Edgar was sitting at the family dinner table—sick, sleepless and withdrawing from drugs at 5 a.m.—while his father was getting ready for work. Until this point, Edgar had hidden his addiction from both his parents. But something compelled him in that moment, and it took only one act of fearlessness to completely change his life. Now he sits down with host William C. Moyers to reflect on that pivotal moment, appreciating the world of difference that recovery makes.
0:00:13 William Moyers
Hello and welcome to Let's Talk, a podcast series produced by Hazelden Betty Ford. I'm your host, William C. Moyers. And today, we offer a story of hope with Edgar V., who joins us from his home state of California. Welcome, Edgar!
How's it going, William?
0:00:31 William Moyers
Doing okay, man. Thanks a lot for being with us today. So, tell us a little bit about your background. Where do you come from?
I was born in Long Beach, California. Moved to Fontana, California when I was about seven. Regular, suburban family. Good uprising [sic], not too much difficulty. Pretty much happy childhood. I went to—finished high school, went to a technical school for being a mechanic. And been a mechanic ever since.
0:00:58 William Moyers
Wow, good for you! But somewhere along the way you began to experiment with substances.
Oh yeah. Early on, probably about eighth grade?
0:01:07 William Moyers
Seventh grade, actually. Yeah. [nods]
0:01:09 William Moyers
Wow! And so, you know we never get into all the nitty gritty details, but I gotta ask you a couple of questions. What did you experiment with?
Seventh grade that was the first time I smoked pot. And then when I got into high school about ninth grade is when I dabbled a lot with ecstasy, psychedelics. And after high school is when all the—the painkillers came into play. And a lot of stimulants. The list of what I haven't done is probably a lot shorter [chuckles] than to tell you what I have done.
0:01:41 William Moyers
[laughs] Yeah! Yeah.
I've had my fair share. [laughs]
0:01:44 William Moyers
I appreciate your level of honesty there. [chuckles] I was gonna say, you sorta ran the table there on all kinds of substances over a really short period of time. What did it—how did you feel when you used marijuana?
At first it wasn't really my cup of tea. It got me really paranoid and just knowing that I had to go home and probably my eyes were really red, had to interact with my dad, that kinda scared me. [laughs] So, I laid off of that for a while. And it was about ninth grade is when I really started to experiment. So, yeah, I didn't really enjoy it as much as other people.
0:02:16 William Moyers
But you kept doing it!
But I kept doing it, yeah. I obviously couldn't forget. [chuckles]
0:02:19 William Moyers
Yeah. So—so you come from—you've got a mother and a father, you come from a solid home, they love you, you know, you're looking good on the outside, did your parents have any idea that you were using substances?
I believe I got caught once or twice just smoking weed. But, other than those, I was really—really good at hiding it. So they never really knew that I was dabbling in something. Maybe they had an idea but didn't really wanna believe it. And it wasn't until I actually came clean to them and told them that I needed help is when they actually figured out that I had a problem.
0:02:54 William Moyers
So I was really good at concealing it.
0:02:57 William Moyers
We'll come back to that in just a moment about when you finally came clean and asked them for help. But when did you begin to notice that you had a problem, that things were getting out of control?
This is probably when I was about 22, 21? Yeah. So early on I wasn't one of the people that would not accept the fact that I had a problem. I was really—I was always able to accept that and realize that I had a problem. So that wasn't really that difficult for me to do.
0:03:29 William Moyers
Mmm-hmm. Then it happened, though. You knew you had a problem and you had to ask for help. Was there a specific incident or moment that caused you to say hey, I got a problem and need help?
I would say when the—I started to realize it when the first thing I would think about when I'd wake up in the morning is how am I gonna get my fix. And I wouldn't—I would not be able to do anything before I had my fix. So I had to get that first before I was able to function as a normal human being. [grins] So that's when I started noticing that like I think I might have a problem here, so. [chuckles softly]
0:04:04 William Moyers
Tell us about the day, if you can recall it, about the day that you actually reached out to your parents and said, 'Help me.'
So I used to work from 3:30 to like 1, 2 in the morning. And then one night I was—I was going through withdrawals really bad. I got home, I couldn't sleep. I was at the dinner table around 5 in the morning. And then that's when my dad walked down the stairs for him to go to work. And I was just an emotional wreck at the time. And I was kinda debating whether I should tell my father or not about my situation and ask him for help. But I—I worked up the courage to actually tell him and I sat him down, like, 'You got a couple of minutes where I could talk to you?' And I just let him have it, I just told him the situation I was in, the problem I was in, the reason why I never had money. [laughs] And told him that I actually wanted to get out of this road and needed help. And he offered a lending hand. And he's just been trying to help since.
0:05:04 William Moyers
Wow, and you—you're Hispanic, you come from a Hispanic background, I mean was it easy to ask for help at the end or was that hard to do?
