Recovery advocates are promising in helping end the stigma, as well as helping those still sick and suffering in need of hearing a message they could find nowhere else. There are a lot of things that make a recovery advocate special. There are also a lot of things that help recovery advocates relate to those still in the woes of addiction or substance use disorder. And as we know, you don’t have to be in recovery to be a part of the recovery movement; although sharing experience strength and hope is a huge help!
In my time with Substance For You, I've met tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of recovery advocates. So, as I sit back in my chair at Starbucks, drinking my green tea, I think, “What motivates a recovery advocate?” or even better, “Why does someone want to advocate for recovery?”
I personally want to advocate for recovery because I've been in long-term recovery for a little over six years now! I used to suffer from alcohol, heroin, and other drugs. But, today with the help of many people in the Substance For You community—whom are recovery advocates—I find solace in saying I’m proud to be where I am. But, I wasn’t always this way, and it sure wasn’t an easy road to getting as far as I have or wondering where I would be further down the road. But one thing is clear, recovery advocates, and their stories of hope have paved the way for me, as I now hope to help pave the way for others in finding recovery; just like our feature profile in this article: Chris Ferry of Boca Recovery Center.
I’ve known Chris through many of our recovery advocacy adventures, since the beginning of Substance For You’s existence. It’s safe to say I know this man is standing up for a good cause when he vows his life to recovery. He’s helped Substance For You when it first started out and is now a contributing factor in what our mission means to be an international recovery advocate. Chris is the President of Boca Recovery Center in Boca Raton, Florida and has multiple years of long-term recovery doing professional interventions, as well!
So, I wanted to go back to the roots of where Substance For You came from while saying thank you to someone who’s been there since day one, and showing you all what true experience strength and hope looks like…
Q1: So Chris, where does your story with addiction, substance use, or mental illness begin?
A1: I grew up in Ventnor City, NJ, right next to Atlantic City, in a middle-class family. Both my mother and father were great business people and took great care of me. I was a competitive athlete who found his true calling through ice hockey. I was even invited to try out for team USA, and my thoughts were that as long as I did well at ice hockey my parents would continue to reward me while I was proving successful in their eyes! This was important to me because I always wanted to make my parents proud.
My Junior year of high school I got into a fight and was forced off of the ice hockey team for the remainder of the season. And then, after that year I finished out at school, I was then asked to leave the private school I was currently attending. The first semester of my Senior year I went to a local public high school for the first semester. Shortly after that one of my favorite teachers passed away from the school that I was asked to leave from. I attended this teacher's funeral, even though I was no longer a student. The headmaster saw hope in me and my character and invited me back for the second semester of my senior year where our ice hockey team famously went 23-0! We won the State Championship.
After that senior year, I decided to hang my skates up. I personally felt that the first semester at the local high school gave me a taste of what "normal" looked and felt like. After playing high caliber ice hockey, and being required to be on the road every weekend, I missed out on all of the parties and events that my friends attended. I just wanted to be a "normal" young adult.
Truth be told that when I stopped playing ice hockey, I lost my identity. I wanted to find a new identity in being "normal," but in all actuality, there is no true normal, and there was no true normal for me. This led down a path of misery and addiction.
As my susceptibility to high impact sports-fueled me for needing endorphin lifts, the dabbling in drugs turned into a life of self-medicating and pill addiction. The dabbling was a replacement for the high that being an elite athlete gave me, but I had no idea how truly hooked I was! I turned into a people pleaser, I turned into a partier, I lost my drive for being an elite athlete, and turned full blown addict.
Relapse was a part of my story. After years of abuse, I went to rehab in Florida several times. This last time that I went to treatment was February 21st, 2013 and was the time that I truly wanted and needed to get clean for myself. This is my origin story, and by the grace of God, I believe that he gave me every reason to be writing this to you with a little bit more than 4 years clean.
Q2: So after all of what you went through, where are you today in recovery?
