Just over five years ago, Ralph Bailey was in his home about to attempt suicide. His addiction had spiraled out of control, and he did not believe he could ever live a day without drugs and alcohol. Then, in a moment Bailey describes as a“divine intervention,” his sister happened to come by the house and stopped him.
The next day, Bailey checked into Palm Partners Treatment Center, a Palm Healthcare facility. Now five years sober, Bailey is a valued employee at Palm Partners and speaks regularly to clients about his journey overcoming his addiction.
Recently Bailey was a guest on The Real Deal On… with Dug McGuirk. Surrounded by lights and cameras, Bailey describes the feeling of sharing his story as a “full circle” moment. He remembers a time when the cameras were on him for an entirely different reason. He was under investigation.
“I remember back in 2010 when I caught a case, and the FBI came in with pictures and audio of me, and it looks just like this.” He says looking around the room. “Now, when I say full circle, it means I went from being prosecuted with these cameras and microphones to actually sharing my experience, strength and hope with these same microphones and cameras.”
Reflecting Back on his “Death Date”
When Bailey first walked into Palm Partners on May 12, 2012, he was broken. In fact, Bailey says the most important day of his sobriety is not the day he entered treatment, but the day he attempted suicide. He refers to this day as his “death date.”
“I was broken to the point where my sobriety date is May 12, 2012, but I always tell my story with my death date which is May 11, 2012. What I mean by that is May 11 is the day I decided to commit suicide,” he says.
At this point, Bailey had struggled with addiction most of his life. He did not believe he could live without drugs and alcohol, but he did not want to continue living like he was. Therefore, suicide seemed like the only way out.
“I didn’t like where I was, and I didn’t want to go back to where I’ve been, and I was too scared to move forward because I could never picture living life without drugs and alcohol, so my plan was to end it all.”
In a moment that Bailey describes as a “divine intervention,” his sister happened to stop by the house and prevent the whole thing from happening.
“For me, it was totally divine intervention because I was successful at everything and it just so happens that for my suicide attempt, I got stopped. My sister came over to my house and stopped the whole thing. That’s when I broke down and told her I needed help.”
To his surprise, his sister told him the entire family knew about his addiction. Up until that point, he thought his addiction had been a secret for the past 20 years.
“She gave me the biggest hug and said ‘This is what the family’s been waiting to hear. You wasn’t fooling nobody,’ And the whole time, I’m thinking I had everybody fooled [and] nobody knew I was getting high.”
Learning to Cope Without Drugs
From an early age, Bailey struggled with abusing drugs and alcohol. He started around eighth grade and said he could not remember a time he did not use drugs and alcohol before his sobriety date.
“I can’t picture a time when I didn’t live without either one, and that’s what got me here.”
Still, like many, Bailey did attempt to get sober on his own.
“I did what everybody tries to do which is the detox on the couch.” He laughs.
Like most who attempt this method, he was unsuccessful. He did not know how to cope with the emotional and physical withdrawals of not using.
“It worked out good for a couple hours until boredom came in, until I didn’t know what else to do besides use drugs and alcohol, so I had nothing to fill the void when I tried to stop and that’s kinda related to my attempted suicide because I didn’t know what to do so that’s when I finally said enough is enough”
Bailey credits the staff, especially the therapists at Palm Partners for helping him learn how to fill the void.
“They’re the ones that made me realize I had more than just a drug and alcohol problem. I had anger issues. I had family issues.”
Bailey entered treatment in his 40s, a later stage of life compared to many in treatment, but he did not let the age of those around him affect his recovery process. Instead, Bailey says he wanted to make up for all the time he had wasted.
“I’ve wasted so much time in my life,” he says. “At that point, I didn’t care if I was getting clean with 18-year-olds, 20-year-olds; my main concern was the end result. As long as that was the same, it was all I cared about, but the main thing: I was tired. I had enough”
Starting Over On a Clean Slate
Furthermore, Bailey says he went to treatment as a “blank sheet of paper” and allowed the therapists and staff to provide him “new blocks to build on.”
“I took everything I knew and threw it out and started over,” he says.
The therapists at Palm Partners gave him the toolbox he needed and allowed him to realize he had the tools all along.
“That’s why I always say be honest with your therapists while you’re here because they can’t help you if you don’t tell them what’s wrong.”
At treatment, Bailey learned valuable lessons like how to deal with life when it does not go the way you want:
“Incidences like not getting your phone or incidences where you want to do something and you can’t should be a tool as ‘Alright, well how am I going to cope with wanting something that everybody has and I can’t have mine?’ That’s the same [lesson] that helps me stay clean. ”
Bailey says the times he could not access his phone taught him patience and helped him realize ineffective character defects addicts struggle with.
“Addicts, first we are manipulative, and then when manipulation doesn’t work, we’re crybabies,” he affirms. “We throw temper tantrums when we don’t get what we want, but we can’t do that in the real world.”
Navigating Grief: Learning to Change Your State:
One of the most powerful lessons Bailey shared in the interview was how he dealt with the death of his brother. After hearing his brother had passed away, he did what most would not think to do at that moment: jumping jacks.
“I had to do something to change my state,” he explains.
In that moment of despair, Bailey remembered something he learned from clinical director Dr. Beley about the way the addict’s mind works.
“Your brain automatically wants to take care of you. It doesn’t want you to feel any pain, but you have a five-second window to make a decision before you go back to what’s comfortable,” he says.
Bailey remembered the way the brain operates in regards to pain. He knew if he did not change his state immediately, his mind would retreat to what was most comfortable.
“If I didn’t start doing jumping jacks right away, my brain would automatically click to get high because that’s how I cope with things so, in order to stop that, I started doing jumping jacks and was able to change my state and then actually think and dissect everything that’s going on. Then start with a clear head and then move forward.”
“It is so huge to be able to change your state. You have to,” he says.
Ralph Bailey went from a hopeless drug addict to an inspiration of strength to those struggling in recovery. Throughout the interview, Ralph Bailey further elaborates on the importance of having a higher power, going to meetings and giving back. He talks about positive affirmations and further defines how to overcome negative situations through changing your state. We highly suggest you listen to the full interview for more on his journey.
“I never realized I was in a cocoon. I flourished, I came out of it, and it’s like wow, “he concludes.
If you are currently struggling in recovery, just remember that it is never too late to seek help. Even if you believe otherwise, recovery is possible. You do not have to live every day wondering where your next high will come from. Instead, you can regain control of your life like Ralph Bailey did. We want to help you. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.