On the Front Lines
This week, we meet Isaac Beverly, who shares his journey from 5 years in prison to a 5-year medallion. Isaac has found a solid recovery plan that includes medication-assisted treatment at Eleanor Health and strong ties to a 12-step recovery community. His plan is working, and Isaac swears by it….but not everyone is on board. Now, Isaac is willing to make waves in order to make progress. Also! Fan favorite Dave from Dopey stops by to answer some of our burning questions about 12-step programs.
[00:02] Well, a few of the people that know, for example, that I’m doing this podcast have told me that I am in for a rude awakening. That I’m going to receive a good bit of pushback. But I told ‘em good. I don’t care. Least we’ll be talking about it. I would suggest if they don’t like what I’m doing for my recovery, you don’t have to do it. You know, do what works for you. This is what works for me. I’m going to work my program to the best of my ability. You work program to the best of your ability. If your tools are different then what’s in my box? I’m cool with that. So I don’t see what the problem is personally. But some people just have this puritanical belief system.
[00:52] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: I’m Stephanie Wittels Wachs, and this is Last Day. We met Isaac Beverly during our recent trip to Eleanor Health. He’s this 49-year-old Southern gentleman. Tall, thin, with silver hair, pretty mild-mannered. He’s got kind eyes and rides a scooter. But before he became an unlikely looking rebel, his story started like many of our guests with experimenting as a teen.
[01:26] Isaac Beverly: I met cocaine when I was about 17. I was living with an older woman by that time, because I had quit school. Mama told me, “if you’re grown enough to quit school, you’ve got to get out of here.” So about a year later, I ended up getting in trouble with the police and they gave me probation, but because of my drug and alcohol use, I was not really a good client for probation. I ended up getting violated. They sent me to prison right about my 18th birthday, where I spent 20 months in South Carolina Department Corrections.
[02:06] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: After that first stint in prison, Isaac kept it together for a while, but eventually started smoking crack with his girlfriend at the time.
[02:14] Isaac Beverly: And that’s when my addiction really took a turn for the worse. It became, you know, where she and I would ride up and down the eastern seaboard because we couldn’t steal from the stores in Columbia, South Carolina, anymore because all loss-prevention people knew as soon as we walked in. And this was the first time I realized — I can remember thinking one day driving across the field from her house, going back on the interstate to do some more boosting. I’m thinking, damn, I might have a problem. Really questioning myself. Am I out of control? Is there nothing I can do? What am I doing? We’re riding all over the place doing all this crazy stuff to these dope boys in dangerous neighborhoods. I’ve been dragged out to cars down and beat up before and robbed and sold dummy dope. I mean, just the life that we were involved in was crazy.
[03:07] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: He went to prison a second time for four months, got out, was doing OK, running a contracting business and started to think about the future. He decided his next step was to find a partner, or a “good woman,” as Isaac says.
[03:23] Isaac Beverly: I didn’t want to date a woman I was in contact with. I want me a good woman. You know, where can I find a good woman? I can remember praying over this one night and God said, “well, there’s two places I can think of: in church or in school.” So I didn’t feel right going to church scheming on a woman. So I went to school. I enrolled in the local community college for a computer class.
[03:46] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: Sure enough, in that class, there was a very, very good woman named Katrina. She was kind, smart and beautiful. Still is. When we were hanging out later, Isaac couldn’t resist showing her off.
[04:03] Isaac Beverly: I’ll show you a picture of Katrina.
[04:10] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: She’s beautiful.
[04:11] Isaac Beverly: Thank you. I think so, too. I’ve been madly in love with this woman for 22 years now.
[04:21] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: After meeting her in that college classroom, Isaac knew pretty quickly that he wanted to be with Katrina forever. But like we’ve heard before, love is not an antidote to addiction.
[04:34] Isaac Beverly: We get married. About a year or two into my marriage, Katrina, my ex-wife now, she’s had it with me going crazy on the weekends and getting missing and things around the house disappearing. You know, she’s like, “I’m going to leave you if something doesn’t change.” So I tried rehab and I went to a place called Morris Village and they’re a 28-day program. And there an abstinence strictly, you know, Alcoholics Anonymous-based recovery. In my experience, I’ve seen that about one in 100 people that works for them. That’s not part of my story. My story continues for about 15 more years. So I went into rehab, got out, relapsed. A couple of years later, go to rehab, relapse, go to detox center and relapse.
