A Happy, Go-Lucky Child
Steffen was born to a kind and loving mother. But she was married to an abusive man. When she wasn’t around, his unrealistic expectations of Steffen resulted in abusive punishments. One day, at about seven or eight years old, Steffen couldn’t take it anymore. He ran across the street to his aunt’s house for help.
This resulted in an 18-month prison sentence for child abuse. Despite his assurances that he was “over it,” Steffen frequently brought up the abuse when he was upset. He was also getting into a lot of trouble at school. His mom took him to see a doctor, who diagnosed him with bipolar disorder.
For more information on co-occurring disorders and treatment options, click here.
Although there’s no cure for bipolar disorder, treatment helps relieve its symptoms. But like many people, Steffen didn’t like how the medication made him feel. He said it made him feel like “a zombie”. He set out to self-medicate, which did give him some respite from the symptoms, at first.
His mom would often come home from work to Steffen and his friends drinking and smoking pot. She knew he was going down a dangerous road. She recognized that his bipolar symptoms were getting worse. He was “happy one second and then you know, look at him wrong and the world was going to end,” she recalls.
Desperate for Relief and on a Dangerous Path
Steffen had been going to counseling three or four times a week when his mom’s childhood friend needed help. He had gotten into some trouble and needed a place to stay while he was on parole. His mom saw this as an opportunity for Steffen to see that his behaviors had consequences. “I figured that he would teach Stef and his friends this is not the way that you want to go in life,” said his mom.
However, she didn’t realize that her friend was still struggling with addiction, himself. In fact, he facilitated her worst nightmare. “[He] got Stef and his friends hooked on the harder drugs,” she said.
A few years later, Steffen had an accident. He fell down a full flight of icy stairs, which injured his back. The pain was excruciating, so his doctor prescribed opioids for relief. After prescribing pain pills for two years, the doctor said enough is enough. He stopped writing the prescriptions. Without a way to get the pills, Steffen turned to heroin to satisfy his addiction.
Heroin is a high-maintenance addiction. It doesn’t take long for the agonizing withdrawal symptoms to set in. Steffen became exhausted by the cycle of drug addiction. From getting high to recovering to finding more before getting too dope sick, Steffen knew there was more to life.
False Rock Bottom
Eventually, Steffen married his high school sweetheart and they had three children. Junior, Mindy, and Khaleesi adored their daddy. Meanwhile, Steffen continued to battle his addiction.
One day, Baby Khaleesi got ahold of something that Steffen dropped on the floor. Her parents rushed her to the hospital and doctors administered Narcan to save her life. As a result, Child Protective Services wouldn’t allow Steffen around the children.
He agreed to go through detox. But it intensified his bipolar symptoms. His behavior alarmed the detox staff, so they moved him to a mental hospital. When the hospital released him, he went home instead of back to the detox center.
Finding the Treatment Center He Needed
Steffen needed meaningful, professional help for drug addiction. He continued to try to maintain his role as a husband and father. Although, it didn’t last long. One day, he needed to pick up his son from school while his wife was at work. But he didn’t show.
His wife picked Junior up and when they got home, she found Steffen. “He was just passed out on the floor,” said his mother. “This is when we kind of knew that his heroin addiction was out of control.”
His brother, Dalton picked Steffen up and sat with him while he sobered up. They asked A Better Today to take this special person and help him find his way. They agreed.
Recovery Isn’t Easy for the Addicted Brain
Addiction is a psychological disease with mental, physical, and emotional consequences. The chemical makeup of the brain still reflects the addiction. In other words, despite his stints in detox, Steffen was still behaving like an addicted person because he still had a drug addiction. Effective treatment must include mental and emotional healing, as well.
At first, he hated the treatment center, as well as being so far away from home. But his mom only purchased a one-way plane ticket. This was a key component to his recovery. He had no choice but to stay in treatment. After about 65 days, he conceded. “You know what, Mom? You’re right. I need to stay here,” he told her. He was getting better.
His mom noticed the progress he was making when he began showing accountability. She had never seen him do that before. In fact, he was a different person when he got home. She remembers the first thing he said when he got off the plane. “I wish I never left A Better Today. Those people are my family,” he said. “I made so many genuine friends.”
Integrating Back into His Life at Home
Before Steffen left home for treatment, he owed money to his drug dealer. He wanted to keep his family safe, so he needed to tie up that loose end. His mom drove him to the meet-up point. When he was done, he met her at the nearby Wendy’s where they had lunch with his kids.
When they got home from Wendy’s, he and Junior went to his room to play Call of Duty. The next morning, when Baby Khaleesi started crying Steffen wasn’t waking up to take care of her. His mom went into the bedroom to wake him up, but he wouldn’t. He was dead.
The autopsy report revealed that he had overdosed on a small amount of heroin. He may have relapsed when he paid the dealer. They concluded that it had interacted with the psychiatric medications he was taking for his mental illness.
Our heartfelt condolences go out to Steffen’s family. He was a cherished son, father, husband, and brother. Steffen touched the hearts of the staff at A Better Today Recovery Services. He is missed and will not be forgotten.