It was hard to do. Knowing just probably because I knew there was gonna be some sort of disappointment.
0:05:20 William Moyers
But, I was—I kinda waited it out I'm like well I could just let them be oblivious to it and head down more—head down that hole more. Or I could just deal with the disappointment that I'm gonna give them. But, turn that into a good thing and hopefully see my way out of this. [Moyers nods] And make something good out of it.
0:05:39 William Moyers
Well, yeah, well this is a story of hope and we'll come to that part in just a moment. Edgar, let me ask you though, so, when you asked for help, what kinda help did you think you needed? I mean did you see yourself as being somebody who was a full-blown alcoholic or an addict? Or did you just think you needed help getting off of substance or learning how to use differently?
I would have seen myself as an addict at that moment already. Because I was starting to actually do a lot of shady things to get my fix. And I—that was the first—that's the only thing I really cared about at that time in my life. And when it came to knowing what kinda help I needed, I didn't really know how to follow through with getting help. Or the—the opportunities that were out there to get help. So I was really oblivious to that world, to be totally honest with you. So, we just started doing some research and see the—the kinda help we could get out there. But I really didn't know what kinda help I needed. But I did know I wanted to get off.
0:06:43 William Moyers
You wanted to get off and that help ended up being treatment, right?
0:06:47 William Moyers
So, tell us about your treatment experience.
So the time when I originally asked my dad for help, I had tried getting clean twice before. I got it on the second try. [chuckles] The first try we had went to Kaiser to an addiction counselor. And right there basically they just handed me Suboxone and sent me on my way. And gave me like a list of NA meetings that I could go to. But me being the addict I never really looked into it, never put that effort in. 'Cause I didn't really have a foundation; I just had a bottle of pills to “help me get clean.” [uses air quotes] And I—I did the pills, the Suboxone for about six months until I started trading it for my DOC. And then after that, when I tried to get clean again, one of my aunts helped me. I was asking her for some financial help and she said, 'I'll help you if you go through a treatment program.'
0:07:41 William Moyers
Yeah. So, and then at that time, I was hitting rock bottom again. And I wanted to get that help and she was the one that helped me get that push to actually follow through with it and put me—within a week she had me here at Betty Ford. So it was really fast at the beginning, I was kinda—I was kinda scared to go but I was like, 'No, we—we gotta do this, I need to make this change. So I won't get worse.' And that's how I ended up at Betty Ford.
0:08:08 William Moyers
So you ended up at the Betty Ford Center, did you know anything about treatment, did you know anything about the Betty Ford Center, or did you just think that, you know, you could get better with those—that medication called Suboxone?
I didn't think I could get better with the medication. And I didn't really know much about the Betty Ford Center. Just a little online research. But, I basically just said let's—let's do it. And just go for the ride and see what I could learn from coming here. And it was the right move to do. [smiles]
0:08:35 William Moyers
You were a young man! I mean you still are but you were probably one of the younger patients in treatment at the time, yes?
I believe so, yeah. There might be one or two people that were younger than me but yeah, I was one of the younger ones.
0:08:45 William Moyers
Is it hard? Is it hard being young or younger and starting that road of recovery?
Not really. I've always thought to myself it's never either too early or too late. I should do it. [Moyers nods] But, it wasn't really that hard. And I had the support that I needed to get clean. So that made it a lot easier, you know? [chuckles] But yeah no, that was never really a dilemma for me.
0:09:12 William Moyers
And what was—what were those early days like for you in treatment?
Uh difficult. [both laugh] Just a little.
0:09:20 William Moyers
What was that?
0:09:23 William Moyers
Because why was it difficult?
So before I got brought to Betty Ford Center, I made it my decision to stop using for two days prior. Just to go through that withdrawal pain and remember what it was gonna be like. So when I came into the Betty Ford Center, I was full-blown withdrawal sweating, shakes, all that good stuff. [grins] And the first couple of days were a little hazy. I was sleeping a lot, it was a lot of joint pain. But it—it was miserable, it was a really bad case of the flu, you know, in simple terms. But it was—it was—I had to just keep on fighting to wanna stay here and wanna get better. And looking back to where I was before that helped me have that ambition and motivation to wanna get clean. But it was a rough couple—the first week was pretty rough. [laughs]
0:10:11 William Moyers
Oh if it's any solace to you, it's pretty rough for everybody who goes to treatment that first week or so. And I went a long time ago. And I was older than you were when I went. So, I always admire young people who start that journey 'cause you got your whole life ahead of you. How long did you stay in treatment?
0:10:31 William Moyers
And then what happened?
