Published On: September 18, 2023|Categories: Recovery|
September marks National Recovery Month. This national observance promotes and supports new evidence-based treatment and recovery practices. During National Recovery Month, we also celebrate all individuals in recovery as well as the treatment service providers and other individuals who make recovery possible.
In honor of National Recovery Month, Pyramid Healthcare’s Jason Hoffman shares his recovery story. Since choosing recovery, he’s found fulfillment in helping others through his career as a Drug and Alcohol Counselor.
Walk us through your recovery journey.
As early as my teenage years, I smoked pot and drank alcohol. Later, in my 20s and 30s, back pain led me to doctors which led me to opiates. I came to Pyramid Healthcare’s Duncansville facility as a client about 15 years ago. I only went for detox and did not continue treatment. After I left, I immediately relapsed.
Then, a suicide attempt landed me in the hospital. I tried to kill myself with a deer rifle and the bullet ended up going through my left shoulder. After that, I was on even more opiates. Stronger opiates. That led to a nightmare period of a few years during which I used heroin.
My wife had stuck with me through all of the worst times of my life, and she gave me an ultimatum to go to rehab or else she would leave me.
At that time, our kids were all teenagers or older. She had a daughter and I had two kids before we met. I was just dragging her through my hell. I was really ready to be homeless rather than get help. But then the next day, I decided that I wasn’t going to throw away everything for a drug. So I decided to accept treatment.
My clean date is May 28, 2010. That day, she drove me up to White Deer Run near Williamsport. There, I went through detox and everything was going well. After I got out of detox, on my first day in my housing unit, I started crying and couldn’t stop. All these emotions and feelings were coming back, hitting me square in the face, and I wasn’t ready to face them. I spent most of those first couple of days just bawling my head off because of all the guilt I was holding. I had to process through that.
My counselor was great. In fact, she is probably one of the main reasons why I do the work that I do today.
What made you decide to work in the behavioral healthcare field?
I got into this because I wanted to be able to help people the way I was helped.
Right out of high school, I’d taken two years of courses at Hack Community College, majoring in criminal justice. At that time, I thought I wanted to be a police officer. That all changed with addiction. When I got out of rehab, I went back to school. I had to finish out a semester at Hack. Then I went to Shippensburg University for the last two years to get my bachelor’s. I’ve been threatening to go forward with my master’s degree. I’m only 53, so there’s still time, but we’ll see.
My favorite people to work with are inmates. We had a contract with the Dauphin County prison for a couple of years here. I did the treatment for the men’s side and that filled my heart more than anything.
I still get my heart filled daily, but working with inmates was a different level of fulfillment for me. Also, back in my 20s, I used to be a prison guard. So I’ve experienced two different sides of the criminal justice system — working security and then the treatment side.
How did you come to work for Pyramid?
My mother is friends with Chuck Mazzitti, cofounder of Mazzitti & Sullivan Counseling (now Pyramid Healthcare). So, I’ve known Chuck my entire life. In fact, Chuck and Andy Sullivan, the other half of Mazzitti & Sullivan Counseling, used to take me trout fishing on the first day of trout season when I was as young as 10 years old.
Naturally, the first call I’d made after I graduated from Shippensburg was to Chuck. He gave me someone’s name to talk to about getting a job with Mazzitti & Sullivan, and I reached out to that contact and was hired.
Do you have any tips for preventing relapse?
In my groups, I tell all my clients to keep all their negative consequences top of mind. Remember every negative consequence that you’ve experienced. Whenever you’re making decisions about anything in life — especially if you’re going to go somewhere or do something that might threaten your recovery — you can pull those negative consequences from your memory bank on a whim to help ground you again.
Another thing I do in my IOP groups is have everybody make a list of everything they have sacrificed to be able to engage in their addiction. Your wife, your kids, your parents — how did you sacrifice them? For instance, if you went to the bar instead of going to your kid’s Little League game, you sacrificed your child. If your child needs diapers but you’re going to buy dope because you need the dope more, you’re sacrificing your child. My clients make a list of everything they’ve sacrificed, then we go back through that list and I have them identify anything they’re still willing to sacrifice. If they can’t pick anything out on that list that they’re willing to sacrifice to maintain their addiction, then recovery should be just a straight line for them.
Do you have any advice for people in recovery?
One simple piece of advice is to slow down. I’ve seen way too many people who get into recovery and want to get a job and everything else all at once. You need to slow down. Take things one day at a time, and progress gradually through it. The more you rush, the more you’re just inviting a relapse.
What is one thing that most people don’t know about you?
My wife and I love to rescue animals. Right now, we mainly rescue cats and pregnant females. We let them have their kittens and then help get them adopted out.
What do you like to do in your free time when you’re not working?
That’s an easy one. Spend time with my two grandkids who are one and three years old.
What would you tell your younger self?
Be self-aware. Be cautious in your decision-making. You could see ripple effects that last for many years based on one questionable decision.