[05:26] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: Sound familiar? If you listen to this show, it certainly should. So it’s awful, but not at all shocking that Isaac also got caught in the rehab/relapse cycle. Eventually, Isaac got hurt, and I think you know where the story goes next.
[05:51] Isaac Beverly: In 2004, 2005, I was in a construction accident and hurt my back. So this is where we throw opiates into the scene. You know, I hadn’t really had any issue with opiates. I liked to party too much with other things. My L5 S1 vertebrae, it pushes on the spinal fluid, causes me tremendous pain. A ruptured disk. And the doctors look at the MRI and they say, “sure. How many pain pills do you need? Is it working? Do you need something stronger?” So basically, to this day, I can take my MRI in any doctor’s office in America and carte blanche prescription pills.
[06:31] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: But Isaac’s doctors eventually picked up on the fact that he was abusing other drugs, so they cut him off.
[06:38] Isaac Beverly: You know, now I’ve got this opiate habit, plus real-life pain. And it put me in this cycle now buying heroin because pain pills on the street are a dollar or two a milligram. You know, I couldn’t afford it. And then I ended up selling heroin. Police are about to get me a locked up in South Carolina again, so me in my infinite wisdom while high decided it’d be a good idea to move to Asheville, North Carolina. Katrina, amazingly, is still with me. We’d had three small children in tow about his time. So she’s kind of in an impossible situation where she doesn’t have a lot of family support if she leaves me, and she’s got three kids with herself, you know, so she’s kind of trapped where she is. I’m selling drugs and running the streets and still acting like crazy man, running around toting a 9mm pistol with me. And this girl that I was selling drugs to, or buying them from, I can’t remember which way it was that day, told some guys in a neighboring room that man’s coming up here’s got a bunch money. Y’all rob him. Only she didn’t tell them I had a pistol in the back.
[07:45] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: According to Isaac, they came at him with a bat and he pulled out the gun.
[07:51] Isaac Beverly: I aimed the pistol at the guy that was trying to rob me. And it’s crazy, you’ll hear people talk about how time slows down. That’s a real phenomenon, at least it was for me. And I pointed the gun right at his face and I asked myself, am I going to kill him? And right behind that thought — this is all happening in milliseconds — was I saw my children’s faces. And I knew that if I shot this man in the face, I would never get out of prison. There was no doubt in my mind that I could kill him and that it would end my life as well.
[08:27] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: So he points the gun in the air, fires some warning shots. Two of the bullets hit a parked car. And he was later charged with shooting an unoccupied vehicle.
[08:38] Isaac Beverly: And from my perspective, I didn’t really care what the convictions were. I was more concerned with how much time I was going to get.
[08:44] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: So five years?
[08:47] Isaac Beverly: Yeah. They started out with wanting to give me like 20 years on a plea offer. I said no deal. And it was 12 years and nine years. And I told my lawyer, “anything that my kids is done with school when I get home, I’ll take my chances with a jury.” And they went, “how old are your kids?” Told them and they came back a month later and like, all right, we’ll give you 58 to 88 months, you know. But it’s a deal that’s gotta happen today. Fine, where do I sign?
[09:18] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: Isaac was still in the throes of active addiction when he started his time in prison and he didn’t have any tools to deal with it.
[09:27] Isaac Beverly: So I didn’t know anything about a willing participation in any recovery program until I got incarcerated this last time. And it was different because other times I was in prison, I didn’t have any children in tow, you know, or a woman that I loved and just couldn’t stop being what I was being, as much as I wanted to. But the pain of being locked in a six by nine cell with 58 months in front of me, having not only to deal with can’t feed my addiction anymore, but I’ve just left my wife and kids alone in the mountains, was just too much. So in prison, they’ve only got a couple options for any kind of treatment. You can go see a psychiatrist, which means you’re gonna be stuck on a medical camp, which is a terrible situation, maybe even worse. Or you can go to AA and NA meetings. That’s it. Well, while in prison, I wanted to work but because of the injury to my back, I was having difficulty. And that’s when I met Suboxone, ironically. Somebody was like, here, you take this little piece of Suboxone and it’ll help you with the pain.
