We have an amazing recovery story for you today. We are talking to Cory Newman. He’s the executive vice president of operations for Discovery Point Retreat in Waxahachie, Ennis and Dallas. For those of you who are new to our show, Discovery Point Retreat offers the full continuum of services for substance use disorder, including detox, residential, and outpatient services that are also online. As always, if you already know you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, please call us at 855-306-8054.
Cory, welcome to the show.
Thank you. I’m glad to be here. Thank you for having me.
I want to start with the end of the story, and then move through the story from beginning to where we are right now. Can you please tell us just how you got involved with Discovery Point Retreat?
Okay. So when I was in my addiction and trying to get out of it, I ended up at a detox called Harbor Village, which is the first facility opened by Niznik Behavioral Health, which of course is the parent company for Discovery Point, Harbor Village, Safe Landing, and several other facilities that we have around the country. Their first facility they opened was Harbor Village Detox in Miami. I was there. Thirty fourth client.
When I got there. Yeah, when I got there, I did not want to go in. So the chief operating officer who was the facility director at the time, came outside, sat with me for about 45 minutes, you know, made me comfortable with what I was doing and convinced me to go in.
So you were just sitting out there just like saying, I’m not going to do it, I’m not going in. But you aren’t leaving either. You were just sitting there.
Right, I was sitting there and I had. My girlfriend, who’s now my wife. They’re trying to get me to go and also and my you know, my fear of withdrawal and many other fears were kind of keeping me from going in again until Mike, who is the facility director, came out and spoke to me and convinced me to go in. I got to know him a little bit better over the week that I was there. And, you know, when I was getting ready to leave, he stopped me and he said, hey, Cory, you know, I see a lot of potential in you. I think you can do a great job in this field. Go out there, get your life together, come back and talk to me, and come work for me.
I love this theme that I keep seeing over and over from Discovery Point Retreat, from Niznik Behavioral Health, and the people that work there. This is a perfect example of how much they can see the beauty in somebody else and really encourage someone to be their best self and live their best life. I can’t imagine what that felt like to you as he said those words, especially at one of your lowest points.
Absolutely. You know, it really meant a lot to me at that point. I was just jumping from restaurant to restaurant at the time. It meant a lot to me that, you know, he saw potential and it kind of made me think that maybe there is a way out of this and maybe I can make something of myself after all.
So now let’s jump to the beginning of this story. We were talking about your formative years, which you describe as very happy years. You describe yourself as being very close with your family. Can you talk about that some?
Definitely. My parents are some of the most wonderful people in the world. They’re still married today. I have an older brother who’s two years older than me who, you know, I got along very well with and I still get along very well with. He’s been a huge influence on my life. And, you know, they’ve all helped me as much as they possibly could through everything I’ve been through.
I just think it’s significant to say that because so many people, they automatically assume, oh, you’re an addict, you must have had this wretched childhood. But you didn’t. You had you had a very lovely childhood. But things started turning at about age eleven. Talk to us about that beginning point for you in terms of addiction.
OK. So I moved around a lot as a kid. I was born in Miami, but when I was two, I moved to Mexico City with my family. We spent seven years there and then we moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil.
So when I turned, you know, somewhere around age 11 while we were living in Sao Paulo was probably the first time I smoked weed with my brother. He had an older friend and they were smoking weed. And, you know, I wanted to be cool and I wanted to be part of that. So I smoked with them.
Do you feel like this was a gateway experience for you in terms of maybe flipping that switch in your brain? Or was this really just smoking weed at this point?
I wouldn’t call it a gateway. I think, you know, this was kind of just I’m trying to be cool, trying to fit in. I don’t think it flipped the switch. It wasn’t necessarily trying to escape anything, because, as I said, I had an incredible childhood. I had nothing to escape from. It was just kind of there. And I wanted to be cool.
We were talking about this earlier as well, which is smoking weed back when you were a kid is very different than the kind of weed kids experience today. Can you talk about that some?
Yeah, definitely. Weed has certainly gotten a lot more potent over the years and now. The way that kids smoke today has significantly higher amounts of THC in it than it did back then.
