It took six trips to detox - “I didn't want to lose my children,” said Taylor.

Recovering heroin addict Brian Taylor had new motivation going into his sixth detox treatment in December.

“I didn’t want to lose my children,” said Taylor, 32, shedding light on what he was thinking as he walked through the doors of Connections in Harrington.

He failed to stay clean the first five times he walked in. The last straw came when his mother called police after discovering a family member overdosed in her house, where Taylor and his fiancée (recovering from heroin addiction) also lived, and while Taylor’s children were present.

The pair were banned from the house and a caseworker gave them an ultimatum: check into detox or risk seeing their kids placed in the foster system.

The caseworker was a godsend.

“We got lucky,” Taylor said. “The caseworker that we had, we’d had a couple of times. The last thing she wanted to do was break up a family. She knew how much our kids meant to us and how much we meant to our children. My daughter has special needs.”

‘Hell-bent on trying’

As part of the ultimatum, Taylor’s fiancée was to do a stint at Connection’s Mommy and Me in Milford, a sober-living house accommodating mothers and their children.

Taylor was sent back to Connections in Harrington for the sixth time. Initially, he wasn’t allowed back there because, he said, “I had gotten into an altercation with a staff member there.” But the ban was lifted.

Taylor didn’t think he’d successfully complete the program, despite the threat of losing his kids.

“I got a chance to really evaluate what was going on in my life. I was 31 at the time. I was basically on the edge of death,” he said. “I was like 140 pounds. I’m fighting so hard to keep what?

“I have nothing to keep. I didn’t have a life. I was totally dependent on my mother for everything. I hadn’t worked. I was about to lose my kids. I wasn’t a father. I was a shell of a man, and at that point became really, really determined to try something different.

“I didn’t know if I was going to succeed or not. But I was hell-bent on trying.”

Every other time Taylor checked in, he felt defeated.

“I couldn’t understand then why I couldn’t succeed, because I didn’t surrender to the whole process,” he said.

His first five times, Taylor was admitted into the five-day inpatient program. But he didn’t always make it to the end, he said.

‘Better than jail’

He recalled having a rude awakening the first time he ever checked in.

“It was scary. You didn’t know what to expect. You didn’t know if you were going to make it or not,” Taylor said. “I was real sick. You’re in a 23-hour observation room. They’ve got a TV. But other than that, you’ve got nurses coming in there every two hours.

“It seems like every time you go to sleep they come in there to check on your vitals and things like that, to make sure you’re OK. It wasn’t fun. Was it better than jail? Sure.”

Taylor said the main reasons he couldn’t stay clean were because he kept hanging out with the same addict friends, and he refused to cooperate with the program.

“I didn’t want to do [Narcotics Anonymous] because I had a problem connecting with people,” he said. “I wasn’t social at all. Mind you, I’d only given myself five days of detox. One time I did it and said, ‘OK, I’m off heroin.’ But I still wanted to smoke weed and drink. And after all those times, I ended up in the same boat that I was in in the beginning.”

For his sixth time, Taylor decided to do it for 30 days instead of his usual five-day stay, because he wanted more time to be away from friends, that is, addicts.

His plan was to use the detox center for five days, since that’s the maximum inpatient stay, and spend another 25 days completing his detox at the Delaware Hospital for the Chronically Ill in Smyrna, through the Gateway Foundation.

Taylor said having a month in detox was important to help him get his thinking patterns reset.

As an inpatient, Taylor was prescribed suboxone, a medication he used all six times he participated in Connections’ rehab program.

Suboxone contains buprenorphine, which binds with opioid receptors in the brain and prevents withdrawal symptoms and reduces craving for opioids.

“It made me feel fine. I didn’t go through a lot of the active withdrawal like the sweats, stomach pains and leg pains,” Taylor said. “I could sleep and everything while I was on it.”

In Connections’ inpatient program, it’s routine for heroin addicts to be prescribed a medication like suboxone, because “when we come in here, we’re already not the healthiest people,” Taylor said. “Then when you throw withdrawal on top of it, there’s a good chance you can end up in the hospital.”

Journey into drugs

Taylor began when he was a teen, with marijuana. That led to cocaine, alcohol and Percocet, a prescription drug used to control pain.

Over the last couple of years, states have cracked down on limiting Percocet prescriptions, since there was a trend with patients abusing them and the narcotic was being sold on the street as a party drug.

“I was selling heroin and a guy told me Percocet was the same thing as dope and that I’d be all right if I sniffed some bags,” the 32-year-old said. “So that’s how I got on heroin, because it was cheaper. And it was easy access because I had it.”

After completing the detox program, Taylor felt encouraged. His next stop would be six-plus months in the Harrington Sober Living transitional house.

“I was actually really happy and said, ‘you know what man, I’m actually taking a positive step. This is probably one of the right decisions I’ve made in a real long time,’” Taylor said.

But Taylor was nervous about heading to the house.

“I knew I wasn’t going to be confined to a building. I knew I’d have a lot more free time. I knew my actual recovery was going to be put into my hands,” he said.

Taylor was housed with nine roommates, all men, at Sober Living. Residents were in daily counseling and were given chores. They were also allowed to leave the house, but it was mandatory to be accompanied by a roommate.

Keeping family together

Sober Living made a big impact on Taylor.

“It was like a brotherhood,” he said. “We argued, but there was a genuine love there, a care and concern. People looked out for me and were concerned for my well-being; and it was awesome.”

Taylor took his recovery seriously, and it impressed the house manager and staff, he said. That led to him volunteering at Connections’ detox facility, which led to a full-time job there. He’s been employed about five months.

Just about every week somebody he used to be friends with shows up as a detox patient.

“I’m happy they’re getting help,” he said. “I don’t treat them any differently. They’re held to the same accountability of the people that I don’t know. I just hope they get it.”

What’s helped Taylor stay clean in the nine months since he left Sober Living has been distancing himself from old friends.

“Anybody I had used [drugs] with at this point to me was like an enemy. I knew they’d get me high, so I had to stay away from them,” he said. “It wasn’t a personal thing.”

Taylor’s fiancée has been clean as long as he has. Through working at Connections, and with the help of a special program the organization offers, they managed to rent a home in Dover, where they’re living with their children.

He said he’s right where he wants be in his life.

“The plan was to do four to six months in a Sober Living house, get a job, any job, save some money and be clean in recovery and try to put my family back together,” Taylor said.

Read the rest of our series: CHOOSE RECOVERY.