[10:42] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: Yep. Isaac was not introduced to MAT by a trained medical professional, but a fellow inmate. Turns out in the absence of formal MAT options in prisons, Suboxone black markets are increasingly common.
[10:58] Isaac Beverly: It was 12 months in that I met Suboxone. And for the next four years, you know, I had to get it underground, they’ll punish you, you get 30 days in the hole if they drug test you and find it in you.
[11:12] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: And Isaac was punished repeatedly for getting caught with Suboxone in prison. In fact, he spent several 60-day stints in solitary confinement, which is brutal and inhumane. But every time he got out, he’d go right back to the Suboxone because finally, for the first time in his life, something was working.
[11:35] Isaac Beverly: To me, the way I’ve always related what being an addict is like, it’s like there’s a monster inside of me, you know. And the monster will go to sleep for so long, but when he wakes up, he’s hungry and you got to go feed him. And if you don’t feed him, it’s gonna be real trouble. So for me, Suboxone makes that monster stay asleep. But then I’m still left with all this trauma and the wreckage of my past. So Suboxone by itself is not by any means a magic pill. It does not fix the whole picture, you know, just deals with one small part of it. Well, actually, it’s a big part of it, keeping that monster asleep. And then I’m able to do stuff like implement the philosophies of the 12-step programs.
[12:20] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: In his previous rehab/relapse cycles, Isaac had been introduced to the 12 steps, but he’d never really been open to them. In prison, despite the fact that he was getting Suboxone underground, he was getting it and it made him more willing to give the 12 steps another shot.
[12:38] Isaac Beverly: When I started taking the Suboxone and I became willing, when that monster kind of went to sleep, became willing to read this book, this AA Big Book, and really study it and see where I could identify with a lot of what was going on with persons and my personality type. And once I did that, recovery just started falling in place.
[13:06] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: Is this a happy ending? A happy story? I mean, this is the point where everything got easier for Isaac. But plot twist: this is also where things get complicated, and dare I say, controversial. So here’s the deal: lots of people who are entrenched in 12-step recovery programs don’t believe Suboxone users are actually sober. And according to Isaac, this is the case in his recovery community.
[13:45] Isaac Beverly: I still have to keep the issue of my Suboxone use separate from them because they want to get judgmental and they want to be like, well, you’re doing this extra stuff, you know. They don’t really understand that if I remove that piece of the puzzle, I will probably not succeed like I have been for the last almost five years.
[14:08] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: I mean, don’t make him remove his puzzle piece. That doesn’t seem very fellowship-y. But here’s the thing: I don’t actually know what the fuck I’m talking about because I am not a member of any recovery community. And since we’re about to get all he’s right/they’re wrong about it, I needed to call in reinforcements.
[15:56] Dave: Hey, this is Dave from Dopey, and I’m trying to help out the Last Day people, Stephanie and the like at Lemonada, to answer some questions about 12-step fellowship, of which I am a member. But because I’m a good-standing member, I will not disclose my fellowship. But we can say it rhymes with “Bay Bay.”
[16:22] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: We sent Dave some questions about “Bay Bay” because they’re like the Fight Club of recovery, and it’s hard to understand the rules because no one is allowed to talk about the rules. Which leads us to our first question.
[16:38] Dave: People have talked really openly about being in AA or NA, but then their communities tell them that they broke the anonymity rule. What is that and are they going to get kicked out? I’ve never seen anybody or heard of anybody getting kicked out. I’ve seen like fucked-up people in the rooms get kicked out of a meeting because they’re too drunk or high in the room. But that rarely happens, too. You don’t get kicked out, but you respect the tradition of the fellowship. You do not want to say you’re a member of a fellowship because you do not want to represent the fellowship, because chances are you will be misrepresenting the fellowship. Which is why I can’t answer the question, because I don’t really know the question. And if I try to answer the question on behalf of a 12-step fellowship, I will be providing misinformation because I do not have the proper information.
