According to The Free Dictionary, the phrase “to walk a mile in my shoes” is “to consider or understand another person’s perspectives, experiences, or motivations before making a judgment about them.” As a drug and alcohol counselor, Travis Hall can certainly put his patients at ease as he explains that he has indeed been where they’ve been.
Hall works as a drug and alcohol counselor in Tifton, Georgia, helping those who are suffering from alcohol and drug dependency. He is approaching the 20-year mark in this field and finds his work both enjoyable and rewarding. While Hall mentors those suffering from various afflictions, it wasn’t that long ago that Hall himself was facing some of these same demons.
Hall was born and raised in Metter, Georgia, and graduated from Metter High School in 1989. It was during his high school days that Hall said his problems began.
“I started using alcohol only during high school,” Hall said.
In fact, Hall said that he was not only simply using alcohol during that time, but he was far beyond that point.
“I was most likely a full-blown alcoholic in high school,” he said.
One month after he graduated from high school in 1989, his problems with alcohol nearly cost him his life. He and two of his friends were enjoying a night on the town in Statesboro.
“We were at an establishment drinking and eating,” he said.
As it turned out, there was much more drinking going on than eating. The group decided to head over to a friend’s party, where the drinking continued. When the group left hours later, they headed back to Metter.
On the way to take the friends home, with Hall driving, they encountered a sharp curve at a high rate of speed. Unable to properly negotiate the curve, the car flipped and then rolled six times. Hall and one of the occupants were thrown from the vehicle, while the passenger in the backseat remained buckled in with his seatbelt.
Thankfully, the two friends sustained only minor injuries, while Hall sustained a broken femur in his left leg, along with a closed head injury. He was taken to Savannah Memorial Hospital, where he was hospitalized. In addition to the leg injury, Hall remained in a coma for three days. He eventually emerged from the coma with all of his faculties intact. He underwent surgery to repair the broken leg. His hospital stay lasted 31 days, and upon his release, authorities charged Hall with a DUI.
Hall and his friends were fortunate to not only survive that horrific crash, but to be able to return to their normal lives. For Hall, that meant enrolling at Young Harris College and taking advantage of all that comes with the leisure part of college life outside of the classroom. It meant returning to the same bad habits that had begun in high school… and then some.
“I joined a fraternity and, of course, drank a lot,” he said. “I also started using drugs once I got to Young Harris, something I had not done previously.”
That’s also when the fun ran out.
“The drugs and alcohol began to have a negative effect on me, and they started taking their toll on my mental state,” Hall said. “I really reached the end of my rope, so to speak.”
On Feb. 15, 1999, in the full throes of heavy drug and alcohol use and dependency, Hall drove to his parents’ home in Metter, knowing his father kept a .38 special handgun in the home.
“I was so depressed from the drugs and alcohol that I was going to end it all right there,” Hall said.
Fortunately, he had what he calls a moment of clarity. He put the gun back in the case, locked it up, and began to break down, realizing how close he had come to ending it all. Less than a week later, he entered a treatment facility where he began to receive the help he so desperately needed. He stayed in intensive treatment for drug and alcohol dependency for a total of 13 months. That included a first month of intensive treatment, meaning a daily regimen totally devoted to group meetings and therapy. Hall transitioned to a halfway house where he lived and continued to focus on his recovery.
After 13 months, he was clean and sober, ready to get back to living. Of course, that also meant being around people and places that would always remind him of his past.
“Everywhere I went, there were reminders of places I used to go and things I used to do, but I stayed focused on what I knew I had to do,” he said.
He enrolled at Georgia Southern University, where he met his future wife, Melanie, in a psychology class after over two years of sobriety. They were married in May of 1999 and today have two children: Clark, 17 and a senior at Tift County High School, and Kenna, 13 and in the eighth grade.
Hall became a drug and alcohol counselor in 2001.
“The thing I enjoy the most about my job is helping other people realize that their lives are going to be so much better once they’re able to move away from the drug and alcohol abuse,” he said.
He should know. After all, he’s walked a mile in their shoes.
Written by: Phil Jones | Photography by: Brandon Pham