“No matter how dark the circumstances, there’s always collateral beauty.” - Jake

“I was taught work ethic at a very young age.”

Jake tells me he grew up in a loving home with two very successful parents, and he learned from their example that if he did his best and set his mind to any task, he would see results.

I learn through my conversation with Jake about his “all in” sensibility, his full commitment to whatever he takes on, this habit of mind that made him so successful yet also put him on a dangerous path of addiction and struggle.

But addiction and its subsequent struggle wasn’t one Jake couldn’t overcome with his same determined mindset.

Jake was a precocious student, athlete, and musician. He was naturally curious and intelligent. As a teen, Jake was a football player, musician, and an involved member of jazz band and show choir. By all accounts, a textbook high-flyer who was going places. Smart, charming, ambitious, and a world of promise before him.

After a first go at university life, dropping out, earning a music engineering degree, Jake went back to school to pursue a law degree. And in typical Jake fashion, he was all in. He consistently made Dean’s list, was active in student government, and ran for student body vice-president on a campus security platform, and was a decorated National Model United Nations delegate for multiple conferences.

But during Jake’s time studying music, he says it “opened the door for experimentation” and with most things, he would “go full into something and when it lost [his] interest [he] would stop.” Jake tells me that it was easy for him to walk away from substances once he was done having fun with them.

And then Jake took a school trip that changed his life. He says, “the right substance crossed my path...or the wrong one.” He was offered a drug that this time wasn’t so easy to shake: an opiate. Jake came home already physically addicted and experiencing withdrawal and he says, “it was the one time I couldn’t stop something.”

Jake says he was all in for four days and then sick for the next year and a half of his life.

During this period, Jake was sick but he maintained. Until one of his teachers, a law professor, stepped in. She noticed Jake wasn’t himself, and she did what the best teachers do. She reached out, she intervened, and it changed his life. This professor reflected back a difficult truth to Jake that perhaps he’d been struggling to accept. He needed help.

The story Jake tells of his teacher is one that is moving. They didn’t know one another well. She couldn’t quite explain what moved her to intervene. But she acted, and Jake says she saw something in him worth saving and it saved his life. His teacher marched him to the Dean’s office, which set off a series of events.

Jake told his mother the truth about his illness.
He tried a home detox, which didn’t work.
He tried a 30 day program, which also didn’t work.
He tried an outpatient program, but actively used throughout. Again, didn’t work.

And finally, a return to the 30 day program, where Jake describes himself intellectualizing his sickness—by looking around and wondering, “I’m in law school. I’m paying my own bills. Do I really need to be here?”

It wasn’t until Jake was presented the option of Tree House, an all-male recovery center in Costa Mesa, California that the commitment to recovery began to click. Jake says a phone conversation with a coach from Tree House is what motivated him to use the work ethic that had been ingrained in him. He said the coach from Tree House said, “This is not going to be handed to you. When you're serious about your recovery, you can call me back.”

Jake says this was the first time anyone had denied him of anything. But he says he realized that this was to inspire a change in him. So he called him back. Jake passed the interview at Tree House, completed the program, and wanted to get back to law school as soon as possible. But instead, after a lot of intentional work, patience, and trusting the process, he discovered himself and his purpose.

Jake is engaged to his perfect match, a new father to a baby girl, a certified drug and alcohol counselor, a life coach, a mentor, and he is actively finding ways to inspire change. He is a member of the advisory committee for the collegiate recovery program at West Virginia University. He hopes to create pilot programs at universities to help them have more resources available beyond 12 Steps and focus on total wellness. Jake is deeply passionate about his work and says more than once in my time talking with him that he hopes that one day, his story is the worst it ever gets for anybody.

He says, “Being more than addiction means rising above the stigma of it. It means not being another statistic. It means having that sense of empowerment that comes along with self triumph, self discipline, self understanding, self awareness."

Jake also shares, “For me personally, I know that I am more than addiction because I don’t allow my past or my history to influence what I”m doing in the future; instead, I allow it to be the springboard that catapults me into my destiny. I’m not stuck in my past. I use it as a stepping stone to do something much, much greater than I originally thought possible for myself. I realize that although my addiction is what led me to where I am today, and if it wasn’t for it, I wouldn’t have any of these things that are amazing and beautiful in my life.”

And as we wrap up our conversation, Jake leaves me with a final thought. It is so fitting for this More Than Addiction story, that I’ll leave you with it as well.

Remember: “No matter how dark the circumstances, there’s always collateral beauty.”

Thank you Jake for your time and testimony. You are #morethanaddiction.

To reach Jake Evans, visit www.treehouserecovery.com, by email at Jacob.e@treehouserecovery.com, or phone at 304-826-2411.

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Jake Evans

“I’m not stuck in my past. I use it as a stepping stone to do something much, much greater than I originally thought possible for myself.”