[17:35] Dave: I use 12-step fellowship to live as an unencumbered drug addict, to be as happy, joyous and free as I can using 12 steps in order to have an easier life. I cannot wave a banner or beat a drum. I throw a dollar into the cup and I’m good to my fellows and I do the steps. Anyway. How come sometimes it seems like there are no rules, and then you get in the room and suddenly it feels like there are a lot of rules?
[18:09] Dave: Well, I think the rooms are all different. You know, they all have their own vibe and it’s not rules. There’s 12 steps and 12 traditions. I think also some people care what other people think about them and other people don’t. I think it’s all very, very individual. How come some AA writing seems to condone following medical advice that includes MAT, and then the old timers act like that’s against the rules? What’s the official stance?
[18:48] Dave: From what I understand, the official stance is no mind- or mood-altering substances. I think many medicated assisted treatments are mind- and/or mood-altering substances, and old timers do not feel that they’re actually clean. I think that is the stance. And usually the stance is the only requirement for membership in AA is a desire to stop drinking. And the only requirement for membership in NA is a desire to stop using. So you are a member as long as you say you are. In meetings, they just don’t want anybody under the influence within 24 hours. Are we going to get canceled by AA people? I doubt it. Most AAs are very flexible and are just like everybody else. Like what I always like to say about all of this is there are zealots, there are crazy orthodox people, and then there are other people. And I like to be as flexible as I can. I really love 12-step recovery. I love the steps. The traditions help to keep the fellowship functioning. Again, obviously, I’m not the greatest expert. And this is my two cents. And that was my answering your questions.
[20:10] Dave: I’m Dave from the Dopey podcast, and I’m always happy to help out. Happy end of the season at Last Day. And I love you guys. Take care. Stay strong. Dopey nation. Fucking toodles for Chris. Thank you. Goodbye.
[20:28] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: Just in case any of you who are listening are like, who is this guy and what are fucking toodles for Chris? Go back and listen to Episode 16. It is fantastic and it will all make sense. So let’s break down a few things that Dave mentioned. First things first, the 12 traditions. This was sort of new to me. I, of course, know the 12 steps, which help people find recovery, but the 12 traditions are more about how the fellowship functions. They include stuff like number seven: no outside contributions. Number six: AA doesn’t lend its name to outside enterprises. And number four, importantly: each group should be autonomous. In other words, each meeting is going to be a little bit different.
[21:17] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: Dave can talk about his room and Isaac can talk about his room, but neither of them represents the entire 12-step world. Speaking of which, Dave shared his take on the official stance on medication assisted treatment, but it’s worth noting that we found a handy-dandy pamphlet published by the Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc. called “The AA Member: Medication and Other Drugs.” Here’s a quick summary. Don’t abuse your medication even if it’s prescribed. Don’t try to play doctor to your 12-step friends. Follow medical advice provided by trained physicians. And they understand that addicts are human beings with a variety of medical needs. The short version is long-term recovery requires wellness and sometimes wellness requires medication. OK, disclaimer section now officially over. So with all of this said, and the understanding that all of this is sort of open to interpretation, Isaac still feels like he’s doing something wrong.
[22:27] Isaac Beverly: It makes me feel kind of dirty, you know, like I’m hiding something that I shouldn’t be doing when really I’m not. They’re the ones with the problem of how they’re looking at it, but they make me feel like it’s my problem. And I don’t run into that here. You know, here I’m made to feel like, you know, they have this all-encompassing approach, you know?
[22:48] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: The “here” that Isaac is talking about is Eleanor Health, where we met. In prison, Isaac realized that his addiction wasn’t a choice. It was a disease. And he was getting his prescription from a fellow inmate. So when he was released, he had to find another source.
[23:07] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: So, OK, you’re five years in recovery. So why even come to Eleanor Health? Why did you decide to continue to do Suboxone, or why did you feel like you needed this component in your recovery?
