind him that we provided the arena but he did all of the work.
Lilly was in her teens when she met and married the "man of her dreams". She was unaware that he was a dealer and user of heroin until after they were married and she was expecting their first child. She said she "felt left out of her husband's life". She asked him to give her some heroin, but he refused. She went to his friends who gave her the first heroin experience. As she describes it, "I knew it was wrong, but I did it anyway". In early 1993, she was diagnosed positive with HIV virus, having contracted it from her husband. She sought medical treatment almost immediately and sought drug treatment at APT.
Since she entered treatment, Lilly has remained free from heroin and she has been working full time for several years, taking care of her family and tending to her health needs. At this time, she remains healthy and on HIV medications. She remains drug free and hopeful for the future. She is emphatic about not using drugs again and "getting on with my life". She currently spends some of her time educating young people about HIV and drugs through a teen prevention program in the community.
Throughout his treatment at APT, Wilbur was periodically homeless and non-compliant with many aspects of his treatment including healthcare appointments and medications. Also, a constant treatment issue was his ongoing alcohol abuse and his ambivalence about abstinence (he periodically relapsed to heroin after days of missed medication), despite being informed of the negative health, treatment, and psychosocial consequences of continued use.
Wilbur declined recommendations for more intensive treatment by both his counselors at and his medical provider. However, Wilbur did continue to meet with his counselor, and express a desire to remain in treatment and to decrease his heroin use. This was evidenced by periods of sustained abstinence.
Wilbur experienced a significant health crisis and was once again hospitalized. During his hospitalization, Wilbur's counselor, medical doctor and family members met with him frequently to discuss his health, substance use, and recovery status. While hospitalized, Wilber successfully adopted abstinence to heroin and alcohol, improved medically, and re-engaged in counseling. Currently, Wilbur is seen weekly by APT clinical staff and his health continues to improve. He is compliant with medications, free from heroin and alcohol use, and he has become re-engaged with his family. He has expressed that he would have died if he were not in treatment at APT. Wilbur frequently states: "I have a chance to live...my life has been prolonged."