Durham News

31 to graduate from TROSA program Sunday in Durham

Working as a restaurant cook made it easy for Joseph Shook to keep up his heavy drinking. “I liked to party after work, so the nightshift was right up my alley,” he said.

But for Shook, the party didn’t end after a drink with co-workers. “What they didn’t know was that I was drinking half a gallon or a fifth before I went to bed,” he says. “I was drinking at 6 in the morning.”

After hours of boozing and cocaine use, Shook often was a no-show at work. He lost 10 jobs in three months, halfheartedly tried short-term rehab and 12-step programs, went through withdrawal and came “close to death.” Finally, his grandmother, parents, aunt and uncle confronted him at a gathering around his grandmother’s dining table in Hickory. They insisted that he call Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers, or TROSA.

That was more than two years ago. On Sunday, the same family members will gather again. This time they will be in Durham when Shook, 31, graduates from TROSA. He is among 31 men and women who recently completed the two-year program.

“I’m not going to say it was an easy road,” Shook says of his time at TROSA.

“It required digging inside myself and doing what I never thought I could do,” he says. “TROSA is a place that has shown me that I can honestly do anything as long as I put my mind to it.”

TROSA, a nonprofit, emphasizes structure and accountability in a residential setting known as a modified therapeutic community. Residents attend classes and therapy sessions, participate in peer counseling and receive vocational training.

Employment is important for maintaining sobriety, and the program helps graduates find jobs. Shook, who graduated from Western Carolina and Johnson & Wales universities, plans to work for a company that supplies food to restaurants. His experience as a management trainee in the TROSA kitchen prepared him for the new job and, he says, gave him the confidence to handle it.

The position is the best he has ever had. “Never in a million years would I have thought a two-year rehab program would help me get my foot in the door of food sales,” he says.

TROSA trains residents for jobs in a variety of fields through its thrift store, moving company, landscaping business and Christmas tree lots. These enterprises also bring in revenue, so residents are not charged for being in the program. TROSA currently has more than 500 residents.

Shook says people with addiction need to know that others share their experience.

“There is hope,” he says. “Don’t ever think you are alone in your addiction. You have to start somewhere, and TROSA gives you that start.”

To learn more about TROSA, visit www.trosainc.org or call 919-419-1059.

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