[23:18] Isaac Beverly: Because the only other way to get Suboxone would be illicitly. And I don’t want to do any kind of old behaviors. I hang around with a bunch of upright dudes. I don’t want a part of that. And I still have the underlying medical condition of the spinal problem. So Suboxone does provide a good amount of pain relief. Not as good as Percocet or something like that, but it makes it manageable.
[23:42] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: This is a thing I didn’t know. Suboxone can be prescribed for pain management. Sometimes, after surgery, it’s given to people with a history of substance abuse in place of the typically prescribed opiates. It can still manage the pain, but it’s less likely to wake up the monster.
[24:01] Isaac Beverly: And plus it’s a place where I can come and don’t have to feel dirty about using this as part of my recovery. I still feel like I’m hiding it from half the guys at my AA meetings.
[24:11] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: Yeah, it feels like it’s empowering and not destructive.
[24:16] Isaac Beverly: Yeah. Not to detract from this place. And I don’t think they’re meeting, at least at my place in recovery, the need that I get and the spiritual growth that I get at AA meetings. So I have to do that still.
[24:26] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: Totally. You have to do it all. right. It’s not one thing, it’s all these things. And it sounds like for you, the AA and the community and the fellowship of AA is what you need. And you also need this other thing. And so you’re doing what you need to do.
[24:42] Isaac Beverly: Exactly. Somebody that gets it! I’m impressed.
[24:50] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: I do get it. Isaac gets it, but his AA community? Still on the fence.
[24:58] Isaac Beverly: I think my guys from AA would be better understanding if they realized that it was just a component. They think it’s like getting high and they don’t realize that Suboxone does not make me feel high. It deals with individual chemistry because methadone does. You know, I’ve tried methadone before and it was stronger and more potent, and the side effects of getting off of it was a hundred times worse than heroin. So for me and my chemistry, methadone is a terrible idea. It will wake the monster up. But Suboxone does not have that effect on me.
[25:36] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: For a long time, methadone was the only MAT on the block. And it’s still a great fit for some people, but it’s not right for everyone. We’ve covered how it’s different than other, newer options. Specifically, how its chemical makeup impacts the brain just like opioids. So it’s an effective replacement, but it also carries a risk of abuse. But here’s the thing: just like every other field of medicine, there have been scientific advancements in addiction treatment since methadone was first approved, which was 1947 in the U.S. And honestly, since the Big Book was written.
[26:15] Isaac Beverly: I don’t know if you’re familiar with AA Big Book. I’m not sure exactly what page it’s on in here, but there is a page in here. I’ll paraphrase it that science has not yet figured out how to help us. The Big Book was written in the ‘30s.
[26:32] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: ‘39, I think.
[26:35] Isaac Beverly: So if they were to revise this book out like they would have to add that the yet part is well now science has found a way to help us, you know?
[26:46] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: But even though science has caught up, not everyone in AA or NA is ready to get behind medication assisted treatment. For every addiction medicine doctor who swears it’s the gold standard, we’ve talked to just as many self-identified addicts in long-term 12-step recovery who are pretty resistant to MAT, and Isaac just feels stuck in the middle.
[27:12] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: You’re sort of like this bridge between the old and the new, in this one person. And we’ve been really dealing with that over the course of the season. The people needing — it’s either this or it’s that. And there’s almost like this war going on.
[27:28] Isaac Beverly: Very much, this accurately describes what my impression of the situation is. You know, there’s — like I explained to you yesterday — there’s a lot of men in the fellowship of AA that I keep this part of my recovery separate. And because we’re so open in those meetings, you know, I kind of feel bad about it. But I rationalize it to myself as I wouldn’t change what I’m doing because for the first time in my adult life, what I’m doing is working. And it’s a private medical issue that I’m dealing with. I mean, I wouldn’t tell them if I had hepatitis and was taking some kind of Interferon. That would be none of their business. So I don’t see where this is really any of their business either.
[28:12] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: Isaac is in a tricky situation. On one hand, he doesn’t really care what people think of him, but the friends that he’s made in the fellowship are so important to him. And honesty is a huge part of that relationship. So he’s not shying away from this uncomfortable conversation.
