In recovery, man reclaims life of promise through treatment, college education

Casey O’Connor’s drug abuse didn’t stop after he lost his right hand in 2010 after a 110-mph collision with the back end of a tow truck in Colorado.

Both the driver, his friend, and Casey were either high or intoxicated at the time of the crash.

Casey didn’t curb his drug appetite when he was left homeless in Las Vegas for three months because he spent a “large chunk” of a six-figure insurance settlement on heroin and methamphetamines. At one point, Casey was arrested and put in jail for assaulting a police officer.

“I found my caviar in opiates,” said Casey, 28, whose seven-year addiction to painkillers, heroin and methamphetamines spiraled such that he suffered a psychotic break requiring hospitalization. “I was trying to buy happiness.”

Something of a “late bloomer,” Casey said he never touched alcohol or smoked marijuana until after he graduated from high school in Phoenix. Tired of being the “nerdy kid,” Casey said he went from drinking with friends on the weekends to “taking enough oxy (OxyContin) to kill a horse.”

“I got in over my head before I knew what was happening,” Casey said.

In what his father, Mickey, describes as a “last gasp hope,” Casey’s parents enrolled him in the Recovery in the Pines treatment center in Prescott in 2014. The Christian-based, long-term recovery program for men requires stays between six months and a year. The deal with their son was they would pay the bulk of the cost – about $10,000 per month – as long as he abided by their rules.

Casey, an only child, and his parents admit they weren’t sure he could hold up his end of the bargain.

“I was just a walking, talking Zombie,” Casey said of his demeanor when he was first admitted.

Except the tall, lanky, tattooed young man did stop — not to please his parents, the treatment staff or doctors who warned him of fatal consequences if he did not do so.

He did it when he glimpsed what a sober future might look like for himself.

Six months into the Recovery in the Pines program, Casey was accepted at Yavapai Community College.