From the outside looking in, Bo Mullins seems like a guy who has it all.
But when the patients at Bradford Health Service’s Warrior Lodge get to know him and his story, they quickly understand that the Bo Mullins, who gives lectures and facilitates groups at the long-term program, is a far different individual from the man who first came to Bradford for help seven years ago.
“My old life revolved 100% on using heroin,” Bo says. “It was the first thing that I thought about in the morning and the last thing I thought about when I would go to sleep. I would dream about it when I was supposed to have peaceful nights. My life today is a 180-degree difference from what it used to be.”
“I live every day with a purpose and direction. When I wake up, the first thing that I think about is my son, because he is standing beside my bed saying, ‘Daddy, hold me!’ I am a good husband, a great father, a dependable friend, and a reliable employee. I live a life that is so simple but, at the same time, is beyond my wildest dreams. Today, I have the freedom to go anywhere and do anything because I am not enslaved to a substance.”
It all started when he claimed his chair in the same program where he shares his experience and hope today.
Bo arrived at Bradford’s Warrior Lodge facility, sure of only one thing. If he didn’t break the cycle of addiction, he was probably going to die. He had been to treatment 13 times but again found himself staring at the bitter ends of his disease.
“The day I checked into treatment, I had a payday loan and a title loan due. They were looking for my car to repossess it. I was being evicted, and I had a warrant out for my arrest,” he says. “I was running from my problems and trying to find a place to regroup for a few moments, but my plan was to go to sober living and do the same thing I had always done.”
Thanks to the staff members at Bradford, however, something clicked. When the weight of his actions felt like more than he could bear, an assistant counselor sat down with him. In that counselor’s eyes, Bo saw tears of empathy.
“It was just a moment of, ‘Somebody cares,’ and on that day, some emotional barriers of distrust got broken down,” he says. “They had wanted me to go to A Reprieve for Men (Bradford’s long-term facility in Opelika, AL), but always before I looked for ways to avoid long-term treatment. On that day, I agreed to do it, even though I went down there believing it wasn’t going to work.”
However, at A Reprieve for Men, the staff helped him dig deep until he found the willingness within.
“One of the guys sat me down and told me that regardless of what I thought or felt about this way of life, to do it anyway and see what happened,” he says.
Less than three months later, he faced his first major challenge in recovery: the end of a relationship. Through the counseling, therapy, and encouragement of the Reprieve staff, he chose wisely.
“In the past, I got high for countless reasons and for no reasons all the time, but I got high mostly to deal with emotional pain,” he says. “When she broke up with me, I was just devastated, angry, frustrated — but up to that point, I had been putting in the work like I was supposed to. That was the first time I had ever put actual dependence on the program without even realizing it.
“So, my first instinct was not to leave and go get dope — it was to talk about it. It was doing what I was told regardless of what I thought, and it was the turning point in which I started to trust the process.”
He imparts this lesson to the men who sit in the same seats as he once did: to hang on, even through the pain. Recovery doesn’t guarantee a respite from hard times and hurt, but it does provide a map through those emotions without returning to drugs and alcohol, he adds.
“I know it seems like things can’t change. I know it feels like you can’t imagine a life without using or drinking,” he says. “But it can change. It does not matter why you reach out for help. Getting help is the bravest thing that you can do.
“I would tell anyone who does to try to set aside everything you think you know about yourself—the disease of addiction respects action. No matter how you feel or what you think, take action. Recovery is a process, not a quick fix. Stick out the bad days and know that amazing days are coming.”
The breakup Bo endured through the use of recovery tools learned at A Reprieve helped him move on. A year later, they found one another again, and today, she’s his wife. None of that would have been possible, he said, without continuing to put in the work, and when he finally left Reprieve after 18 months, his life was transformed. Today, he uses his story to inspire others who might find themselves in his shoes, and he’s grateful for the opportunity to do so.
“I spend my entire day sharing my experience with them, and I try to help them understand that the drugs and alcohol were a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself,” he says. “Just stopping using is a great accomplishment. However, recovery is a process that looks very different from person to person. Some recover quickly; some recover slowly.
“I try to get across that even if these guys didn’t reach the physical bottoms I experienced, or faced even more difficult ones, none of that matters. What matters is that internal pain, and for those who want to do something different, every day can look different — but if someone is trying, then that is an accomplishment.”