A Utah native author and Idaho-based business owner is opening up about overcoming addiction and his journey to sobriety.
Jason Coombs, owner of Brick House Recovery in Idaho and author of Unhooked: How to Help an Addicted Loved One Recover joined the Project Recovery podcast to talk about his substance abuse and how it took everything from him.
Descent into addiction
Jason’s descent into addiction is one that can be shared with so many like him. He was in a car accident that left him seriously injured and requiring pain medication.
For Jason, his accident occurred years before opioid awareness was at the forefront of our society. He began to take his medication as prescribed but weeks following his incident, he was sitting with a coworker at the time who offered him a line of crushed oxycontin. Jason immediately took it hoping to ease more of the pain he felt. That same coworker gave him information on a doctor that would prescribe “the good stuff”.
Following his coworker’s advice, Jason sought out the doctor but he knew something was very wrong the first time he walked into his office.
“I gave the lady at the front my insurance card and she gave me a packet of information and she also gave me some instructions on how to fill out the packet. The instructions … were having me write down symptoms I didn’t have to build a case, on paper, for a herniated disc with severe pain,” Jason described.
Jason’s father and grandfather both had history working in the medical field so he knew that falsifying prescriptions were illegal. But he also realized that he did need help. So he continued filling out the paperwork and was given 120 oxycontin pills.
So Jason began to take his prescribed medicine that was recommended to him by his doctor. Every time he went back though, he would get that same prescription but after the first visit, he was required to bring $1200 in cash to continue getting his pills.
Unbeknownst to Jason, he was getting advice from a doctor who was operating one of Utah’s largest opioid drug ring the state’s history. “Ultimately it got dismantled. It got raided and shut down. All of us that were going to this doctor … our supplier dried up,” Jason said.
Jason’s drive for pain medication was higher than ever and he was going to do whatever it took to get it — no matter what it cost him.
Oxycontin addicts turn to the streets
Jason still had to have his fix but he didn’t know where to go. So within weeks, he turned to the streets. He began paying for oxycontin pills but at the price of $100 a pill, he knew he wouldn’t be able to keep up his habit of 120 pills a month.
Like many others that were at the same level of substance abuse, Jason found the much cheaper and readily available street drug of choice — heroin.
“It didn’t take long before I blew all of my savings and cashed in my 401k. I lost a series of jobs after that,” he described. “Your life just begins to circle the drain.”
Jason lost his marriage and his home. He even began living on the streets near Pioneer Park in Salt Lake City. Within a year he had gained an addiction and lost everything.
The past catches up
Jason had lost everything and everyone who was in his life. He was officially homeless but things were about to get much worse for Jason.
He would ultimately have to face charges for his participation in the drug ring.
“The charges [were] four felonies and a misdemeanor for all of the doctor shopping, the insurance fraud, obtaining false prescriptions and distribution,” Jason said. “Those caught up with me from that ring because all of the patients caught charged.”
Jason went from struggling on the streets to struggling in a court-mandated recovery program. This is where he found out about Crystal meth. Instead of being better with his addiction, his drug use only got worse.
After his first stint in rehab, Jason’s problems only got worse. He went back to the streets where, over the course of his addiction, would be sent to jail seven times.
A gift of divine intervention
All the while, Jason was being mandated to appear in drug court due to the drug charges that he was picking up. While he attended drug court, he met and ultimately got a female friend pregnant during one of the lowest moments in his life.
“When that news came that I was going to be a father … I didn’t go through the pregnancy very gracefully,” Jason explained. “I could barely take care of myself, let alone take care of a child.”
Jason couldn’t quite grasp the situation he had put himself in. He was constantly thinking that it wasn’t his child and he wasn’t going to be able to manage the responsibilities that came with being a father. That was until he held his son for the first time.
“The first time I held him, I just had this experience that I felt life changed for me. There was now a reason to live. There was now a reason to want to change,” he recalled.
The birth of his son ultimately gave Jason the volition he so desperately needed to get better. But along with that volition, came shame. All of Jason’s previous mistakes came upon him like an avalanche.
“We made the decision to place him up for adoption. I did not want him growing up with his adoptive family hearing about or learning about how his birth dad was a bum and a junkie,” Jason said.
His journey to sobriety had finally begun.
Jason’s journey to sobriety
Jason’s official sobriety date is March 19, 2009. He began to set goals to help get his life back on track. Jason started to work out and get healthier, physically and mentally. His main focus — to become a better person for his son. Since then he has put all of his efforts into helping others overcome their own struggles with addiction. Now, he currently owns two recovery centers in Idaho and has even written a book to help parents and family members identify the signs of addiction and help them towards their own journey to sobriety.
The contents of the book are the culmination of a decade of knowledge surrounding recovery from addictive behaviors. And while it has helped countless families suffering from their own stories of addiction, it also helped Jason make amends.
“It’s my way of living in amends to some really important to me,” he said. “The book is written for any parent or family member with a loved one who’s addicted.”
Now that he is long term recovery, Jason is spreading awareness on every stage he can. He has spoken for TEDx and serves on the Meridian Anti-Drug Coalition, Drug-Free Idaho, as well as the Idaho Conference on Alcohol and Drug Dependence board.
“When you get to work in the space of getting to witness the lights go on in somebody’s life, not because of you but getting the privilege to be a part of it, it just fills my soul,” Jason concluded.
Listen to the podcast to learn more about Jason’s journey to sobriety
For more information on addiction or if you or someone you know is struggling, you can find more information on Facebook, KSL TV, or from Use Only as Directed. To hear more from Casey Scott and Dr. Matt Woolley, you can listen below or subscribe to the ‘Project Recovery’ podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get major podcasts.