For you, when did smoking weed become a problem or start to become noticeable to you?
So at age 12, after four years in Brazil, we move to Zurich, Switzerland, and probably around age 13 or 14. My friends and I got to the point where we were smoking weed every day before school, during school, after school. We started drinking almost every weekend. You know, we would all make up an excuse to our parents as to what we were doing and we would all get together and, you know, get drunk.
So this is common behavior among a lot of youth. When did this start to become recognizable to you as a problem? Did you see it as a problem at this point in your lives?
At that point, I didn’t I didn’t see it as a problem. You know, everybody was doing it. I kind of thought, this is just what high school kids do. It was all pretty normal to us.
You had a turning point in your life where normal became ‘okay, this is pain.’ Can you talk about that? What happened to you?
So at about age 16, I got caught smoking weed at school and I got kicked out of my school.
And where were you? You were living where?
I was still in Zurich at the time. I was in Zurich, Switzerland. Once I got kicked out of school, there was really no other school for me to go to. And my dad was getting ready to retire anyway. Their plan was always to ultimately move back to the United States. So, you know, me getting kicked out was kind of just the catalyst that led us to moving back to Miami.
So this was devastating for you. What were the emotions you were going through? What was your life like at this point when you hit the states?
For me, in my mind, it was the absolute worst thing that could have happened to me. I was taken out of my school. You know, the culture, the language. All my friends. I had my girlfriend over there that I was forced to leave behind, which at the age of 16 was a very, very difficult thing to do.
Having been raised overseas my entire life, I had this view of the U.S., you know, in my mind, it was not in a very nice light because of my upbringing outside of the United States. So this was the last thing that I wanted to do was to come back.
So you’re in the U.S. and basically you’re in despair. There’s no hope. You’re isolated. You’re all by yourself. These are prime conditions for addiction.
Definitely. Yes, I was. I was devastated coming back here. You know, I I missed my girlfriend. I was depressed. I missed all my friends.
I had no interest in making new friends. I had no interest in really doing anything. I was kind of just going through the motions. And I got to a point where I started drinking by myself in my room after my parents went to bed. I would steal alcohol out of their liquor cabinet and go by myself in my room and drink and get high by myself.
So it’s obvious to see there was this progression and then you moved to really much harder drugs. Would that be a good characterization of what happened? Because you did mention crack and heroin ultimately and where you landed.
Right. So a couple months after moving back to the US, I started hanging out with the wrong crowd. And I was introduced to cocaine and Xanax.
Because of the emotional state that I was in, I did them. And, you know, this time I would say that was an escape. It allowed me to forget, just for a brief moment, the devastation and the despair that my life had become at that time.
Do you remember the times where you started to take heroin?
Yeah. Shortly after I started using cocaine and Xanax, I was introduced to heroin. That really was the ultimate escape from anything bad. So I very quickly took to it and started doing it daily.
So I want to cover, you know, kind of what it’s like after you’ve been using heroin for a while. Like before, you mentioned being dope sick and then during while you’re high and then coming down off of it, needing to get right back to using again. What does that look like?
With heroin and any other opiate, for that matter, if you’re doing it regularly, when you stop doing it, you go into withdrawal, which is often referred to as dope sickness. With heroin, it’s generally about six to eight hours after the last time you use it. The withdrawals start. And the only way to stop them is to get more opiates.
And then you’re right back into it. Now take us through that.
The symptoms of withdrawal are absolutely horrible. I mean, to try to describe them to somebody who’s never been through them is pretty difficult.
How does it compare to having the flu?
It’s like the flu times a thousand. You know, you get chills and hot flashes. You shake, you have severe insomnia. It just makes it impossible to sleep. Your legs are restless. Severe vomiting, diarrhea, severe nausea, sweating. I mean, it’s just one of the worst experiences that you can possibly imagine.
I can only imagine you cannot wait to get back there, so that the time frame is like six to eight hours. And you said it’s almost impossible to hold a job while using heroin.
