Nick was brought up in an extraordinarily good home with no hints of addiction in the past or on the horizon. Things changed while at a fraternity party in college, however, when he tried cocaine for the first time and was instantly hooked.
Everything Nick did was all-or-nothing, so drug and alcohol consumption was no different. Cocaine eventually fell by the wayside after he tried Oxycodone and his capacity for the pain killers rapidly grew to 18-25 a day – nearly five times a traditional prescription dose.
While no specific incident led to his initial addiction, Nick emphasized that the pressure of failure, which he experienced for the first time in his life while away at school, certainly sent him into a tailspin.
“After I flunked out for the second time, I moved home and began to steal,” he confessed. “I stole from my parents because in my mind I thought they wouldn’t have me arrested. I also had access to a lot of my parents’ friends’ homes and I stole from them to support my habit. My parents did everything they could do to help me, but I was getting worse and worse. One day, out of the blue, the police picked me up at home. My dad and a [close friend] were both there and crying. Something had to be done.”
His reputation took a nosedive. Once known for his athletic accomplishments and other positive accolades, Nick’s name was now gracing the pages of the Guntersville newspapers in association with burglary and felony charges. His arrogance had suddenly given way to shame and embarrassment and Nick began looking for a way to boost his self-esteem and catapult his identity back into society’s good graces.
He turned to the military, but decided to “get after it one more time” before reporting to the Air Force. “I stayed up on methamphetamines for two days before I left and went through basic training that way,” he said with an air of disgust in his tone. “I don’t think I slept the first three days I was there. That was the level of the insanity.”
Although Nick struggled heavily with drug addiction off and on for what would end up being more than 12 years, his brother wasn’t as fortunate and paid the ultimate price when he suffered a massive heart attack at just 21 years old.
“I never used around him, but he knew what was going on,” Nick recalled. “He saw the parties and the women and I’m sure from the outside looking in it looked awesome. But he didn’t see me at 4:30 in the morning crawling around on the floor looking for a rock of cocaine with my nose bleeding. He had his own addiction and it ended up costing him his life.”
Nick fell in love after he got out of the military. He was up front about his past, but with the promise that he was a changed man, the two got married after a short engagement. Nick had every intention of standing by that promise. In fact, he had just celebrated two years of complete sobriety. But all that came to a crashing halt with a complimentary alcoholic beverage at the beginning of their honeymoon.
“Little did she know that I was like a Gremlin,” Nick said with his hands in a ridged, claw-like gesture. “If you get me wet, I become a monster. Things changed immediately and the cravings came back far worse than they’d ever been before.”
Nick’s alcohol consumption escalated violently and he began hiding the bottles when his wife begged him to stop drinking after she became pregnant with their first child. A two-year whirlwind of methadone use followed which left him suffering from seizures and propelled him into seven weeks of rehab.
“Methadone was the most painful drug I’d ever been associated with,” he said. “It crippled me. One day I saw my daughter riding her bicycle around the rehab facility and I was like, ‘I’m done, this isn’t fun anymore.’”
After leaving treatment Nick took a minimum wage job at a local car wash where he eventually became manager. He later bought the establishment against the advice of everyone he knew and the anxiety of trying to keep a failing business afloat gave addiction a new foothold.
“I would cut the corner off 100 mg trans-dermal fentanyl patches and drink the fluid,” Nick recalled in almost disbelief. “That’s just insane. The stuff was incredibly strong. I mean, I would take handfuls of pain killers with no effect, but this had an instant effect on me. I needed something to prevent me from sobering up because I would become sick and begin shaking.”
One Friday afternoon Nick collapsed while sorting inventory and regained consciousness in the back of an ambulance. His wife looked watched as the paramedics carried him to the emergency room.
Nick checked himself into rehab for the fifth time after being released from the hospital. Nick’s wife, meanwhile was researching alternative facilities since Nick continued to struggle with traditional rehab treatment programs. She eventually came across Royal Pines and scheduled an interview for her husband.
“When we turned onto the property and I saw the Jimmie Hale Mission sign I told [my wife], ‘You’re not taking me to a homeless shelter.’ Then it dawned on me later that day that essentially, I was homeless. I had a home, but I could not live there.”
It took several more weeks for a spot to open up at Royal Pines and he spent that time in the other rehab center rather reluctant to start another program over, and a lengthy program at that. Nick said that he had an encounter with God in the chapel there that changed his mind, however, while reading Isaiah 43:19.
“Royal Pines was exactly what we needed,” he said. “Not only was it highly regarded from the research [my wife] had done, but it was free of charge. Considering that I’d squandered everything we had to support my habit, this came as an incredible relief. My parents could have funded a small country with what they spent on my treatment through the years.”
“While at the Pines, I learned that God is big enough to handle my mess and loves me as much today as he ever had,” he added. “And He used the staff and the instrument of Royal Pines to demonstrate who He was. For the first time in my life I was introduced to something that was exponentially more powerful than anything I’d ever put into my body. There’s only one thing you can put back into that [addiction] hole, and that’s God. When I left the Pines, my mind was renewed. I was not the same. My relationship with my parents, wife, and children are better than they’ve ever been.”
After completing the program Nick continued to visit the facility weekly for over a year and later hired one of the staff members to help him run the car wash. He has witnessed God turn his business around and use it to make an impact in the lives of others.
If you’re in Guntersville, swing by the Classic and pay Nick a visit. “We have a drive-thru ministry here,” he said with a grin. “You can come get your car washed, but we’re going to pray for you too.”