[28:33] Isaac Beverly: One, because I don’t like feeling dirty, like I’m hiding something from people that I’m recovering with. And two, it’s old thinking. And that’s being informed by a misinformed See, I have to be on the front lines.
[28:49] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: Isaac really does think about this as being a war. It’s high stakes. It is a life and death. And he’s on the front lines fighting for something he really believes in. But in the midst of this war, he’s still holding on to his alliances. And that means keeping up with his 12-step meetings.
[29:08] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: And you go to a meeting every day? For five years.
[29:10] Isaac Beverly: Yes. Well, no, in prison, they didn’t always have meetings that I was able to. But since I’ve been released, yeah. Every day. And that’s been how long?
[29:21] Isaac Beverly: I got out. January 7.
[29:23] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: OK. This year.
[29:25] Isaac Beverly: As in, like, two or three weeks ago.
[29:33] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: Wait, that was the five year stint? You just got out in January,
[29:36] Isaac Beverly: Right.
[29:40] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: Whoa! Welcome back!
[29:42] Isaac Beverly: Thank you.
[29:45] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: That’s so awesome! I did not realize it was so recent.
[29:46] Isaac Beverly: Yeah, four years, 10 months I was gone.
[29:50] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: Dear listeners, I cannot adequately describe how totally shocked I was by this revelation. I just had no idea while I was talking to Isaac that he had just gotten out of prison. I mean, he sounded so grounded and self-assured that I just assumed he had been working this plan for a very long time. When we come back, we talk about life on the outside and where he is today.
[31:47] We’re back. When we left off, I’d just found out that Isaac had recently returned to civilian life after spending almost five years behind bars.
[31:58] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: What do you do like the day you got out? Like, what’s the first thing you wanted to eat?
[32:05] Isaac Beverly: Olive Garden with the kids, you know? Katrina. My mom came to pick me up and we met Katrina and the kids at her house and we went to Olive Garden. And then the next day I went and got involved with Oxford House. So I’m staying in a recovery house, too, right now. I thought that’s pretty important.
[32:27] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: So Oxford Houses are democratically run, self-supporting sober houses. There’s no full-time staff. The residents make their rules and hold each other accountable. Similar to The Women’s Home and Eleanor Health, they’re a good transitional step to avoid the risk of relapse by jumping right back into day-to-day life.
[32:46] Isaac Beverly: The funds were available for me to go get my own place and, you know, start back all over on my own. But my sponsors were probably like, no, that might not be such a good plan to jump straight into it like that. Why don’t you just start in this recovery house and you know, your bills will be $500 a month for everything less food. And, you know, we’ll take it a little slower.
[33:13] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: With all of his infinite wisdom, and with everything he’s been through, I asked Isaac what he’d tell someone who thinks recovery is impossible.
[33:25] Isaac Beverly: If a man like me can be coming up on almost five years, which inconceivable to me really. I mean, I was a straight junkyard junkie, piece-of-shit human being. You wouldn’t want me nowhere around you or any of your stuff when I was using. Now I’m invited to people’s houses and they think about me, take me out to eat, hang out with their kids. And, you know, it is possible. There’s no doubt in my mind. And it’s just getting around the right set of people who see it, first of all, that it’s a disease, and secondly, would be willing to entertain different ideas on what may be a suitable treatment plan for you and how to handle your addiction. Because I could see from all different kinds of stories I’ve heard, you know, different things work for different people. We can’t always do this the exact same way. So I’ll take some of the best things and notions that I can identify with from AA, I take some from Christianity, take some from Buddhism, I take some from any place that’s good, that I can identify with.
[34:35] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: Do you fear relapse now, is that something that you think about. I know you’re one day at a time.
