Stories of Transformation: Ricky T.

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  • Sobriety Date: August 10, 1998
  • Joyful Spirit
  • Loyal Family Member and Friend 
  • Do it, Don’t Just Say It
  • Recovery Support Senior Clinician


Ricky is 25 years sober. He has a kind heart, and a warm personality and is always willing to help people in need. But there was a time before recovery when Ricky wasn’t the same happy, outgoing Ricky he is today. There was a time when he had to overcome one of the biggest struggles of his life. Here’s his story. 

So my name is Ricky. I’m an alcoholic and my journey began, you know, like 25 years ago this month, August 10th, 1998.

I was lost. I was hopeless. I drank and did drugs. I did a lot of alcohol. And all the other stuff that came with it, you know, but eventually it just stopped working for me.

And I was drinking against my will most of the time and not most of the time. But all the time. I’m a good kid. I came from a great family. We had a very religious background. My grandfather’s a preacher. There are still a lot of preachers in my family today, so I was raised in religion and really had no reason to start drinking except everybody else was doing it.

And I took my first one and I was off to the races at 14. I certainly wasn’t drinking every day at 14. But when I got a chance, I always did.

I remember everything that qualified me for being here, talking to you today. You know, that night I had this first drink and I’d always been kind of just shy and, you know, a little anxious. All these conditions that I came to learn were just the addiction restless, irritable, and discontented. All of those just kind of like it was who I was.

But when I had this first drink, those things went away. And I felt like I had arrived. And there was a new sensation about who Ricky was.

ricky tyson staff

I mean like before I was just shy, but once I had that first drink, something happened. It opened up a world to me that would all but cut me to shreds. And I went through life. I’m a veteran. I’m college-educated pretty much. I would tell myself I’m not college material, but I never stopped drinking long enough to see that.

But it was just once I was under the influence. I didn’t care what or who I was doing anything with. I’d never handled any of my responsibilities. And once they started to build up I ran.

When I came to Connecticut I was originally from Arkansas — at that time and I was 24 years old, maybe 25. My family still encouraged me. They believed in me. They would tell me you’re better than that, you know. I loved them. They loved me. But they saw me just kind of stuck in the sand, turning deeper and deeper into somebody. And in the end, it’s like we don’t even know you anymore.

What happened to Ricky who was full of hope and promise, always available, humorous, and engaging? And so I’d lost all of that.

I love my family but the addiction took over and I just loved that a little bit more than I loved them.

So I started to lie to them and just not make myself available for any family events.

And there’s a lot of years where there was stuff going on. My mom came from a huge family. My mom was one of nine. I have a bunch of first cousins and a bunch of aunts and uncles, and they’ve all passed on. But like we had get-togethers and it was huge. As I grew up, a lot of the pictures I’m not there. And so that’s what started to happen. I just wasn’t there anymore because of my addiction and it just got to the point where I wound up drinking every night in my aunt’s basement. And I don’t know how to stop. And I wanna stop.

And I’ve had some ultimatums and some interventions from them. “You gotta do something about your drinking.” Now it’s out in the open and my friends started to disappear. And I had some great friends and they all went and started careers and families and were buying homes. I’m working at Sears in the shipping and receiving department slinging boxes and I’m OK with that. It’s just what happened you know because it helped me make some money. I worked to drink and I drank to work. I mean, like I’m a good dude, but I just drank all the time.

ricky t mountainside staff

So my aunt said you gotta get help or I can’t live there anymore. It was around the early part of 1998 that I was in my first detox and then I don’t know what’s going on. This was the first amount of honesty that I’d had in a long time. He said, “What can I do for you?” And I just, I don’t know where it came from, but

I said I can’t stop drinking and that was me starting to get honest with what was going on internally.

It wasn’t the drink, it was something that I needed to identify as a problem and it’s the way I felt. I don’t know how to talk about it. And so he said I got help for you and I was shipped off to my first treatment. It was actually just the detox. And I lived in this transitional facility for like two weeks.

I started to hear about alcoholism and drug addiction and like the recovery process, you know? And so I’m hearing about therapies and Alcoholics Anonymous, 12 steps, and all the people that are available to help me. So I get out and I started my journey here and like it’s been told like if I’m kind of around this process. And chances are, you know, it may slip and I had a recurrence right around I got 90 days and the next day. It started this cycle for me.

It was Father’s Day 1998 and I drank and I had just spoken at an AA meeting the day before and Sunday morning. I’ll never forget it with one of the guys that’s been one of my best friends since I got here and I drank the next day. And this is what they’re telling me. I have to be all the way in this. And so I wound up back in detox. On August 10th, 1998, it was a Monday morning, and that’s when I decided to redouble my efforts.

I started to build a foundation on this recovery process of, you know, getting myself right mentally, emotionally, physically, and developing a connection with some higher power that was greater than me. And it was the recovery process in the beginning. And so now I am less afraid. I am less anxious. I’m not restless. I’m not irritated and discontent with all of this stuff before. And I started to find out who Ricky was.

