"The lie was how I thought the drug was improving my abilities..." Faces Of Recovery: Troy Heling

My name is Troy and I’m an addict. I’ve been fascinated with music ever since I can remember singing and writing songs even before I learned to play an instrument.  My childhood was pretty normal, my dad worked and my mom stayed home to raise myself and my two younger sisters.  There wasn’t any alcohol or other drug abuse going on.  My parents divorced when I was 13 and I discovered the guitar shortly after.  Playing the guitar allowed me to move between all the social groups in high school pretty easily. I was accepted by most, but I still felt alone.

I drank in high school at parties to fit in, but it wasn’t really something I cared for, then in college I decided to smoke some pot with a pianist who was in a jazz trio with me.  That was it!  It’s like a switch was flipped! I was hearing music like never before and playing things on my guitar I’d never thought of. I found myself becoming a decent musician and an even better addict as the years went on.  The lie was how I thought the drug was improving my abilities as a musician, but what it really improved over the years was my ability to lie, cheat, steal and to manipulate others to my advantage.

I was married and had 3 kids, my wife (who was an alcoholic) and I would talk and daydream about getting clean and sober and how much better life would be. One night we got into a huge fight and I ended up in jail. When I got out I vowed I would stay clean (again). I relapsed shortly after and my wife took the kids and went to her parent’s house. I threw my stash in the garbage in disgust and then went over to the neighbors and got totally wasted. I woke up laying on my kitchen floor surrounded by garbage. Apparently I had dug out my stash and used and didn’t even remember doing it. That was my rock bottom.  I called a friend from AA, he came and picked me up and took me to a meeting. It didn’t matter that narcotics were my drug of choice...a drug is a drug. My wife and I tried to work it out but we just couldn’t make the curve.

I eventually went back to school and received a degree in CAD Engineering, I raised two children by myself (with the help of family and friends), I worked for a local company being part of a product design team and still played 2-3 nights a week. Music was and still is a huge part of who I am. The guitar with me in these portraits is named Layla.  She’s been with me through a lot of the insane years (and bears the scars), and all of my sobriety. She carries 25+ years of my blood, sweat and tears in her.

Eight years ago I was diagnosed with MS...lost my job...lost my house.. Thank God my kids were older and pretty much self-reliant. I can still walk with a cane, and had to go on disability. I can’t play out in clubs anymore, and I’ve never been more at peace.

One of the greatest gifts of sobriety has been reconnecting and developing a deeper relationship with Jesus. When I was single and using I was reading the Bible, reading the words but not living them. Eventually I walked away from it.  The Lord gave me what I needed when I needed it, and when one door shut another one opened...I am still playing guitar (tho’ no longer in clubs), I teach, do volunteer work, He has given me this opportunity to dig much deeper into His Word .

By the grace of God I’ve been clean and sober 20 years now. When I’m asked how I did it my answer is: Turn it over to God,  don’t use, don’t drink – do all of it one day at a time, get involved in a 12 Step group. 

It’s that easy and it’s that hard.