'She Insisted I Go to Treatment When She Found Out I Had a Substance Abuse Problem' - Missouri Health Talks - KBIA

'She Insisted I Go to Treatment When She Found Out I Had a Substance Abuse Problem'

'She Insisted I Go to Treatment When She Found Out I Had a Substance Abuse Problem'

Robert Harrison was born in St. Louis and has dealt with a substance use disorder throughout his life. After living drug-free for more than 20 years, Robert became the executive director of an alternative sentencing program in Columbia aimed at low-level drug offenders. He left his post two years later.

He spoke with KBIA’s Trevor Hook about why he first came to Columbia and sought treatment.

Region: Columbia

Related Issues: Addiction Poverty & Employment


Telling This Story

Robert Harrison

Robert Harrison

Trevor Hook

Trevor Hook

Producer, KBIA


Robert Harrison: I came here – it’s almost been 24 years ago now – in search of substance abuse treatment. I’m from St. Louis, Missouri, originally. It’s not that there’s not plenty of treatment in St. Louis. However, I had exhausted all of my attempts at treatment centers there, and I felt like I needed a change of pace.

I grew up in a public housing complex in St. Louis. I was a drug dealer for a lot of years. That's just where I came from. I had a brother that was a drug dealer, and I followed suit. I had a single parent - mother. Didn't know my father, basically in my life. But my mother was a very Christian lady, and worked really, really hard to provide a really stable home for her kids.

Despite her best attempts at helping me, I fell short and decided to take that route to the streets. That lasted for a lot of years.

My usage came later on, I mean, I was a drug dealer long before I was a drug addict. But they have a saying, “You eventually start to be your best customer.” I fulfilled that prophecy.

I came to Columbia because one of my therapists in St. Louis found a treatment program here that was long-term, meaning three, four, five months. That program was the Phoenix Program here in Columbia. I found it, I interviewed. They didn't really have any openings, and they had a long waiting list. But when I interviewed with them - you have to interview with them in person though, so I had to take a bus trip to Columbia to interview for a treatment program that I knew I wasn't going to get in right away.

But as soon as I got back to the treatment center in St. Peter's, at that time, I had a phone call that said I was accepted and they wanted me to come back right away.

Trevor Hook: Can you talk a little bit about the influence that your mother had in sort of you growing up and even looking back now, in retrospect?

Robert: She was amazing, man. She insisted I go to treatment when she found out I had a substance abuse problem. She knew nothing about treatment, she grew up in an era [when] people just didn't know much about treatment.

She did some research, went on the phone and found treatment centers and wrote down numbers of various treatment centers that I could go to, and I rejected them the first time she tried to give them to me.

But two nights after she passed, I was at her house and I was... using, and I totally desecrated her apartment. She was a very, very clean lady. I was in her bedroom using, and papers and paraphernalia all over everywhere, and in the midst of all that stuff, all that trash, was that list of numbers. I picked up the numbers and the next morning I called them and I got in for my treatment for the first time.

This piece was reported and produced by Trevor Hook.

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