Fly fishing is the “religion” that Dolores resident James Brooks says helped save him from his heroin addiction.
“I needed something that was challenging, but there was no pressure on me if I failed,” he said.
But it took much more than a new passion to recover. Brooks said he also is relying on support groups, such as Young People in Recovery, and medication and counseling from Colorado Addiction Treatment Services.
“Addiction is a disease, and it needs to be treated like a disease,” said Brooks, 25.
Brooks found accountability and friendship at Young People in Recovery about three months ago after meeting Candice Seay, the founder of the group.
“You feel alone in the beginning of recovery. You feel like you’re the only one going through it, and you hear somebody say, ‘Oh man, I felt like I was either going to kill myself or just keep using.’ ... You can relate to that person, and you don’t feel so alone.”
Brooks said he was 12 or 13 when he first started taking prescription pain medication at parties while living in Grand Junction.
“They are really strong, and they are really addictive,” he said.
As he got older, Brooks developed an entitled attitude that he was going to try different substances, and no one was going to tell him differently, he said.
When he was 17, Brooks tried heroin for the first time and found using the drug came along with a sense of belonging to a circle of users.
“Addiction attracts lonely people,” he said.
Brooks quit briefly for a girlfriend. But while studying at Mesa State University, he began using heavily again. It reached a point where he was using heroin to hide his addiction and avoid withdrawal, rather than to experience a high. Brooks compared withdrawal to having the flu, multiplied by 10.
He stopped using in October 2016 after he lost good jobs and was on the brink of homelessness.
To get sober, Brooks decided to move from Grand Junction into his parents’ home in Dolores in early 2017 to get away from his friends.
In February 2017, he went to Colorado Addiction Treatment Services in Durango for the first time. At the clinic that uses medication to wean people off opioids, he was looking to buy illegal drugs from someone lingering around the clinic.
But then he met Dr. Dan Caplin and the other staff and decided that if he didn’t get treatment at the clinic, he was going to stay addicted to heroin. His medication was supplemented with individual and group therapy.
About three or four months after he started out-patient treatment with Caplin, his friend took him fly fishing near Pagosa Springs. He tried several times to catch a fish on his own before hooking his first trout.
He is hoping to turn his new love for fishing into a profession as a fly-fishing guide.
“I do have a disease and addiction. But that’s not all I am. I am a fly-fisherman, a son, I’m a steward of the environment,” he said.