From Mike Farmer, the Alcoholic
There’s one thing Mike Farmer likes to tell every potential client that comes through the doors of the NewDay Counseling facility and treatment center. In the back office of his building on Abercorn Street, he sits down with them as if they were just two old friends, getting together to mull over politics or the weather. It’s the next string of words that tend to catch people off guard.
“Don’t be ashamed,” Farmer says. “When most people start thinking about getting help, they consider everything that could happen, when all they really have to do is just talk to someone. All these fears they have don’t usually come true, and a lot of times it’s denial because some part of them doesn’t really want to quit. Addicts can sabotage their own recovery if they can find some kind of hole to crawl through.”
Farmer is all too familiar with the grit it takes to start that conversation. He’s spent the last ten years of his life sober, but those first few decades were like riding an on-again, off-again merry-go-round of relationship problems, unemployment, and physical dependence on alcohol. He’d often schlep off the consequences of his addiction, rationalizing in his mind that it was merely a patch of bad luck and things like this just happened sometimes.
It wasn’t until he was around 30 that Farmer truly admitted that he had a problem and sought help. There were two or three rounds of detox treatments, each of them fruitless in keeping him away from the same groups of friends that led to the same old dangerous habits. The situation turned around when he found a support network, and he enrolled in educational courses at Georgia Southern University to become a certified addiction counselor. Farmer took a job as a nurse’s aide—the bottom of the proverbial food chain—at Willingway Hospital in Statesboro but eventually scaled the ladder to become clinical director at a brand new, swanky treatment center in North Carolina. It was the type of place where celebrities go to escape the prying eyes of the paparazzi. For Farmer, it was where he got away from the foundation of his recovery. He relapsed in 1990, and again a few years later. He self-labeled as a hypocrite, and remanded himself away from the field to pursue real estate. Ironically, it was the emotion Farmer frequently tells clients to surrender—shame—that emboldened him to start anew.
“I’d gotten to a point where I was depressed and I just didn’t care,” Farmer admits. “What brought me back was the guilt of knowing it was wrong and knowing that I continued to do it anyways. I knew if I kept on drinking, it was going to kill me. When you get to the point where you think you’re going to die, it grabs your attention.”
He means that quite literally—Farmer has gone under the knife for five bypasses already due to complications from his addiction. It’s a piece of the story, not a secret to hide. When he and his wife Susan decided to open NewDay in 2014, it was on the grounds that the facility would never sugarcoat the rocky parts of recovery; a client’s time in treatment would be just the “bare beginning” to a long-term, holistic approach that encompasses exercise, nutrition, support, and a relationship with the right medical professional. Should you fail, Farmer cautions, don’t beat yourself up. Just get back up on the horse and ride again for another day.
“I want to help people understand that addiction is a chronic brain disease,” he says. “Even though we’ve been dealing with this for years and years, people still think of it as a problem of willpower, not enough religion, or something like that. Doing my part is helping establish that this is a medical issue that never goes away. Even if you’ve been sober for ten years, it’s always there waiting for you to remember.”
"I’d gotten to a point where I was depressed and I just didn’t care… I knew if I kept on drinking, it was going to kill me. "