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My Personal Addiction Recovery Story – Adoption, Addiction and Acceptance

Eric Lapp The Raleigh House of HopeAs the founder of this addiction rehab center, I want to help others
who might be going through a situation like mine. That’s why I’m inviting anyone who is currently struggling with addiction or who is in addiction recovery to read my story and share it with others. Or, if you don’t have a substance abuse disorder yourself but you know someone who does, my story is living proof that there is hope.

How My Addiction Recovery Story Began

“Illusions commend themselves to us because they save us pain and allow us to enjoy pleasure instead. We must therefore accept it without complaint when they sometimes collide with a bit of reality against which they are dashed to pieces,” – Sigmund Freud

I spent my whole life believing that the gift of adoption is so great that anything less than unconditionally honoring it would be a great misfortune. And, that the little bit of love I thought I had would disappear. As a young boy, I knew I was adopted; but it didn’t really register until later in my adult life when I was able to connect the dots.

My biological mother was drug dependent. I only know the name of my biological father. I was given to the Department of Social Services by my biological mother when I was 12 months old. My adoption records state that I was in foster care for one and a half years, but I’m unaware of how many placements I had.

At two and half years old, I was formally adopted by a married couple who owned a restaurant near Denver, Colorado. I know now that my adoptive mother tried to have biological children, but could not. My adoptive father tells me that I was quiet, played with my toy truck and was closer to him than my adoptive mom. Psychological records from my infancy also document that I played alone, did not seek attention or care from others and connected more to objects.

My adoptive parents also fostered and adopted a young girl about one or two years later. At that time my adoptive mother had to spend more time parenting and less time partnering – this took a toll on my adoptive parents’ relationship.

We took family vacations to Disneyland, Disney World and Yellowstone National Park. I have old VHS tapes of my birthday parties and Christmas mornings. I have old pictures of me and my family that portray happiness and family fun – although, if I look close enough, I can feel the disconnection, fear of attachment, fear of disappointment, lack of control and fantasy for something else.

I have vivid recollections of lying in bed at night, watching black and white television, with overwhelming feelings of anxiety and apprehension about peer relationships, my lack of identity, loneliness and thoughts that I was undeserving and lacked value.

For me, the dichotomy of being gifted with adopted parents, after being given up by my natural parents created conflict, confusion and uncertainty. I experienced great difficulty in forming healthy connections without the anticipation of being abandoned, rejected or disappointed again.

As a result, I developed fantasies built on themes of attention, love and nurturing to help sedate my constant discomfort and longing. The belief that my drug addiction was the problem, was an illusion.

How Drugs and Alcohol Filled the Void

“We become aware of the void as we fill it,” – Antonio Porchia

As I entered adolescence, I began seeking new things to temper and soothe my discomfort, lack of identity, anxiety, loneliness, fear of abandonment and not feeling like I belonged. I experienced a feeling of excitement and attachment to the media’s portrayal of the lifestyle of drug users.

By age 15, I was committed to the role of a drug user – and I couldn’t have been happier about it. For me, drugs and alcohol offered an escape from the constant discomfort I experienced as a child, a sense of belonging and an identity that was exciting, risky and offered the illusion of control. The amount of focus, attention and attachment I had to my toy truck as a toddler had transferred to a relationship with new objects – drugs and alcohol.

My desire to get high was a priority and all other relationships suffered. My relationships with peers revolved around drug use. Any healthy relationships I may have had soon disappeared, as my values changed to support my substance use habits. This, too, worked for me; the less I was attached to humans, the less chance I had of experiencing discomfort, fear or anxiety.

Additionally, my parents – like so many parents – were unequipped to support me without further enabling my substance abuse patterns. Throughout more than a dozen unsuccessful rehab attempts and two nearly-fatal overdoses, they stood by me in the only way they knew how, which was financially more than emotionally.

The pay offs of my substance use outweighed the drawbacks for many years; or so I thought. The illusion was that substance use was filling my void. The reality, however, was that my void still contained all the discomfort and pain of my childhood – plus the addition of more discomfort, pain and shame from adolescence and early adulthood.

During my 14th treatment intervention, I connected with a spiritual counselor staff member. This staff member was a female who was around the age of my mother. She was the first person in my life who gave me permission to release my emotions… to cry and get angry. It was here that I finally experienced what it was like to be comfortable in my own skin; to feel that I was deserving of a different kind of life – something I had struggled believing before. Instead of numbing these feelings with drugs and alcohol, I now had healthy coping skills and a support network I could rely on for help.

Managing my cravings during previous rehab attempts was always difficult. But, this program emphasized the importance of exercise and offered nutritional support to help restore the vitamin deficiencies caused by my substance use and lifestyle. While the cravings didn’t magically disappear, they felt manageable. The decrease in physical withdrawal symptoms allowed me to experience other emotions and thoughts. This allowed me to see that I not only had the power to stop using drugs, but that I wanted to.

Building a House on a Foundation of Hope

Because I experienced addiction and treatment first hand; I knew I wanted to offer a program that didn’t just focus on treating the actual chemical dependency. Rather, I wanted to create a program based on a philosophy of treating all the systems that impact – and are impacted by – addiction. But, before we get to that, we need to take a step back.

From Humble Beginnings

I think it’s important for people to understand that recovery from drug or alcohol addiction is not a singular event. It’s a gradual, on-going process. Even after successfully completing rehab, I still had a lot of work to do – not just as a recovering addict, but as a person who wanted to do something meaningful with his life.

Over the course of my treatment, I started to think about what it would be like to build my own addiction rehab center. If you’d asked me back then, I couldn’t have told you what my program would ultimately look like. But, thanks to my own struggle with addiction, I knew the values I wanted to represent and the things I wanted to do differently.

Gradually, much like my recovery, I began to build what would become The Raleigh House.

Building My Character and My Rehab Center

Like many upstart businesses, money was tight in the beginning. But, I made the most of what I had and purchased the essentials. Some cheap beds, an old TV… anything remotely useful I could drag off the curb. No, it wasn’t glamorous, but it was enough to get started.

I realized quickly that for this to be successful, I would need more than material objects. I’d need to surround myself with talented people who not only understood addiction and recovery, but who had the formal training I lacked. Perhaps most importantly, I needed people who shared my passion for helping others and my commitment to client satisfaction.

The People Behind The Raleigh House

As I continued to fill The Raleigh House with all the necessary items an inpatient addiction rehab center needs, I also made sure to fill it with the right people. Master’s-level clinicians. Nutritionists. Nursing, medical and psychiatric professionals. Eventually, The Raleigh House grew to include a dedicated team consisting of more than 60 professionals. I credit these people with everything – from helping me learn how to run a high-end rehab center to ensuring client satisfaction every step of the way.

The Raleigh House Today

Now with five buildings and licenses for multiple levels of care, including general outpatient, intensive outpatient, residential and detox, The Raleigh House is inspiring more people to improve their lives than I ever thought possible. 80% of our employees have degrees in higher education and we recently earned our accreditation from the Joint Commission.

As for the future? For me, it’s all about maintaining and improving the client experience as we continue to grow. That’s why we will remain committed to hiring the best people we can get and giving them a great experience as valued team members here at The Raleigh House. One thing I can say for sure is that our addiction rehab program is bigger than any one person. And, thanks to the talented people who have given us their time and talent over the years, it’s only going to get bigger.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol, The Raleigh House is here to help. Learn more about our comprehensive addiction rehab program, or call us today.


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