A2: After everything that I went through I would never take a thing away beside the pain and harm I caused people. I learned a true lesson through each and every situation that I went through, and find it a blessing to be where I am today, and able to share the types of stories I can. And from my experiences my addiction makes me who I am today, it molds me into a better person with recovery! And with the 12-steps, my spirituality, and praying I am where I am 110%, absolutely proud of doing something I thought wasn’t even possible. I never thought I’d have a beautiful family, beautiful daughter, my brother, my mother and father back in my life to make them proud, and able to help other sick and suffering addicts, with an amazing four years clean and sober. I never thought that I’d even get thirty days sober, but just for today, I am blessed.
Q3: What does the term, or lifestyle, of being a recovery advocate mean to you?
A3: To me the term recovery advocate means to educate the public on the rights and the barriers those in recovery face. The stigma about addiction must end too many lives have been lost. The passion of advocacy is what can motivate the change in government, and society to get the help that is needed.
The term recovery advocate means creating awareness of the term addiction and recovery while living a lifestyle of sobriety. Leading by example is the best form of advocacy, and bringing awareness is key to saving lives and becoming better as a society in whole.
Q4: Now hearing this, what can you say directly motivates you, to be a recovery advocate and help others in your mission?
A4: What motivates me to be a recovery advocate and help others are the life experiences I’ve had with actually being down in the dumps, in the trenches, and being a recovering drug addict while watching what the families go through too. But, while being in the drug and alcohol industry, seeing so many people suffering is a horrible thing and it changes a person to want to make a better society through my recovery advocacy.
Q5: What are you, and Boca Recovery Center doing to help others gain recovery, or come into the light so to say?
A5: Boca Recovery Center utilizes a multidisciplinary approach to treating the disease of addiction. Our clinical staff all comprised of professionals varying in specialties and they practice at a Master’s or Doctoral level. Our passion comes from personal and professional experience. Our staff is dedicated to providing our clients with the necessary tools to obtain and sustain long-term recovery. Boca Recovery advocacy work is done by educating the public on plateaus through speaking engagements in programs such as Nope vigils, overdose awareness, and recovery music festivals. Our staff and clients honor those lost in addiction through vigils and family services.
Q6: What’s your favorite part about the center and this type of advocacy work?
A6: My favorite part of the center is the client group rooms because this is where the healing begins. To be part of a life-changing event, now that is something to be passionate about!
Q7: Do you have any words of wisdom to someone new in recovery?
A7: Absolutely I do. My words of wisdom to someone new in recovery are that when you first become sober to immediately reach out with some sort of support group, fellowship and create a sober support system with people who’ve got years of sobriety. Find someone you can relate to! The sober support did more than anything else for me and was the best thing to stay sober. You want to make yourself uncomfortable where you’re growing. For example, take the advice of your sober support group so that you can work and grow through the situations together.
Q8: How does Boca Recovery Center help others during stay, and then, after their stay?
A8: Boca Recovery Staff provide an ego supportive environment where clients are directly involved in their individualized treatment plans. We offer continuity of care, intensive case management services and step down program to a lower level of care. Clients can reside in transitional living after completing the 1st phase of their program and we can offer services such as resume building, interview skills, budgeting and offer assistance with job placement programs. This increases the client’s chances for long-term sobriety. Upon completion of programming, we have an alumni program that follows up with the client and offers continual sober support.
Q9: With parting words say one good thing about Substance For You…
A9: I’ve had a relationship with Substance For You for about three years now and I’ve watched them grow and create awareness that other people aren’t able to do. They show growth and hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Substance For You inspires and creates awareness doing advocacy work through social media outlets unlike others out there.
Q10: Finally, tell us what your favorite part of recovery is in hopes it’ll help someone else join recovery, too!
A10: The best part of recovery is getting your true self back and having the potential to become who you’ve always been destined to be without the clouding and judgment of mind or mood altering chemicals.
For more help in all-around holistic treatment, click on the photo below or follow "HERE" to go see Christopher Ferry at the spectacular Boca Recovery Center!