And so I started to come out of that basement. I started to get involved in life again. Some people were saying that’s the Ricky we’ve been looking for.

So I want to get out of there, the shipping and receiving department. You know, I can ship boxes. But like, do I have anything in me that’s a little bit more like, you know, selfless? What’s my motive? Being clean and sober and I wanna help people you know.

ricky t mountainside staff
My mom was a social worker, so it was something about her that led me into this recovery field way back in 2000. I was about 18 months sober, and I was getting promoted and making some good money, as I said. And what happened was it just got kind of empty.

So I am connected with a group of men and women who just supported me and loved me until I could learn to love myself.

And I could talk about the way I feel on the inside, you know, and I am like, I’m not even thinking about using again. I mean, like, that fight was over maybe six or eight months before I got here.

I just needed to do something else and this guy said, hey, they have this job open at this treatment center. Why don’t you apply for it? And I’m still kind of fearful, but I put in my application and you literally had to put applications and, you know, there were no computers. You have to physically fill out an application. You go for an interview. And then you go for a second interview and I got the job and this treatment facility. I was working in a client services department.

And that started to fulfill me and went further, like got me into this process. There was one day there was a clinician didn’t come to work. I don’t know for whatever reason, but they needed to do something with this group of 20 men and women, you know? And they said, hey, Ricky, can you do a group with clients?

I’m kind of like, I don’t think I know how to do that. So they asked if I had ever been to an AA meeting. I’m like, yeah. So they said. Go to an AA meeting with these clients and that’s what I did.

You know, I was like, whoa, I love this and I wanna share it. So what happened was he was like you should go to school, and I was kind of happy doing what I was doing, but then again, it was some calling that I needed to go further. And so I went back to school and became a certified addiction counselor. And this is just three or four years into my journey in recovery. I think once I made my first year in this, it was like,

I’m not looking back. Like I found a solution. I was happy, joyous, and free.

ricky t mountainside staff sitting with two other men

And you know, this fight deserves this desire to just be sober with everything. And now my family’s back on my side. I’m starting to show up. I’m in pictures again. You know, I’m coming out of those basement steps and living my life.

It’s me, along with the bottle. Once this guy told me, “If you give up drinking, you could have a life beyond anything you ever imagined.” So I said, I’m going to give this my best shot, which is what I encourage. Everyone I encountered come and says hey Ricky, you got a minute? Can you talk to me about whatever and I’ll just share a little bit of my journey of what’s been going on with me for the last 9138 days in a row, no weekends off I traveled, I got my fully reconnected with my family.

I’m the oldest of 6 and now I am the big brother that I was supposed to be back when I was in my early teens in my 20s.

You know, I’ve lost some family members. And my aunt died. My mom died. I have to make amends to them and not just say, “Hey, I’m sorry.” But I showed up for them when they needed me. My aunt had a stroke and I got to help care for her for probably six or eight years before she died.

My mom’s in Arkansas, she came to my 10th, maybe my 12th anniversary at my home. 150 people there. We’re celebrating and this this little old lady from the South stood up and she says, “It just brings tears to my eyes right now. She says I don’t know what you people are doing here, but thank you for giving me my son back.”

ricky t mountainside

I’m not held back by anything. There are no limits as to what anyone who embarks on this journey can do. I’m in the game.

I just wanted to suit up and just. I play my part. That’s it.

I had a therapist. He got a little honest with me. And I’m probably eight or nine months in recovery. I don’t know how to talk about what’s going on inside of me. You know, I’m a soldier. I’m an athlete and I don’t talk about feelings. Look like I’m not gonna tell you I’m afraid. My shield was anger. My therapist asked me, “What are you afraid of?” And I’m thinking like, “I’m not afraid of anything.” And I had to look behind that shield to what was going on with me, and it was just some things deep down inside of me that I’ve never talked to anyone about.

And he helped me get to the root of those. And as I’m going through this process, this urge and desire to, like, go out and continue to destroy myself, it just started to wane and just started to grow in this best thing that’s happened to me. Developing a relationship with some power in myself and you know showing somebody else how to get here, it’s a beautiful process.

I’ve been at Mountainside about a little over. Next year I started out in the recovery coaching team and then they they moved me over to be a part of the clinical department, you know, and they, they got the recovery support clinicians beyond just detox residential. But the relationship that we start to develop with our clients goes beyond that. And I see some of them out in the community and meetings and they see what I’m doing because I tell them this is what I do.

So there’s a little hope for them as well. I don’t just tell you, I show you what I’m doing. And I’m like, yeah, I’m getting sober, you know, just like we heard that before. And I’ll tell them it’s like your words. Just the actions started to become like who I was, you know, more than me saying it. I started to show.

I love being sober. It’s just a gift. For me it’s when I show up. It’s the best thing that’s happened.

As Mountainside celebrates 25 years in service to the recovery community, we will be highlighting stories from alumni, their family members, and Mountainside staff, whose own paths to recovery inform and inspire the work we do each day. Be sure to check our 25th Anniversary page for new stories every month.

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