[34:40] Isaac Beverly: Right. Well, I try to never forget — I like the word insidious. I didn’t know it was at first, but Webster defines it as a gradual effect that becomes fully developed before it becomes apparent. So that means this thing could sneak up on me and grab me around the neck and throw me on my face before I even knew what happened. And that’s a scary thought. So the antidote for that, though, is for me to make sure I take my medication and that I do prayer and meditation early in the morning. I mean, soon as I get out of bed and get my coffee, I go to a quiet place and get my mind focused straight away on I am an addict. And, you know, I’ve got certain things I have to do to safeguard myself today. And that involves reading spiritual literature and books and listening to podcasts, whatever. Something in the morning and it gets me on track for the rest of the day. And then I also have a network of guys, there’s four or five of us, who routinely text each other every morning. Good morning. How are you? OK. Is there any anger or resentments going on with you this morning we need to deal with? Because the book tells me that was the number one offenders for driving this back out. You know, so we network really closely and in the afternoons we wind down the day with a meeting somewhere. So there’s a lot of steps involved with staying on a daily reprieve. So I’m not really afraid of it, but I’m conscious of it.
[36:05] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: Isaac will be five years sober on March 23rd, six days after this episode airs. Since every doctor we’ve talked to this season has told us that five years is this big recovery milestone, we wanted to hear how he’s feeling as he approaches his big day. So we gave him a call.
[36:27] Isaac Beverly: I feel a little bit excited. You know, for me, that’s a monumental milestone. My mom’s coming up from South Carolina and Katrina says she is gonna bring the kids. And, you know, my family’s coming to support me and watch me get my five year medallion.
[36:46] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: This is a big deal. But remember, this episode will be live by then. His secret will be out. So are the people in his group going to listen?
[36:57] Isaac Beverly: I mean, they might. Surely somebody around here will probably hear it. It’s a great gossip network because we’re all connected, you know, I mean, I got four or five guys that I routinely call and they’ve got four or five guys. So basically, everybody that’s in the rooms around here all has each other’s phone numbers. And it’s kind of like six degrees of separation. You know, somebody got in an accident yesterday and it’s all of 30 minutes before everybody in recovery around here knew about it. So all it would take would be for one person to listen. You know, everybody would know.
[37:33] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: So is there a part of you that hopes that they will hear this, and that you can finally come clean? Because it seems like — and I know come clean is kind of a weird way to say that considering the conversation we’re having. But like you said, that you feel dirty. Those were your words, that you’re hiding something. And so are you kind of like looking for a way to get this out there? How do you feel about that?
[37:59] Isaac Beverly: Yeah, yeah, I think that’s a — there’s probably some truth to that. I think it’s a discussion we ought to have. Because, I mean, I have figured out what works for me. I have been trying my entire adult life to figure out what works for me. And now that I have the recipe, I wouldn’t dare change it.
[38:29] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: So then on the flip side, if people do find out and they have a problem with it and you get pushback, is that going to threaten your recovery in some way? Like, how are you going to deal with that? I’m worried. I’m worried about you.
[38:43] Isaac Beverly: Don’t be worried because I’m very firm in my conviction that that would be their problem. They need to do their own inventory and don’t be inventorying me. You know, they need to work out our own program and not mine. So, yeah, I’m plenty secure in my recovery. I don’t really give a shit what anybody thinks. As far as like, you know, trying to be judgmental toward me or whatever, you know, Like maybe I broke some rules as far as like my anonymity is concerned because twelfth tradition states that our anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions ever reminding us to place principles before personalities. So I’m supposed to practice the principle of being anonymous. And I’ve broken my anonymity by saying that I’m a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, and putting my name out there. So, you know, technically there’s that little glitch right there that I would take some chastising for. But I’m willing to do it because if other people are in a position where they can’t get recovery because they’re trying to be puritanical, but they would get it if they would go take some Suboxone, then they need to know this is working for me and it’s OK to do it because I’m in a good place.
[39:58] Isaac Beverly: I mean, the fact that I don’t have a needle in my arm today, Stephanie, is a miracle, girl. I don’t know any other way to tell you that. You know, the fact that I have no compunction or urge to want to go get high. You know, I’ve got money in my pocket. I have my bills paid. You know, given my ex money for kids’ dental work. I went and bought her a door this weekend to put up in the house. I mean, my life is great. A few years ago, I would’ve never thought was possible.
