NORWICH — “It can happen to anyone. It happened to me; A young, smart, hard-working kid,” said Elliott Stewart. “Before I knew it, I was done playing sports, hanging out with a different crowd of kids, and I was addicted to prescription painkillers, which quickly led to heroin.”
Stewart has been clean for three and a half years, and has now opened Recovering Ways, where suffering addicts can put together a treatment plan.
Stewart grew up in Norwich, and said he was raised in a middle class family and was provided with everything he needed, and then some. He said his family was blind-sided when his arrest was broadcast on various news outlets, which happened on his mother’s birthday.
“My life was turned upside down when I started using drugs,” Stewart said. “The behaviors I acted on and the way I manipulated my family and friends was draining to myself as well as them, and to think about this now is sickening.”
Stewart said he would use any excuse to get his next fix, and knew his family wasn’t well educated on addiction.
“Not only were they in denial, but so was most of the community. Everyone thinks it won’t happen to them,” he said.
He said there were many times he wanted to get clean and change his life, but there were minimal options. Without a place to sleep, or a dollar in his pocket he wasn’t sure where to turn.
“I try to think back to those long nights that turned into early mornings. If I had a number to call to get help would I have made that call? I would like to think I would have. It is extremely difficult to get clean even if you have all the resources in the world, but when you have the bare minimum to treat substance abuse your chances are slim to none,” Stewart said.
Stewart described Feb. 16, 2011, as “the worst best day” of his life. He said what came from that day was a chance to change, an opportunity to live a new way of life.
“I want to reassure you that you do not need to lose all control in order to get help, you do not have to get arrested or overdose to realize there is problem. Everyone is more than capable of picking up the phone and reaching out for help before your life is completely out of control,” said Stewart.
Stewart added that growing up in a small town he felt a lot of pressure to be successful. He thought he had failed.
“I wasn’t the best player on the basketball team, I wasn’t the smartest in my class,” he said. “Once I thought I failed at life, I turned into the monster that would do anything for a single bag of heroin. Once I had been arrested, I finally built up enough courage to admit I had a problem, and that I needed help.”
Stewart completed four and a half months at a treatment center where he learned some of the skills he needed to stay clean, but understood he had a long road ahead of him.
“The tools that Norwich has to help treat alcohol and substance abuse are very minimal,” Stewart said. “The one program that really had a huge impact on myself and I hope that it continues to help change lives is Drug Treatment Court.”
He said Drug Treatment Court not only provides the addict a second chance at life, but it is also beneficial to the community.
“I am a perfect example. I used to bring drugs into this town, I used to commit minor crimes just to get what I needed for the day,” he said. “Because of Drug Treatment Court, Norwich is now safer, I am no longer committing crimes, no longer putting other people’s lives at risk just to feed my addiction.”
Stewart said most individuals who are sent to jail on a drug related charge will re-offend.
“If that is the case, why not give that person a chance to get treated and help work through some issues that may be causing them to numb themselves with drugs and alcohol,” said Stewart.
He said Chenango County Drug and Alcohol is another service in Norwich that had a huge impact.
“Although these (Drug Treatment Court and Chenango County Drug and Alcohol) are great programs, I feel Norwich needs another to help treat alcohol and substance abuse.” he said. “Recovering Ways is an up-and-coming resource I hope can continue to spread across Norwich and into the larger cities including Binghamton, Syracuse and Ithaca.” He said all of these areas are struggling with the same issues as Norwich.
Recovering Ways was started because Stewart said he knows how hard it is to reach out and ask someone for help, especially when one is unsure where to go in the first place, or what the first move is.
Seven area individuals have utilized Recovering Ways already, and are currently in Florida for treatment.
“After making this one phone call, Recovering Ways will take the stress off you or a loved one’s shoulders, and from that point Recovering Ways will take action,” he said. “The first step is to make sure the addict or alcoholic is safe, and from there we would move onto gathering all the information needed, and then a brief medical assessment. This determines an individualized next step.”
The cost of substance abuse treatment is often a concern of addicts and family members, and Stewart said that is one facet of how Recovering Ways differs from other treatment options.
“Health insurance is utilized in any situation possible,” said Stewart. “Our staff works tirelessly with multiple facilities all over the country to design each individual with the most affordable treatment plan possible.”
Recovering Ways offers interventions, where professionals can assist family members in helping the addict come to terms with their addiction, and lead them in the direction of obtaining the help they need to break the cycle of addiction.
Additionally, detoxification is necessary in many cases, and Recovering Ways places its clients in facilities that fit their individual needs based on the medical assessment, health status, and addiction history.
Stewart said residential, long-term treatment is a huge contributor to a successful recovery, and Recovering Ways ensures that clients will receive the care they need.
Once inpatient treatment (typically 30-90 days) is complete, intensive outpatient programs are then implemented. “The end of (inpatient) treatment is a new beginning for each addict,” said Stewart. “We match our clients with the continuing support they deserve to achieve success after treatment.”
Sober living then provides the safe environment of stability and accountability that Stewart said many find to be immensely beneficial for lasting positive growth and change.
Stewart said he couldn’t be happier with where his life is now, sober. The people he has met throughout his journey have provided him the opportunity to help others. He now lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
“I have discovered the recovery down here is amazing, people from all different ages and backgrounds are re-locating to do one thing, and that is to get sober. I have met a lot of people down here in recovery who are originally from the Northeast region of our country, all it does is it make me think why this message has not made it to the area I am from,” he said with regard to why he started Recovering Ways.
To get in contact with Recovering Ways, an addict or family member can call 1-888-266-7015. Addicts, friends or family can also visit recoveringways.com.
“Heroin has taken over and we all must work together to put a stop to this vicious cycle,” Stewart said.