Right. Because the only way to keep a job, you have to plan ahead and, you know, go get your heroin before you go to work and then use it while you’re there.
So you’re always late to work.
You know, most heroin addicts aren’t very good at saving their heroin for later to make sure that they’re not sick later. So it just leads to being late to work all the time. Horrible performance at work. And eventually you get fired.
You had an incredible aha moment where, and I realize you said you had many what we were calling aha moments where you’re like, oh, my gosh, I can not live this way anymore. I cannot do this anymore. But one in particular, when you got thrown into jail, can you tell us about that?
Yeah, definitely. So I, at some point I started getting arrested for various things. Normally I would either bond out of jail or get released on my own recognizance, as they say. So I can go right back out and continue using.
Finally, one of the times I got arrested, I was out on felony bond and I was arrested for another felony in Dade County. That means they hold you in jail with no bond and there’s no way to get out. So I got thrown in there. There was no way out. Of course, I went into withdrawals because I couldn’t find any heroin in jail.
They put me in a detox cell, pretty small cell with 20 other people who were also detoxing. The detox cell was full in the Dade County jail. So quite literally, they took a mat and they laid it down next to the open steel toilet and I laid there. And that’s where I went through my withdrawal.
All alone. Thinking what?
Thinking, you know, this is by far the most horrible experience of my life. And no matter what. I am never, ever going to put myself through this again.
So what ended up happening with that and what ended up being the final— where you know, where you actually recover; I realize you’re constantly in recovery. But the moment that you said I’m not going to do this anymore because you got out and what happened?
I was released after, I believe, 34 days. I spent those entire 34 days thinking, no matter what, I am never going to put myself in this position again. But within literally an hour or two of being released from jail, I was back buying heroin with a needle in my arm.
So your plan didn’t work, right?
Right, my plan didn’t work.
But later in your life, what ended up happening in terms of not repeating these same behaviors over and over again?
Like I said, I had a few of those aha moments. The last time I relapsed, I was with my girlfriend, who’s now my wife. Very shortly after we started dating, she got pregnant. So at the time, I probably had maybe 30 or 60 days clean when we found out she was pregnant.
Right. Of course, I told myself, okay, it’s time to put my big boy pants on. I can never do this again. I have a kid on the way. I’m responsible for another life.
Probably about 30, 40 days after that, I relapsed again and I went back out on a run, kept using for another month or two. She finally figured it out. And I ended up going back to treatment for the last time.
Why was that the final? Why was that the last time?
I think the fact that she was pregnant was a huge eye opener. On top of that, many of the times that I had been in treatment, I was kind of forced there. So although they had an impact, I didn’t take it as nearly as seriously as I should have. This time I was really there for me and I really wanted to get my life together and make sure I could be a good father and make sure I did everything correctly.
That is so powerful.
If there is somebody out there who’s listening to this story has been touched by it, what kind of a message would you send to them? Something real as opposed to guys, just go get treatment, go get help. What is something they need to hear?
I think the most meaningful message for somebody in the grips of addiction to fully understand is that there is a way out of this. While I was in my many, many years of misery and suffering during my addiction, one of the most powerful statements that I finally understood was that there — yes, there are drug addicts — but you can get out of it. Some of the treatment centers that I went to, you know, there’s a lot of people in recovery working in treatment centers. I would see them and many of them had very similar stories to mine. So although I was completely hopeless and, you know, for a while I thought that I was destined to die on the streets with a needle in my arm, I would see these people and they would give me so much hope to know that they’ve been through the same thing that I have. They got out of it. Now they have a family. They have a good job. They’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing and they are genuinely happy.
I think that gave me more hope than anything else. So if there’s one message that I could give to people out there who are suffering is that there is a way out. If I can do this, if millions of other people can do this, you can do it too.
Cory Newman, thank you so much for coming on the show and telling this powerful story.
And thank you to our listening audience. We hope you see you can discover a new you through recovery at Discovery Point Retreat. Again, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
You do not have to face battling addiction alone. The number is (855-306-8054. I am Noelle Carmen. And as always, I wish you a wonderful rest of your day.