Perspectives Series: A Recovery Specialist

By Nick Culp, Recovery Specialist

As of October 23rd, 2020, I will have worked at Parkdale Center for 18 months. As Recovery Specialist, I am a live-in member of the staff. My job is to be a resource for our patients in the evenings and on weekends. I help get new patients settled and make sure they have everything they need. I often accompany them on shopping trips, doctors’ appointments, visits to the YMCA, and so on. I also provide emergency and crisis support when needed, and of course, I reinforce the rules. Most importantly, I act as a sympathetic sounding board for those new to recovery. Like our patients, I struggled with addiction myself, and have been in recovery for 6 years. Addiction impacted every aspect of my life: my relationships, my focus, and my career.

I began my career at Purdue University after high school without ever really thinking or planning what I would do with my education. I always excelled at math and science, and I loved thinking and fantasizing about the world, space, atoms, and molecules – all the things around us that we can’t see. The fact that there is truly more to life than what we know has always fascinated me. I started college in freshman engineering and I quickly realized there was no way I wanted to work with computers my whole life. I got the idea of pharmacy from the pre-pharmacy students who were in most of my freshman engineering classes. When I looked at the pharmacy curriculum and profession, I quickly realized that it was for me. It suited me in practically every way. I graduated from pharmacy school in 2005 with a PharmD degree (Doctor of Pharmacy).

I worked mainly in hospitals after school, but the longest I ever held a job was just over a year, as my addictions always caused me to lose my job after a rather short period of time. I worked for about 5 hospitals in the 5 years that I was licensed. Out of those 5 years, I worked for maybe a total of 3 years, as I could not keep a consistent job. In 2010, my license was officially suspended for being under the influence and asleep on my overnight shift. My license is still currently suspended, but I’m on the path of having it restored. My addiction started at age 15 when I began drinking and smoking marijuana. Alcohol has always been my drug of choice by far, although I’ve tried and used just about everything that’s out there. I developed a strong dependence on alcohol and suffered from severe withdrawal when I tried to stop drinking—multiple seizures and hospitalizations.

By the time I was 30, I knew my body physically could not handle much more, although I continued to drink. By this time, I did not want to drink anymore, and I knew I needed to stop, but I still wanted to get high. I continued to drink, but I also substituted other drugs for alcohol. I began abusing opiates at the last job I had and I was taking painkiller pills pretty much around the clock. In the years following losing my last job and my pharmacist license, I began using heroin every day. By now, I was more than aware that I needed to get clean and stop using for good, but I couldn’t find a way out until my dad and stepmom got to a point where they told me I had to leave the house. At this point, I had really nothing left and nothing to lose other than my life. I somehow managed to survive despite this very dangerous path. My sister was the only family member I had left to rely on, so I packed a few suitcases and headed to Dallas where she lived. It was here that I found a ministry rehab center. I lived in the ministry for 4 years and haven’t touched a drink or drug since the day I walked in. The ministry provided me with a day-to-day living environment that centered around believing and following God’s will in life. I lived there until the ministry closed its doors and then at that point, I knew it was finally time to come back home.

I returned to Northwest Indiana to be closer to my family and friends. I have family that lives close by, including 4 nieces and nephews that visit pretty often, at least once a week - they're always looking for me! When I'm not with family, I'm with my close friend, who I consider family. It’s funny because I'm so much more of a people person now that I'm clean and sober, which is the complete opposite of who I used to be—isolated and insecure. Now I'm somewhat always surrounded by others everywhere I go—work & home. My relationships are so important to me that I see myself as a family man, even though I'm still single with no kids.

I'm fascinated by others and their stories. I can't get enough of listening to them and taking note of all their similarities and differences. Each person is truly unique. After everything I've been through, I found I've been able to tap into and rediscover that child within me that I believe each person has. So, I have a youthful spirit that's equipped with all the skills and everything I've learned along this wild journey. Now that I’m clean and sober, I can focus on things I really enjoy. As much as I love healthcare and pharmacy, it's nowhere near my love for arts, entertainment, music, movies, fashion, sports, design, and more. I recently got back into drawing and sketching which I used to do as a kid. It was actually my first favorite hobby and a passion of mine, so I've really enjoyed rediscovering that joy.

I also love nature and the outdoors—both city and country settings. I've spent most of my life going on long walks throughout every area I've ever lived in or visited, taking pictures along the way. I love scouring the land and covering as much ground as I can in every area or neighborhood that I live or visit. I take note of all the streets, houses, landmarks, etc. that give each town or neighborhood its name & face as well. Of course, there’s always the scenic nature trails that have a beautiful view of the landscape and give a different feel of peace by being able to get away and separate from the noise & bustle of life in residential areas. Walking and wandering around town I think is the best way to get to know any area I find myself in. This is also my way of talking with God because His nature and its beauty have opened my eyes and my heart. You might say I’ve had the ultimate travel companion with me through this incredible journey I’ve been on. My faith guides me in life, in my recovery, and it keeps me sober.

As Recovery Specialist, I have the profound privilege of walking with others through their recovery journey, just as I did - helping them along the way and watching them find their simple joys.

Monday, 19 October 2020 11:34