After years of struggling with addiction, Tom Coderre is now in long-term recovery and working as an advocate so that other people can get the help they need to recover. It wasn't always easy though. At the beginning of recovery, Tom said, "I was so ashamed of myself." Describing how he felt when he was secretly using drugs during one of his first attempts at treatment, he said, "I was lying to the staff at the treatment center and to my family because I couldn't stop using and didn't know how to ask for help."
A heavy drinker as a young adult, Tom was introduced to cocaine when he was 30 years old. "I was instantly hooked," he recalls. "I loved the instant escape it provided so much I wondered why I had spent so many years wasting my time with alcohol." In just a few short months, he realized that the drug had taken control of his life. It took him three years before he was able to get back on track and on the road to recovery.
Tom is bright, articulate and energetic. At the young age of 25, he was elected to a State Senate seat in Rhode Island. He was also managing 40 people as director of a nonprofit organization in Providence. "Looking back, I was using alcohol to self-medicate," he says. "I was under a great deal of stress at work…I was under a lot of pressure to balance everything that was going on in my life."
He tried to stop drinking and using drugs a few times on his own and checked into a few residential treatment programs in the area. He recalls that he was able to abstain from cocaine and alcohol for as long as a month or two but his addiction was so powerful that he would start using again. "Addiction had taken its toll on me spiritually, mentally, and physically," recalls Tom.
Tom's situation is all too common. According to Michael Fiori, MD, chief of Butler's Alcohol and Drug Inpatient (ADI) Program, "We see many people from all walks of life who feel they have hit rock bottom and that there's no hope," says Dr. Fiori. "When Tom arrived at Butler, we had to get him stabilized both physically and psychiatrically over a number of days. Once he was able to think more clearly and felt better physically we were able to begin a process of group, family, and individual counseling."
While Tom was beginning his rehabilitation at Butler, members of the hospital's Care Planning Department were busy matching Tom to a long term setting where he could continue in his recovery. "As an intensive, short term program, we're often the first point of intervention for people with addictions," says Dr. Fiori. "So even as someone is just beginning to be stabilized, we have to be looking for a good program in the community that can continue the process and help patients continue on their road to recovery."
While in Butler's ADI, something finally clicked inside Tom. He wants to make sure more people have the opportunity to find recovery, like he did. "I feel really blessed to have been given this opportunity," he says. "Long-term recovery has changed my life. I'm passionate about it. How can I not be passionate about something that has not only changed my life but saved it?"