Justin started smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol at age 16. He progressed to pain pills. By the time he graduated from college, he was addicted to Oxycontin. He landed a good job, putting his engineering geology degree to work, but his addiction controlled his every action. He would travel on weekends to obtain prescriptions and lost job after job.

He tried to get help and went through short-term rehab, staying clean for eight months. He got a new job and thought his life was back on track. But gradually he started using again and turned to IV drug use. He met a woman while traveling for work, and they fell in love and got engaged. She was in addiction, too. While Justin was in jail for a DUI, his mother visited him with devastating news: his fiancée had overdosed and died. His mother also told him about a program she had read about online called TROSA, a multiyear residential program in Durham for people with substance use disorder.

Sitting in his cell after she left, he says he felt the weight of all his actions that had brought him to that point.

“It just all hit me at that time,” Justin said, “just the oppression of everything I’d been doing, the way I’d been living my life for so many years.”

When he was released, he tried calling a few people, but there was no one he could call who wanted anything to do with him. He had nowhere to go. He spent one night under a bridge, not even able to sleep. The next day, he called his mom. “This is it for me,” he told her. “I want to go to that program you told me about.” Justin was now in his thirties and felt utterly hopeless – he contemplated suicide, and knew he had to make a radical change.

At TROSA, Justin struggled with the program at first. He was headstrong and stubborn; he wasn’t used to taking other people’s advice. That finally changed when he realized that listening to others could be a good thing.

“One of the great things about TROSA is that people aren’t trying to gain anything by telling you stuff, like the streets where we came from,” said Justin. “When people tell you something, it’s sincere.”

Once he learned to set aside his ego, he began to change. He noticed that the people he admired all shared certain qualities—they were honest, hard-working, consistent, helpful, and kind. He worked to be like them. He stopped lying to people. In his community assignment at TROSA Moving, he pushed himself out of his comfort zone and took a sales position so that he would always be fully engaged.

“I just started looking in the mirror, and I liked the person I was looking at, and I realized just how much I was growing,” said Justin.

Justin graduated from TROSA’s program in 2015. Now, he’s a TROSA staff member, serving as the sales manager at TROSA Moving, overseeing the estimate office. Looking back, he can see how TROSA gave him two very valuable things: “hope and peace of mind; hope of a bright future and peace of mind that comes from consistently doing the right thing,” said Justin. “Since becoming consistent in this endeavor, I have lived regret-free day after regret-free day.”