Ruben’s story

Alcohol has been a part of his family’s culture for as long as he can remember.

Occasion after occasion, it was there.

He saw his parents drinking. He saw his brothers drinking. So he drank, too.

The youngest of six, Ruben was just trying to fit in.

After high school, he landed a job with excellent pay and benefits. It was a great way to make a living, but he wasn’t making a life.

“It’s a repetitious job that takes a toll on your mind. It was easy to get into drinking and drugging on the job to break up the monotony. It was part of the culture.”

The using ultimately led to an 8-month prison sentence for possession and running from the law. That was his rock bottom.

“I lost my job. I lost my car. I lost my home. My family wouldn’t talk to me. When I lost everything, that woke me up. I thought, ‘I am missing eight months of my life because of this. That is way too much for one night of having a good time.’”

In the 10 years prior to his prison sentence, Ruben had tried rehab six or seven different times to help him get clean and stay clean.

“I was always doing it for the wrong reasons…as a requirement for probation or for my job.”

it wasn’t until his last rehab experience that he finally did it for the right reason: himself.

It started with a therapeutic community just before he was released from prison. Once released, he was required by law to enter Heartland’s CSTAR program for 120 days.

“This is one of the better rehab programs I have been to all the way around. They make it easy to walk into and feel comfortable.”

That’s exactly how the director and his counselor have made him feel.

“I can’t say enough about Don. He is always there and his door is always open.”

“Melinda has been a rock for me and is always there when I need to talk. She works and re-works the steps with me, and helps me keep in line with the goals I am setting every week.”

Ruben completed the CSTAR program in December of 2015. He’s been sober for nearly a year and has made many positive changes in his life. But he knows that he can’t get complacent about his recovery. He has made that mistake before.

“Prison won’t keep you clean forever, you have to follow up with it. The classes help me keep my head level and not let it get too big. I hear young people come in and talk, and I realize that addiction is still messing up people’s lives. I don’t want that to be me again.”

He has nothing but praise for the classes.

“The environment is great, and the people I have met are great, too. I would do anything to help them out.”

And that is precisely what he is going to do. Ruben is pursuing a degree in counseling so he can give back to those in recovery.

“If it wasn’t for Heartland, I wouldn’t be thinking that way.”

His counselors in the CSTAR program recognized that he had skills in the area of counseling and encouraged him both verbally and practically. They have given him opportunities to co-facilitate classes.

“As long as they will have me, I will continue to do it. They have encouraged me to go into substance abuse counseling and are giving me a chance to practice. They welcome my input. It makes me feel good on the inside.”

Heartland’s services have equipped Ruben to create and sustain positive change. His reputation is changing from a person of trouble to a person transformed.

When asked what positive change looks like in his life, it didn’t take him long to come up with an answer he was proud of: “It looks like me!”

Well said, Ruben.