Recovery Testimonial–Ian Parker’s Vigil speech

On Wednesday, August 30, 2023, at NCPSG’s 7th Annual Community Addiction Awareness Vigil, Ian Parker shared his story of recovery from addiction. His parents, Melody and Roger, introduced him. To view the video recording of his Vigil speech click here. We also share his testimonial in full below. Thank you, Ian, for being so open about your recovery!

Families empower recovery – what an amazing thought. It is true that people who struggle with addiction hurt themselves the most… but their families and friends are also impacted tremendously. If the disease hurts all of us, then we all must take part in the healing process of recovery.

I began using drugs and alcohol at the age of 15, and entered recovery at 25. I am now 31, with roughly six and a half years clean and sober. This… to me… is a sign that I care about myself… and about those impacted by my decisions.

My story is similar to many others: I have a loving family and parents who are still together. I grew up in Westport attending Staples High School and Avon Old Farms Boarding School.

I was given many opportunities, but in early adolescence I felt extreme low self-esteem and I was often uncomfortable in my own skin. The first time I used marijuana, I thought I had found the thing that would stop the feelings that made me so uncomfortable… so I set out to use it as much as I could.

Within six months, I was arrested for possession with the intent to sell, and I found myself in the back seat of a police cruiser. True to the disease of addiction, however, that didn’t stop me.

For the next 10 years, I kept using and repeating the same cycle. I couldn’t see that the way that I was dealing with my discomfort… was the main cause of my troubles.

I would clean up my behaviors for a while… but slowly there was a pull back to the things that I believed would help me feel the way I wanted. It was almost subconscious… and at times… disguised as “fun.”

However… the reality and progression of my illness is that if I use a substance that gives me a positive feeling or takes away a negative feeling… I will seek to use as much of that substance as I can… for as long as I can.

I have learned this is how the disease manifests itself in my life.

I did not realize this until arrests became overnights in holding cells… and overnights in holding cells became months in county jail. Until town police became state troopers. Until it became obvious that if I did not change my behaviors, I was only going to experience more of the same and worse.

I did not necessarily come to this realization on my own. Early in my recovery, my family was supportive. They learned and understood what I needed to do to give myself the best chance of success and survival.

My concept of family also had to grow as I grew… and I learned that having a network of people who think like I think, feel like I feel, have done some of the things I have done… and most importantly no longer engage in self-destructive behaviors… would be critical in my recovery.

I’ve found a wider family in groups like Narcotics Anonymous and Move to Heal, and I could not have made it this far without them. We help ourselves, and by sharing our stories and experiences, we help others change their lives.

I love this process so much that I have made it my life’s work. I am a certified drug and alcohol recovery counselor, have worked two years in the field as a case manager in a long-term treatment center and have recently opened my own recovery coaching practice.

Anyone can stop using one day at a time, and recovery is possible.

An unfortunate reality of the disease of addiction is that addicts don’t always embrace recovery the first time, and relapse happens. I’ve lost friends, been lied to and taken advantage of. I’ve learned to love a person and hate the disease.

In my own life, one of the best things my family did was to set firm boundaries… spoken with words and shown in actions.

Not rescuing me from the places my addiction took me helped me finally realize that I was the only one responsible for putting myself there, and if I wanted a different life, I would have to do something different. Allowing someone to experience the consequences of their actions is sometimes the best way to precipitate a change in behavior.

Harvard University ran an 85-year study on happiness and discovered the biggest contributor to happiness is the quality of an individual’s relationships.

The family who loves us, and the family with whom we surround ourselves, make a tremendous impact.

Whether it is the family we are born into, AA or Narcotics Anonymous, Move to Heal, Ram Council or other groups, recovery is possible, and it is something we have to do together.