Last week we started to tell you the story of Chris Sobel, BHT, the longest-tenured primary therapist at Prescott House. We kind of left you hanging mid-story (sorry about that). We’ll pick up where we left off:
Chris had a hard time adjusting to being in treatment at Prescott House and he was causing lots of problems.
But then he had a life-changing epiphany.
He had been at Prescott House for a couple of months when he got a phone call on Christmas Eve. It was his mom. She said that Christina, the mother of Chris’s son, Sean, had been trying to get a hold of him because Sean wanted to talk to his dad. Nervously, Chris wrote down the phone number and, with the support of a “phone buddy” from Prescott House, he called his son for the first time that night. They talked awhile and after they hung up, Chris realized this was a sign from God that Chris didn’t even know he had been waiting for.
“The next day, on Christmas, all I could think about was that phone call,” says Chris. “And I realized that if I want to give this sobriety thing a try, God just gave me an early gift in the form of getting to talk to Sean. If I get sober, I might be able to have a relationship with my son.”
Chris didn’t know anything about being a dad. He was terrified, really. He hadn’t been in his son’s life since Sean was a toddler. But Chris’s Prescott House therapist, Dan Locke, helped him prepare for the daunting prospect of becoming an involved, present father.
“He told me something that I’ll never forget, and that I now tell my own clients who are facing the opportunity to be a father,” says Chris. “He told me to just let my son teach me how to be a dad.”
Within a year, Chris was clean and sober, he graduated from Prescott House and he started visiting Sean regularly. Sean, who was now 10, had muscular dystrophy and was living in a group home. Chris applied for custody of his son, the State of Arizona granted his request, and Sean moved to Prescott to live with him. Chris knew that aside from his own father’s death, another contributing factor to his addiction had been feelings of extreme guilt for having abandoned Sean when he was young. Now, to be on the other end of the dark side of his alcoholism and developing a strong relationship with his son…Chris considers it nothing short of a miracle.
Being a dad was something Chris didn’t realize he really wanted—and needed. His love for his son is fierce, despite the huge challenges that come with caring for a child with muscular dystrophy.
Seven years after Chris brought Sean to live with him, one night, amidst a chronic bout of pneumonia, Chris sat with his son in his bedroom and watched him take his last breath in the middle of the night. Sean, now 17, was pronounced dead early the next morning.
Chris, of course, was devastated. And for some people recovering from addiction, the death of a child would be a trigger for relapse. Not for Chris.
“My first thought was, ‘I have to get to my AA meeting.’ I knew I needed that support,” said Chris. “A lot of people surrounded my family. Right away people started to bring food for us. The funeral services were at the church where my meetings were held. I leaned on that community.”
Sadly, not long after Sean died, Chris’s mother passed away.
“All of this is why I’m really good at helping guys process their grief,” says Chris.
So, Chris understands what it’s like to have a lot of heavy, hard life crap pile up around him. And he knows what it’s like to think that maybe turning to drugs or alcohol or another “drug of choice” is the only way to self-soothe. But he also knows what it’s like to trust the process of treatment—even after initially being resistant to the whole thing—because the future is a lot brighter on the other side of addiction.
Though Chris was distraught to lose Sean, he is eternally grateful that he got to be a father to his son and develop a relationship with him before the muscular dystrophy took his life. Likewise, though the death of his mom was hard on him, he is glad that she lived long enough to see him turn his life around.
“After I finished building my house, I remember my mom saying she was so proud,” recalls Chris. “I remember her saying to me ‘I can die a happy woman now because I know you’re going to be OK.’”
Chris is now married and he and his wife Lela have two children, Cheyenne, who is 12, and Shea, who is five. He spends his days living out his passion: helping men recover from addiction and find their way to healthy happiness. He spends his evenings and weekends doing the other things he loves: spending time with his family, cooking, playing competitive softball, doing hot yoga and cheering on the New York Mets and the ASU Sun Devils.
Without hesitation, Chris credits Prescott House for saving his life. And he is very sincere in his hope that he can provide that kind of help for each of the clients he now works within his role as a primary therapist here. Indeed, he says his favorite part about living life clean and sober is that he is finally “becoming the man I’ve always looked up to: a husband, a father, a contributing member of society.”
If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction and feelings of isolation, Chris and the rest of our experienced staff can help. It’s time to become someone you can look up to. Call us. We’ll help you through it.