MountainStar Health - October 02, 2019

“I can’t even see enough to know if it’s a sunny or rainy day,” Michael Neal explained. Due to a degenerative eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa, he slowly lost his vision over many years to the point where he is totally blind.

“I felt isolated and lonely and I wanted to have fun and be accepted,” Michael recalled. “So, I began drinking about 26 years ago.”

During that course of time, Michael attended Weber State College and earned a master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation counseling at Utah State University. He also worked briefly in the field of rehabilitation helping people with disabilities identify employment opportunities.

Michael’s drinking habit slowly escalated into a problem that reached the point of self-abuse.

“I decided that if I couldn’t get out and party, I’d make it a party for one,” said Michael. “As my alcohol addiction worsened, I became depressed and suicidal.”

By his mid-forties, Michael knew he needed treatment for addiction. His family knew it too, but they did not press him to get help. They realized he wouldn’t do it unless he decided it was time, and he finally did.

Facing a long-time addiction – with expert help

When a family member told him about the Alcohol and Chemical Treatment program at Ogden Regional Medical Center, Michael felt ready to face his addiction. He thoroughly explored other programs in the area and decided on the reputable – and accommodating – addiction specialists in the ACT program.

“The treatment team at Ogden Regional agreed to let me bring my service dog, Comet, and that was a big deciding factor,” said Michael. “Some of the other programs did not welcome him, and I needed him.”

Comet was with Michael during his entire treatment process. At night, his faithful companion slept on a blanket on the floor next to his bed.

“I always laugh a little when I tell people that Comet has been through addiction recovery treatment,” Michael noted. “He’s as sober as can be!”

An extra challenge to overcome

Michael’s blindness challenged him above and beyond what most patients face as they confront their addictions. But the entire team worked with him and helped him to adapt.

“One of the first things I noticed as I went through recovery was I started to feel again,” he said. ”I noticed that people around me were happy and loving. I had forgotten that life can be good.”

Sober quest to live a full life

He successfully completed the 31-day addiction treatment program at Ogden Regional Medical Center. He credits his achievement to the fact that everyone was so accommodating and hospitable. Sobriety added a new network of friends to Michael’s life, and has opened doors and social connections. He is no longer isolated in his house.

“I can’t jump in a car and go meet friends,” said Michael. “But I’ve found new ways to meet people and enjoy life.”

Michael has been sober for more than two years now. He volunteers at Ogden Regional Medical Center, a job that he truly likes. Next up in his quest to live life fully – skydiving!

“People with an addiction probably believe that a sober life is not fun or that it might be boring,” noted Michael. “But trust me, a sober life is actually better. Life can be good!”

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