After three weeks, I went—I went home, I didn't go to sober living. I went to a couple meetings here and there. But I wasn't working for about three months. And then I started—I got a job, started—I've been working since. But, I just—what helped me a lot was just staying distracted with interacting with my family, staying busy at work. I have a wonderful girlfriend that supports me in my recovery. And just staying busy, literally. Yeah, I've been to some meetings on Zoom that me and the Dupont guys had made originally when we were there. But that's about the only meetings I've been to. I've tried a couple NA meetings but I haven't really the found the one that I actually feel that speaks to me yet. And I need to do some more digging to find that one. Or I was telling the people here, even just volunteering at a rehabilitation center, I feel like that will fulfill that void of recovery that I wanna fill. I just need to go ahead and go—go forward with it. [chuckles]
0:11:37 William Moyers
What's been the biggest surprise to you in recovery?
There hasn't been too many surprises. Well actually, the biggest surprise is that I would take it this well. Like, that would accept the fact that I was gonna wanna change and make that change—yeah, that was the biggest surprise for me. Accepting the fact that I wanted to change. I never—a couple years ago, I would never have thought I would have that mindset. And with all the—the help we had at the Betty Ford facility, that kinda helped me unwrap that mindset. Yeah that's probably my biggest [trails off].
0:12:12 William Moyers
So what's been the biggest change? I mean obviously one big change is you stopped using. But as it relates to you and your character, you and your perspective, you and your beliefs, what's changed, Edgar?
A lot more responsible, that's for one. But I—I feel a lot lighter in my character. I'm not as angry as much, I'm not—I don't have so much anxiety. I could affiliate and communicate with people a lot better. I have a better relationship with my family. I go to the family gatherings now. I'm able to sustain a relationship with my girlfriend. I have a lot more of a positive outlook to my future. And I'm not afraid to tackle the obstacles that come to get to where I wanna get. When back then, I would just give up and go do what I gotta do to numb it out.
0:13:00 William Moyers
Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Did your family—did your parents come to the Family Program?
Yes, they did. Actually they were the first people to actually attend the Hispanic Program.
0:13:08 William Moyers
How was that?! For them—how was that well I can ask them later on how that was for them. But how was having your parents there in the Hispanic Program, how was that for them—or for you, rather.
For me it was actually surprising that my parents were willing to get informed. And find the best way to help me in my recovery. And I highly appreciate that about them. And I do see that after they went through the program, they were a lot more understanding about the situation that I was in. And a lot more informed. So yeah they were more understanding to my situation and a lot more helpful than before they went to that program.
0:13:53 William Moyers
So what's life like for you today? I mean, you've shared a little bit about that. But is it hard being a young person, a young man, in recovery when so many young people are still experimenting or using? I mean, what's that like for you?
Not too difficult. I think the best move that I did was change of scenery. I left the toxic job, I left the toxic people. And I focused my time more on work and my family and my relationship. But it hasn't been bad. You know, the temptation's always gonna be there, it's just up for—it's just up to us whether we're gonna give in to it, you know? Outside factors are only gonna affect us if we allow it. So for me it's been, now that I'm sober and clear-headed, it's been a lot easier to move the—those toxic people out of my life or put myself in those bad situations.
0:14:45 William Moyers
Right. Right. And you're on a journey, you know, nothing's ever gonna be perfect. And you'll continue to learn and—and see life as it unfolds. We're about out of time, Edgar, but, as we emphasized at the beginning and as your story has clearly emphasized, this is a story of hope. And we know from doing these podcasts that a lot of people who tune in when they find them online are tuning in because they're hurting. Or they're hopeless. Or they've got a loved one who's hurting or hopeless. So Edgar, just hearing your story, certainly one that can inspire hope for others to get help, but what is your message to the people that are looking at you? We'll be looking at you right now and you looking at them through the lens of the camera, what is your message to young women and young men who are struggling with substances?
Never give up. If you fall down, you get back up and you keep on trying. And after recovery, life is a lot better. Regardless of the situation that you're in. There's always gonna be hope and there's always gonna be the help that's—there's always gonna be help out there and it's up to you to take that step. And taking that step is not impossible as long as you want it. You just gotta want it and you'll—you'll get it. [smiles]
0:16:03 William Moyers
Well we're glad that you wanted it and we're glad that you took that step. Edgar V., thank you for being with us today. And for having the strength to stand up and speak out and to share your story of strength and hope with our audience today. Edgar, thanks for being with us.
Thank you for having me.
0:16:20 William Moyers
[turns to camera] And thanks to our audience for joining with us again today. Remember, addiction is an illness that does not discriminate. It affects people of all cultures and languages and communities. But treatment does work and recovery is possible as Edgar has just emphasized. And it's possible, of course, in any language. So don't wait! If you or a loved one needs help and asks for help, do it now. I'm your host, William C. Moyers, I hope you will join us again for another edition of Let's Talk. See you soon.