With Hoag as His ‘Touchstone,’ Doug Gained an Understanding of Himself — and Learned Life is Wonderful
To others, it might have seemed like Doug had it all – a lucrative sales job, pretty girlfriends, a rotating stable of weeknight and weekend party friends, and the youthful stamina that let him live life as “the guy who could party hard and get up the next day and go to work. I was successful.”
But little did his friends and family know, Doug’s exuberant, carefree lifestyle hid a profound sadness and despondency. So much so that the thought of suicide – “the perfect solution,” in his words – constantly lurked in the recesses of his mind.
‘Take Me to Hoag’
On a late spring day in 1994, the feelings of hopelessness became so overwhelming that Doug surrendered to his darkest thoughts and attempted suicide. Immediately following the failed attempt, Doug recalls, “I called a friend and I said, ‘Take me to Hoag.’”
“I knew a friend who had sought treatment at Hoag. I used to tease him about being out of action. But he had a great experience.”
That moment has defined Doug’s life since. Today, 21 ½ years later, he remains sober and more alive than he ever felt during all the years leading up to his entry into the Hoag Addiction Treatment Centers.
‘I Came to Meet Myself for the First Time’
For Doug, one of the most important benefits of the care he received at Hoag was, “Understanding who I am. I came to meet myself for the first time. Living a better life has helped me gain an understanding of myself, and it is better than anything I could ever imagine. I realized life has a purpose, and a meaning, and that everything will be OK.”
Like so many others who have confronted their addictions, Doug’s journey into alcohol and drug abuse started innocently enough – in his case, with taking sips of his dad’s beer when he was 13. “From there I went from drinking to smoking pot, eating mushrooms and by the time I got to college, doing LSD. It wasn’t until I started working that I discovered cocaine.”
‘Let’s Figure Out Who Doug Is’
Although his introduction to Hoag was more than two decades ago, Doug vividly recalls his first impression: “From the start, everyone at Hoag was compassionate and kind. When my condition stabilized I remember being wheeled down the long hallway to what was then called the Chemical Dependency Unit. That room is still sacred to me – it represented the beginning of a new life.”
Soon after arriving at Hoag, Doug met a counselor – “a guy in a suit named Bob. He came up to me and said, ‘I’m Bob. Now let’s figure out who Doug is.’” It was, Doug says with a smile, “the beginning of a wonderful friendship.”
Doug says Hoag’s outstanding counseling and classes were key to his recovery. “I realized it was important to understand the disease I was fighting, and the classes at Hoag were super important. Until then, I had never understood the disease concept, and the insight the classes gave me launched a program of healing.”
Hoag counselors helped Doug learn social skills from a sober standpoint. “I learned how to ‘dance in sobriety,’” he says, laughing.
‘Sponsors are My Insurance Policy’
A critically important part of the program for Doug was the ability to work alongside alumni of the Hoag Addiction Treatment Centers — people who understood exactly what he was going through and who had the personal experiences and perspectives to help Doug stay on track and succeed.
“They helped me understand the value of the program,” Doug explains. “Over the years I’ve made friends with other alumni. They’ve helped me out a lot. Sponsors are my insurance policy that I will keep a healthy and sober life.” To be sure, the opportunity to remain connected with fellow alums is one of the main things that make the Hoag Addiction Treatment Centers so special, according to Doug.
A self-described “spiritual guy,” Doug says meetings with sponsors and alumni are his way of life. “Hoag showed me how important it is to participate in meetings. You have to work the steps. The 12 steps is a painful process but it is the key to growth. It helped me develop the tools I needed to stay sober and clean.
“It is a transition to a better life, and that requires a lot of work.”
‘Hoag has Always Been My Touchstone’
Indeed, Doug minces no words about it: Staying sober requires commitment and constant hard work. For him, it involves reading, attending programs, meditating, and staying connected with fellow alums. “I’ve attended spiritual retreats with the guys, and we travel together, go fishing, surf, and do community projects together. I’ve had challenges along the way — the deaths of fellow sponsors, surgeries, and a divorce. But Hoag has always been my touchstone. I’m committed to the program because I know it will always assure me the best outcome.”
In addition to helping him understand and appreciate who he is, the compassionate and skilled counseling Doug received at Hoag has hugely impacted his family in positive ways. His fractured relationships with his family began to mend immediately after Doug entered Hoag, when his brother came down from Northern California to be by his side.
“My family is the biggest benefactor of the program and the help I received,” Doug says. “All of the relationships with my family have been restored. These days, they learn from me, and it is an honor to be able to help others.”
Doug’s sobriety began on Summer Solstice in 1994. More than two decades later, with Hoag as his “touchstone,” Doug celebrates each new season as another joyous milestone in what he has discovered is “a wonderful life.”