Matt Schickling, the Wire
Shea Hoffmann remembers his first drink well, but the years that followed are a little hazy.
“I was on so much stuff that I have such a hard time remembering what happened,” Hoffmann said. “I was just so not there.”
Wherever “there” is, he’s found it and for the past five years sobriety has led to personal clarity. Hoffmann has channeled that clarity into a way to help others struggling with addiction through Be A Part of the Conversation, a nonprofit organization that fights substance abuse throughout Hatboro, Horsham and other communities.
But the beginning of his story is just as important as where it is now, and it’s something Hoffmann often shares during the Be A Part of the Conversation events.
He was, by all accounts, an ideal student during his first year at Hatboro-Horsham High School, even if his first experience with alcohol was the year before. It began the same as many: sneaking Bacardi into Gatorade bottles with some friends, just one night and just to try it.
“They hated it and I loved it,” he said. “I loved that feeling, but I wasn’t exactly chasing it yet.”
The same can’t be said for his first experience with marijuana. He tried it just before high school and it slowly became something he prioritized, even among his other responsibilities with school, student council and the golf, lacrosse and basketball teams.
He maintained solid grades and kept up with commitments through freshman year—and then he tried Percocet.
“That took me down quick,” he said. “I started focusing more on drugs and alcohol than schooling.”
In other words, the knot came loose. Hoffmann admits that he stayed so involved with school to cover up for the other side. But as he quit lacrosse and his grades started to slip, his real problems began to surface. His friend group diminished as he got deeper into drugs.
He started snorting heroin and cocaine. He was angry. His parents and friends started to notice. He started seeing a psychiatrist and a family therapist. To deal with all of that, he came up with a solution:
“I played the same manipulator role I always did.”
He kept his head above water, was able to convince his psychiatrist that his parents were the problem, but regardless he ended up in rehab in 2009. It lasted 30 days, and he even put in two weeks of sobriety afterward—then he slid back into his old ways.
“If I didn’t want to get sober, I wasn’t going to get sober,” Hoffmann said. “It wasn’t a very positive experience, but if it wasn’t for that first time, I wouldn’t know where to go if I wanted to get sober. For that, it was really beneficial.”
He soon turned back to drinking, what he saw as less harmful than drugs. He would drink alone in the basement of his parents house, he would wake up in the middle of the night shaking and sweating and he would just keep on going.
Things had gotten so bad once that a homeless man gave him money to buy some water, worried that he was going to die.
The last time he drank, though, things had come to a head. It was grain alcohol and he traded his shot glass for a mug. He was blackout drunk, got in his car, somehow made it home and hopped in the shower to conceal that any of it happened to his parents.
During that shower, he came to, had two solid minutes of clarity, and decided this needed to end.
“Drinking took me down quicker than any drug,” he said. “I haven’t really wanted to drink since, but I think I’m one minute away from a drink, just like any alcoholic. That’s how I’m wired.”
That definitely didn’t make the recovery process easier. Hoffmann had to work to keep his sobriety, he had a process and people who were willing to help him.
About a year into sobriety, Kim Rubenstein was starting up Be A Part of the Conversation with the Hatboro-Horsham School District. She organized events and forums, where recovering addicts could share their stories and give advice to those looking to get sober. Hoffmann started helping with some of the events.
“He went to the same high school that my children did,” Rubenstein said. “He stepped up right away when we were starting Be A Part of the Conversation.”
For four years, Hoffmann stayed involved. It helped him maintain his own sobriety, and his youth and energy were helpful for the organization.
“If I wasn’t doing these kinds of things, I would be drinking right now,” he said.
He knows what to say to people, he’s been there, he’s around the same age. This is one of the reasons he was named to Conversation’s Board of Directors the night it partnered with Hatboro-Horsham High School to put on a play called “Addict.”
Hoffmann hopes his dedication to these groups and to other people in need will help him stay on his path to a lifetime of clarity.
“I have so much respect for someone like Shea who has struggled with addiction and comes out on the other side with the desire to serve and help other people struggling,” Rubenstein said. “He really just wants to tell his story”
For more information on Be A Part of the Conversation, call 215.416.5604, email email@example.com or visit http://www.conversation.zone.