“When you get hit by a train, it’s not the last car that kills you — it’s the first,” wrote Bellmore’s Cory Bataan, 45, in a blog post about his yearslong battle with addiction. “It was the same for me with drinking.”
What began with Bataan’s first drunken escapade as a teenager spiraled into roughly 20 years of alcohol and drug use that ended with Bataan kneeling in the snow outside of his house, wearing a T-shirt in below-freezing weather, and screaming when he discovered that he had run out of cocaine.
Now sober for 12 years, Bataan is a certified addiction recovery coach, and guides individuals through recovery with his company First Step Solutions. His blog piece, “The First Night,” as well its follow-up “The Last Night,” are published on the company’s blog.
“I’m open with everyone,” he said. “I think by speaking about it . . . it gives people an outlet to come and talk to me or go out and seek help about it.”
Bataan began drinking and smoking marijuana, he said, long after his friends. He played football for his high school’s team and he believed athletes did not abuse substances.
In “The First Night,” Bataan detailed what led him to drink. He said that he was inspired to write it to help keep his daughter Lexi, 15, from falling down the same rabbit hole. “I’ve had multiple conversations with her about it,” he said.
Bataan wrote about his discovery that alcoholism ran in his bloodline, making him prone to developing an addiction. According to the American Psychological Association, “at least half of a person's susceptibility to drug addiction can be linked to genetic factors,” including how the body metabolizes alcohol, and the number of dopamine receptors in the brain: Someone with fewer receptors is more likely to try to make up for the lack of this feel-good hormone.
“From the minute that I had taken that first sip of beer, I drank for effect,” Bataan wrote. “I drank alcoholically. I drank often. The hole was getting deeper and I needed to feel the ease and comfort that alcohol gave me. The drugs started shortly after.”
The hole into which Bataan was falling, he later discovered, was the empty feeling that comes with depression and anxiety. “Outwardly, I was the most confident person,” he said, “but inside, I was a wreck.”
Bataan wasn’t treated for either mental condition until he sought help for his addiction. He began “The Last Night” by writing, “I know that I woke up on Feb. 28, 2005 with the same thought that I had every day prior to that: ‘There is no way I am getting high today.’ I had been freebasing cocaine the day [and] night before, and was forced to sleep in the basement. It was like I was a prisoner in my own house. My wife and daughter were the real prisoners.”
The next month, Bataan checked himself into an inpatient program at Seafield Center for Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treatment and stayed there for 17 days. He moved into a sober home in Suffolk County, where he stayed for six months, and continued going to Seafield as an outpatient. Bataan also completed a 12-step program with the help of a sponsor.
On his last night of using, Bataan said that he was unemployed, losing custody of his daughter Lexi, who was 2 at the time, and his wife Stacey was planning on leaving him. “As you get better the family heals as well,” Bataan said. “Today we have a beautiful marriage.”
With First Step Recovery Solutions, Bataan helps those who are grappling with any type of addiction guiding them as they search for work, reconnect with their community and cope with rehabilitation. He combats his own mental strife by praying and taking medication. Also, “I think helping others is a big part of it,” he said.
When it comes to his daughter, Bataan said that he is confident that she will be wary of the dangers of substance use when her friends begin drinking or smoking. “I know at some point she’s gonna drink,” he said. “She’s going to go to parties and drink. I just want there to be an awareness and a responsibility.”