Finding Your Higher Power: Joseph’s Recovery Story

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — September 9, 2021 — 4 min read
The first time Joseph Catlett drank alcohol, he was hanging out with friends.

“Everybody else was doing it. Everybody was feeling good,” he said. “We were having fun.”

He liked the way alcohol made him feel during parties. He felt included, part of the group.

Though he didn’t know it at the time, Joseph was in the early stages of substance use disorder (SUD). The illness often creeps up on its victims, slowly changing their brain chemistry.

Joseph did recognize that alcohol affected him: “When I was drinking, it made me feel invincible. It made me feel like I could do anything.”

Over time, this feeling of invincibility led him to situations much riskier than wild parties. He took jobs “no one else would ever do.” He even worked in demolition for a while, believing that alcohol helped him do “courageous things”—like handling dynamite.

He Wanted to Give His Family Something He Lost

Because Joseph felt drinking “helped,” he didn’t feel a strong urge to quit. But then he moved to North Carolina to be near family.
 

He saw that his SUD could cost him his relationship with his nieces and nephews. And that struck a nerve.

“I lost my own uncle when I was young… When he went away, the family was never the same,” he said. “I don’t want my nephews and nieces to have to lose their uncle. I want to be there for them.”

At first, Joseph tried to quit alcohol on his own. But without any outside support, the SUD overpowered him. “I wanted to stop. But I couldn’t make the change. I kept doing what I was doing.”

He realizes now that he used alcohol to cope with his severe anxiety.

“Alcohol was like my security blanket,” he explained. He didn’t feel he could function without it. “I felt hopeless.”

Finding Treatment, Finding Support

Joseph knew he needed help. In 2018, he checked himself into Charlotte Rescue Mission’s Rebound program. For four months, they supported him as he stopped drinking altogether.

After leaving Rebound, he “couch surfed” for several years. He had already lost his driver’s license from previous DUIs, so he couldn’t move around easily. And his anxiety continued to get worse.

In the past, these challenges would’ve caused Joseph to drink. But this time, he had an unlikely cheerleader.

“My little sister—bless her soul—she’s my baby,” Joseph said. He practically raised her when they were young.

“My sister came to me one day and leaned toward me real close. She put her hand on the side of my cheek. She said, ‘Brother, you helped me once. Now let me do this for you. You can do this. You’re the strongest person I’ve ever met in my life.’ And when she said that to me, I never looked back.”

He promised her that he’d avoid drinking, no matter what.

A Kept Promise Through the Worst Times

In March 2021, Joseph experienced a mental health crisis. He stayed in the hospital for over two weeks. This hospitalization connected him to a Cardinal Innovations care coordinator.

She learned that he hadn’t used alcohol, even during this difficult period. Whenever he felt like drinking away the pain, he remembered his promise to his sister. Her faith strengthened him.

As Joseph recovered, he spoke to his care coordinator often. He shared his goals with her, and she helped him find services and short-term housing. Now Joseph is involved with the Transitions to Community Living (TCL) department. They’re working to find him his own apartment.

Advice to Others in Their Journey

Joseph encourages others facing SUD to find their own motivation to quit substances. While he was motivated by family, others may be motivated by their career or spiritual goals.
 

For Joseph, finding his “will” helped him discover freedom.

I found it. I took it. I ran with it. And I’m so happy with my life.”
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