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Morning Shift

Voices Of Chicagoland's Opioid Crisis: Drew Migdal

Drew Migdal started experimenting with drugs and alcohol when he was young — at the cusp of his teenage years. Now, he is 17 years sober.

Living at a halfway house helped him on his path to sobriety. He loved his experience there so much that it influences the work he does today. Migdal is the co-founder of Bridges Sober Living, a halfway home near the Logan Square and Avondale neighborhoods of Chicago.

Bridges Sober Living sees Chicago’s growing opioid crisis first hand. According to Migdal, nearly 80 percent of the homes’ clients are dealing with addiction related to opioids.

As part of a weeklong series on the opioid crisis and how it affects those in the Chicago area, Morning Shift sat down with Migdal to talk about his work with Bridges Sober Living and his own story of recovery. Here are some interview highlights.

On why structure is important to a halfway house

Drew Migdal: From my own personal experience, I was used to living a certain way. I was doing what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it, how I wanted to do it, with whom I wanted to do it, but that whole life was built around drinking and doing drugs.

So, if you want to change that dynamic, you have to do something different. So that’s why people have to go to their recovery meetings so that people can meet other people in recovery, hopefully, that have more clean time than they do and kind of model their behavior to see what was successful for them and replicate it.  

On how honesty is essential to the recovery process

Migdal: Being an addict and alcoholic trains you to be very dishonest. Because it’s not like you are going to walk up to your parents, or people who don’t do drugs, and be like, “Yeah, I’m going out tonight. And I’m going to smoke some pot, take some Oxys, and whatever else comes up.”

It ingrains that kind of thought process where you’re not honest and it becomes so ingrained that you just lie on reflex. That’s one of those things that’s difficult to change and what makes recovery so difficult is being honest about your problem and the solution to it.  

On his personal motivations to get clean

Migdal: People call it a “moment of clarity” or “hitting bottom.” I don’t know really what to call it. But, I was having suicidal thoughts, and they became more serious. As they became more serious, I somehow was able to view my life objectively. I realized I didn’t really want to die — I just didn’t want to live the way I was living.

I knew I had to change. I also knew it was impossible for me to change on my own because I tried switching drugs for alcohol, only doing it on the weekends, reading self-help books. Nothing worked. That led me to ask for help.

On how helpful his time in a halfway house was

Migdal: I loved it. That’s why I do what I do today. I was working while I was there. And they had the structure in place. No sober-living home or recovery meeting is perfect. So there were people who were incredibly unsuccessful and people who really changed their lives. I got to learn what to do, what worked, and the attitudes and actions that were absolutely not going to work for me.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Click on the ‘play’ button above to listen to the entire segment, which was adapted for the web by Bea Aldrich.

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