Zach: Overcoming Obstacles and Living the Life of His Dreams

A man with a painful autoimmune disorder talks about his recovery from alcohol and opiate use.

Zach Edgerton
Director of Philanthropy, ScoreMore Shows
Resident Care Staff, Hope Harbor Extended Care
Austin, TX

My Name is Zach Edgerton, and I am in long-term recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction. What that means to me is that I am able to have an exciting and fulfilling existence, contributing to my life, my family, and my community.

Growing up I never imagined the aforementioned statement would be my introduction. Born to a cardiac surgeon and a pediatric nurse practitioner, I spent my childhood attending the most competitive schools in Texas, constantly driving to be accepted to the best universities. Success was expected, even demanded. No one imagined I would soon be trading in my scholarships and school visits for arrests and jail stays; me least of all. But at the age of 18, just months after graduating from high school, I became a ward of the legal system for the first time. It was an awful experience that ended up being one of the greatest blessings I could have imagined. After a year-long struggle, I entered recovery for the first time in 2008.

I moved to Austin, Texas where I reapplied myself to my education, moving rapidly from the local community college to The University of Texas (UT) at Austin. At UT I became a member of the Center for Students in Recovery, one of the few collegiate recovery programs in the nation. I studied Psychology and Chemistry with the intentions of applying to medical school upon completion.

However, the course of my life was drastically altered in 2010 when I became suddenly debilitated by an incredibly painful autoimmune disorder known as recurrent Stevens-Johnson syndrome. Stevens-Johnson syndrome causes the blistering of the skin and mucous membranes (eyes, nose, and mouth) as well as rheumatoid arthritis. As I attempted to cope with the disorder, I was also involved in a rollover accident in an off-road vehicle. The combined pain of my auto-immune disorder and the injuries of the wreck left me in a predicament many people in recovery face: how do we safely manage pain in a population that is dependent on psychoactive substances?

After unsuccessful treatment with all non-narcotic options and faced with constant pain, I eventually decided to take the opiates that had been prescribed for me. Lacking recovery support services, my disease led me back to the depths of addiction, and I found myself alone and chemically dependent once more. It would be another year before I found recovery again.

Recovery has given me a life I could have never imagined. Living with my brother, who is also in recovery, my family has slowly been reunited. Successful people in recovery surround me, and I have deep fulfilling relationships. I get to spend my free time riding motorcycles and playing with my dog in the woods! As I continue my education at UT, I also work for two companies that are dear to me and to my recovery. First, as a part of the recovery industry, I provide support services for other men trying to recover. I have also had the opportunity to become the Director of Philanthropy for a concert promotions company. In a consolidation of my professional and personal worlds, we are aiming to create an alcohol-free health and wellness music festival this year for Recovery Month, the first of its kind. Come join us in Austin! We are getting well, and we are loving life!

Last Updated: 12/18/2015