[40:33] Isaac Beverly: Yeah. I mean, I saw a young woman in Publix last night. She was all tearful and arguing with somebody on the phone. I was about to get on my scooter and she walked up to me and said, “excuse me, sir, would you please give me a ride?” And I knew she was a junkie. I mean, I am one. It didn’t take me but one look at her to know she was in trouble, you know? So I’m thinking, well, this is the chance to be in a position of service, you know, to carry the message. So I said, “I’ll give you a ride.” She gets on the scooter, as we’re heading that way. I’m driving slow. It’s dark and cold. I tell her, “you know, I used to be a junkie. And she was like huh? And I said, “yeah. I actually still am a junkie, but I’ve been sober for five years.” And she said, “how did you do that?” You know, she wanted to know how I did it. I rode her right by Eleanor Health on the way to where she wanted to go. And I pointed out that building and I said, “that place right there is where you need to go to get help. It has great people in there. They will help you.” And I took it her to where she wanted to go and I said, “here’s 10 bucks. Take care of yourself. Tomorrow when you wake up and you feel like shit and you got to figure out how to come up again today. Remember, all you’ve got to do is go to that place I showed you. And they will help you,” And I left her. So, you know, that’s what we got to do, Stephanie. You and I both, we got thrown into this thing. We’re soldiers in the war against what’s killing all our families and destroying them. You know, and when I was a little kid, I never said when I grow up, I want to be a junkie. But that’s what happens. And when you was a little kid, you never said, you know, I hope my brother dies of overdose. But that’s what happens. And that’s how people like you and I end up in the front lines. And so we do what we do.
[42:36] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: There’s something very lofty about declaring yourself on the frontlines of a war. It feels very big and bold and mighty. There’s a lot of planning and coordination that has to go into warfare. But Isaac knows that on a day-to-day basis, he’s better off focusing on the thing that everyone in recovery knows, which is one day at a time.
[43:04] Isaac Beverly: I try not to get big-headed. Just remember, really all I have is today. There’s an analogy I like about driving a car. You can’t drive too far up the road or you’ll crash looking in the rearview mirror, you’ll crash. You gotta just look right in front of you right now. You know, that’s kind of how I do my life. One day at a time, not looking too far ahead or too far back unless it’s for a purpose.
[43:35] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: I love that. I mean, you want a podcast? You’re so good. This is amazing. This is incredible. You have taken us on such a journey. And I am so grateful that you came to tell your story.
[43:49] Isaac Beverly: Well, the book says I can only keep what I have by giving it away. And that’s why I’m here.
[43:56] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: There’s a saying in 12-step recovery, you got to give it away to keep it. It’s a spin on the faith tradition, which says each group has about one primary purpose to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers. And it’s interesting hearing Isaac grappling with his need to carry the message despite the consequences is somewhat relatable. I mean, in a way, this entire show is about carrying the message. It’s not the most pleasant thing I’ve ever done. Cue the crying and the sleepless nights and the negative feedback and the self-doubt and the pressure to get it right.
[44:38] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: But you know what? It’s not about me. Like I said in our very first episode, we have lost way too many people way too soon. So if even one person listens to this show and has some sort of an awakening that leads to a better outcome for them or their person, a longer life, happier ending. That’s the goal. That’s the point of all of this. That’s why we’ve put on our chain mail and stepped onto the battlefield. And yes, in my war analogy, we are wearing chain mail, which is very heavy and moderately uncomfortable.
[45:23] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: So next week, it is time to take it off as we say goodbye to Last Day, Season 1. Next week is our finale episode, which is bananas. And I get to sit down with Jess, my original partner-in-arms, to recap the season and see if the battle was worth it.
[45:52] Stephanie Wittels Wachs: Last Day is a production of Lemonada Media. Our producer is Jackie Danziger. Nicolle Galteland is our associate producer. And our assistant producer is Claire Jones. Kegan Zema is our technical director. Brian Castillo is our editor. And our executive producer is Jessica Cordova Kramer. Our music is by Hannis Brown. Special thanks to Westwood One, our ad sales and distribution partner. You can and should find us online @LemonadaMedia. And you can find me online @wittelstephanie. If you like what you heard today, tell your family and friends to listen and subscribe, rate and review us on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. I’m Stephanie Wittels Wachs. See you next week.