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Facing Life on Life’s Terms

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At 61 years old, Bernard is celebrating 90 days of sobriety – something that he hasn’t experienced since his early teens.

As a kid, he found out that the woman he had called mom his whole life was actually his aunt. His cousins were his siblings . And he was left wondering why his mom gave him up and what else his family had been lying to him about. With mixed emotions and an attempt to make sense of his life, Bernard turned to drugs. He began sniffing glue and then eventually at the age of 14, tried heroin for the first time.

For the next 46 years of his life, Bernard’s addiction landed him repeatedly in jail. He stole money from family and woke each day with the only goal of getting high. Each jail cycle he would attempt to “beat the system” with treatment programs. “I never was ready to get sober and didn’t plan on it, but I would tell them I would go to treatment just to get out of jail,” he shared. He isolated himself and severely damaged the relationships in his life.

As part of his probation, Bernard entered Prototypes’ Community Reintegration Program (CRP) at our Pomona Outpatient Behavioral Center in May 2015. CRP began in 2011 when California’s AB 109, or Realignment, took effect and transferred many state prisoners to the county level for probation. Probationers with substance use or mental health issues participate as a condition of their release.

“I will admit, when I came to Prototypes I came with the same thinking as I had every other treatment program. I didn’t take it seriously and I still wasn’t ready to get sober,” noted Bernard. “So I would come to my groups loaded. Staff knew but they still didn’t give up on me.”

Bernard with is counselor, Evangelia.
Bernard with his counselor, Evangelia.

Bernard finally asked his Substance Abuse Counselor, Evangelia Kafcalas, B.A., RADT-II, for help after detoxing once again. She was able to get him into the Medication Assisted Treatment program that uses Vivitrol, an injectable, non-narcotic and non-addictive medicine, to decrease cravings associated with opioid or alcohol dependency. With this tool, Bernard was able to stick to his newfound commitment to recovery.

“He completed the mandated 12 groups but still comes each week and participates. He serves as a sort of peer mentor for others,” said Evangelia. She also noted that he really listens to what his treatment team says and remains open-minded. Bernard also meets regularly with Sarah Tynes, MSW, Senior Clinician, to help him deal with grief, loss, guilt and shame. He also has medication and tools that helps with the voices that he hears sometimes. “Before I would try to battle the voices, but it never got better. Now, I have learned how to focus on something else, like listening to music or reading a book to get through it.”

Bernard has since reconnected with his children and grandchildren, relationships that were torn apart from his drug use. He will successfully complete probation in April 2016 and he plans on enrolling in school to become an alcohol and drug counselor to work with adolescents who are involved with gangs and drugs. Bernard has surprised himself with his recent successes and knows he can deal with future challenges without turning to drugs. “I am willing to face life on life’s terms,” smiled Bernard. “I have been to many other treatments, but nothing like here. I am so thankful for Prototypes and the people who have stuck by me.”