As the smell of essential oils fills Ray Vigil’s apartment, Native American music plays softly in the background while he looks at notecards of positive affirmations and rests his hand on a wall.
It’s not just any wall.
“This is my grounding wall,” Vigil said.
He and his wife, Ginger, created it to give him a safe space to collect his thoughts when he’s feeling overwhelmed. It’s a technique that he’s learned in recent years, with the help of therapy. The technique is much different than his previous coping mechanisms, drugs, and alcohol.
“I was addicted for pretty much all my life,” said the 50-year-old. “I started (drinking) when I was young, 12, or 13.”
Vigil described himself as a heavy beer drinker who also did drugs that included marijuana and cocaine. It never crossed his mind that the real reason for his substance abuse could be connected to a lifetime of trauma. His therapist helped him make that connection once he decided to get sober.
Vigil was diagnosed with anxiety and Chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“I was like ‘Wow. It all makes sense now!’ The drug use, the drinking. I was drinking for a reason,” he said. “I was trying to numb something.”
Vigil had a rough childhood in Denver, growing up in a living situation that often exposed him to abuse.
“My dad was really abusive. He was an alcoholic,” Vigil said.
Years of physical abuse were coupled with the tragic loss of Vigil’s older brother who took his own life. It’s a trauma Vigil never dealt with, and the pain of losing his first wife to cancer only made things worse.
“At that point, I was mentally gone. I’d checked out,” he said. “I popped a handful of pills and drank a case of beer.”
Vigil didn’t intend to wake up the next day. But when he did, he knew that something had to change.
“I made the final decision that I can’t do this anymore. I have to quit,” he said.
Stepping back his drinking and eventually seeing a counselor helped him connect his drinking and drug abuse to his various traumas
He now keeps track of those traumas in a notebook, where he writes them down. He also speaks out on social media using the hashtag #IfIWereAGiant as a way to talk about all the things he’d change if he had the power to. He hopes others start thinking the same way.
“I know a lot of people who have been through a lot of trauma. And they just don’t do anything about it,” he said. “Maybe because they don’t understand or they might be afraid. They might not have the strength to come forward.”
He hopes that sharing his story could be the inspiration that someone needs.
“As much as I’ve been through, I want people to know it’s possible to come out of it,” he said. “You can get to this other place… but you have to put in the work.”
Throughout Recovery Week, we’re hosting a phone bank with resources from 6:30 a.m to 8:45 a.m. The phone number will be given out on 9NEWS Mornings, once the phone lines are staffed and open.
On Tuesday, Pam, a mother of two children who have battled addiction shared her story. Her son is in recovery, after overdosing twice, while her daughter still struggles.
“You really need to reach out and not be secretive about it. And I was for quite some time,” she said. “You need to find support for yourself in order to support anyone else.”
You can watch her full story below or read it here.
On Monday, Denver DJ Senen “Slim” Rodriguez shared his story. He’s been sober for about a year and a half and is now inspiring listeners with his progress.
“Sharing our Stories is a program I do on the radio. It’s a program where we share stories about addiction and, most importantly, about recovery,” Slim said. “We’re just people who have gone through addiction. We’re on the other side of it. And fighting for our recovery.”
You can watch his full story below or read it here.
One of the organizations providing experts to answer questions on recovery is Mental Health Colorado. That organization often links people to the following recovery programs in the Denver Metro Area:
CeDar – (private) Center for Dependency, Addiction and Rehab (Aurora- part of UCHealth)
Centennial Peaks (Louisville) – 303-673-9990
Cedar Springs (Colorado Springs) – 719-633-4114
Youth, adult – residential and outpatient
Denver Springs – (private, Englewood) — 720-575-3772
Medical detox for alcohol or benzodiazepines (have referred/helped with opioids)
Arapahoe House was absorbed by:
Jefferson Center for Mental Health (opens at 8:30 a.m.): 303-425-0300 or 303-463-7400;
Withdrawal management and a walk-in clinic
Aurora Mental Health Center/East Metro Detox: 303-617-2300
Teen and adult outpatient, Detox withdrawal
Originally appeared on 9News.