HEALTH

Alcohol addiction drives Utah man to rock bottom, but eventually, solace

Aug 22, 2019, 8:30 AM
Cole Thorp joins the Project Recovery podcast to describe his alcohol addiction....
Cole Thorpe joins the Project Recovery podcast to describe his alcohol addiction.

Cole Thorpe drove to a nearby park instead of driving into work for the day. This slight detour allowed him to finally understand what he was meant to do in life after suffering for years from alcohol addiction.

It was so simple to him now. With every breath, he felt the stress and anxiety leave his body. At the same time, he began to lift the gun that he had loaded hours earlier.

Moments until pure relief, he put the barrel to the tip of his mouth; his finger curled around the warm steel of the trigger.

Calmly, Cole began to put pressure on the trigger and in a matter of seconds, his whole life changed. The trigger stopped. His moment of clarity had come.

Cole’s anxiety begins to cultivate his alcohol addiction

Cole Thorpe details his alcohol addiction

Cole’s story of addiction and substance abuse begins when he was young.

“I’ve always walked around with some level of worry,” he said. “As life gets going and things [start] happening…there was always something to worry about.”

Dr. Matt Woolley (co-host and licensed psychologist at the University of Utah) appoints this heightened sense of worry to Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

Cole eventually found that this free-floating general anxiety could only be alleviated by alcohol.

“I was a sophomore in high school and the opportunity came around, to have a drink and I took it,” he described. “For the first time in my life, that worry disappeared.”

The disappearance of Cole’s worry may have found a release valve but his mind had begun to lay the groundwork for addiction.

A shift in Cole’s mindset

As Cole grew up and began starting a family, his life appeared to be picture-perfect on the outside.

“I met my wife, we got married…I started my insurance agency and had our daughter in the same year,” Cole described.

While getting married brings along its own level of stress, starting a company, and raising a daughter magnified that stress exponentially.

“Before I just had myself to worry about…Now I’ve got two people to worry about and a job that is basically like a baby and I’m starting it from scratch,” he added. “I was not mentally prepared for the stress that that would cause.”

He quickly realized that his brain was telling him he knew exactly how to ease the stress. For Cole, Wednesdays became the day for himself.

He would play basketball with friends, drink a bottle of alcohol, and then watch television. All the while, hiding his alcoholic addiction from his wife and in turn, creating a rift in their relationship.

In his eyes, Cole was handling his consumption just fine, until Wednesdays couldn’t come soon enough. He couldn’t fight back the feeling any longer.

“I started to realize that I could have a beer during the day or at lunch,” Cole explained. “I could get that feeling in the day and I could work and function.”

Cole eventually started drinking earlier and earlier but the money he made from commissions stopped coming in. The amount of stress and pressure started to build and his mental and physical state began to crumble.

“I remember driving and all of a sudden, in my head, [I] just said, ‘you should just kill yourself,'” he described. “I thought that was the craziest thing to myself. Something is wrong here.”

The weight of addiction becomes too much

As more things began to pile on every day, Cole’s mental health began to diminish. He was drinking “every day from the time he woke up to the time he went to bed,” and still hiding everything from his wife and family.

Cole started to sneak out to the garage to further isolate himself and drive his alcohol addiction. He would also visit the liquor store multiple times a day, depending on how much money he had.

He eventually developed a story in his head that he should kill himself.

“This is how I was going to go out, this was my destiny,” Cole explained. “I am not supposed to be here.”

All of his suicidal thoughts came to fruition on January 3rd, 2013.

Cole found a pistol at his home but didn’t have any bullets in the chamber or in the magazine. He convinced himself that if he found any bullets he would continue to go through with his dark plan.

Seconds later, he found the full mag.

Within minutes, he was at a city park, sitting in his vehicle and was ready.

“I took the safety off and put it in my mouth. I started to slowly pull the trigger and then it stopped,” Cole said. “When it stopped, all of a sudden, my calmness and everything went out the door. Fear and panic shot into me.”

Cole’s moment of clarity began the instant that trigger stopped moving.

He immediately drove to the liquor store to buy a case of beer and decided to head back home. As soon as he walked into the door, he sat on the couch and put the gun on the table.

It was time to tell everyone everything. The lies, his alcohol addiction, his worry, and anxiety; he was coming clean.

Cole’s alcohol addiction sparks new life for others

Cole held a self-intervention. He told his wife everything and began an emotional rollercoaster of seeing doctors and therapists.

His path to recovery wasn’t perfect, though. He relapsed after two months and became an intensive outpatient at the Alcohol and Chemical Treatment Center (ACT) at Ogden Regional Medical Center.

Cole would spend the next 30 days in the program. His sobriety had started and he had finally contained his alcohol addiction.

The real work had just begun, though.

He started to participate in an Alcoholics Anonymous program and attributes it to help him ridding a lot of the baggage that he carried around for years.

Sequentially, meditation and mindfulness also became a dependable tool for him to confide in when he needed to focus and clear his mind.

He now is celebrating five years of sobriety and began working with his wife after she decided to start a non-profit charity called, ‘We Are One Recovery.’

“We want [those in recovery] to find the treatment option or outlet that’s going to be the most effective for that person,” Cole added.

His focus is now on helping those who feel they are hopeless, just like he felt he was only five years ago.

Cole concluded that “not having that hope, that things could ever be different or better is just terrible.”

To hear more from Casey Scott and Dr. Matt Woolley, you can listen below or subscribe to the ‘Project Recovery’ podcast on Apple Podcasts or the KSL Newsradio app.

Suicide prevention resources

Advocates urge anyone who is struggling or anyone with a loved one who may be at risk of suicide to use the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at any time, by calling 1-800-273-Talk.

Read more of KSL Newsradio’s coverage of “Healing Utah’s Teenagers” here.

KSL’s combined coverage “Reasons to Hope” is found here.

And resources for help around Utah are here.

Resources for those suffering from addiction

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

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