Larry’s life…turning it around

By on May 29, 2019

Larry’s story is written by Janice Ballenger, who works at Retreat Behavioral Health, a 175-bed inpatient facility in Ephrata. Retreat is now certified to work with stand alone mental health issues at the inpatient or outpatient level. Multiple psychologists are on site to provide care. She has a burning passion to raise awareness to addiction, while offering hope to families and friends of those in recovery.

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. One in five Americans will suffer an episode of mental illness this year. Our culture displays a tragic imbalance of empathy for medical vs. mental illness. Many people can’t grapple with day to day life. While mental health illness does not always trigger drug abuse, there are inherent links between mental illness, drug use and addiction. Studies show that those with mental illness are roughly twice as likely to develop a substance abuse problem. Substance abuse is often used as a psychological crutch.

When someone is diagnosed with a mental health issue, it usually comes with no explanations. No pamphlets, no visits from health care workers, nothing. When someone is diagnosed with a serious medical condition, they are led into a neat and orderly city of well-lighted streets, visible road signs and people eager to give directions. With a mental illness they are left in a desert without so much as a compass. Mental illness is a very broad term. It refers to any type of condition that affects a person’s behavior, mood or thinking. We need to create public empathy for those affected and remove the stigma attached.

ADHD is a mental illness, but treatable. Larry Fisher shared his story of being diagnosed with ADHD, his addiction, and his recovery.

“This is my story. I have lived all my life in Lancaster County, mostly in Ephrata. As a child, I was always different. My parents were and are good parents. They did the best they could with me. As an only child, I wanted for nothing. My earliest memory of mischievousness was when I was three years old. I ran away from my parents in Kmart. I threw all types of items into the fish tanks. I got caught. When I was five, I tried to smoke one of my dad’s cigarettes. I was very disruptive in school. I didn’t have many friends due to my behavior. I tried sports but never felt accepted. I was lonely and continue to act out. At 9 years old I was put on Ritalin for ADHD. They didn’t help so my dosage was increased but I was still getting into trouble. The Ritalin was stopped when I was 12.

Larry Fisher has overcome the odds.

My middle and high school years were a disaster. Despite constant detentions and suspensions, I was still getting all A and B grades. I got into fights, was bullied and bullied others. Now stealing a lot, I even stole cars as a teenager. I committed a burglary at 14. Always gravitating towards the kids as bad as me, my first beer was at 14 and I liked the effect it gave me. My first real drunk was at 16. It was done to impress a girl, but I drank so much, the girl ended up taking care of me that night. Swearing I would never drink again, a few days later I was drinking. My behavior caused me to be thrown out of two different high schools. Then I went to a learning and adjustment center for teens with behavioral problems. There, a lot of new friends were made &tstr; friends that would smoke marijuana and drink with me. What started out as a weekend activity led to a daily activity. Wanting to do anything to get me out of myself, I started doing LSD, cocaine, crack cocaine, huffing computer keyboard cleaner, duster and freon out of air conditioners.

Somehow, I made it through high school and graduated from Ephrata High School in 1994. Of course I got high before the ceremony. Working mostly in restaurants as a cook, I started saving money. Having met a girl to party with, I had big plans for us. She became pregnant with my child and then had a miscarriage. My way of dealing with it was to get high. She couldn’t believe that this was how I dealt with it and our relationship ended. But this is when my life fell apart even more. Our place in Ephrata turned into the party house of Ephrata. Meth and PCP were brought in.

One night I tried heroin and that was the beginning of the end. Heroin overrode all other substances. I experienced that moment of ‘I finally found what I was looking for.’ Nine months later, I was shooting heroin. Then I experienced a deep, deep tragedy, which is still buried in me. But it took me to the point of selling drugs to maintain my habit. After being raided by the drug task force, I was evicted and had to move back in with my parents. They had no clue that I was doing heroin daily.

I was in five rehabs, in prison 13 times for a total of four years. I was homeless and hopeless. In 2001, I flatlined but was saved. I was introduced to a 12-step program, but I didn’t want to be clean.

I didn’t want to surrender. My last time in jail, I had this crazy notion that I could successfully drink without consequences. Thankfully my higher power, which I choose to call God, had different plans for me. A man came into prison to share his story. This was a guy I knew. I listened and was in awe that he was still sober and here I was, still in and out of prisons. I had a spiritual awakening that night. I went back to my cell and hit my knees. I begged God for help. I finally surrendered that night. I am 43 years old and have been clean and sober since Nov. 10, 2001. I had been an addict labeled hopeless.

When I was released, I began attending 12-step meetings immediately and haven’t stopped. I arrange meetings. I help others. I work the program. I have good and bad days, like everyone else. But I know I can get through anything without drugs. I have a great relationship with my parents. They never gave up on me. Yes, they showed tough love by changing the door locks, but that’s what a parent needs to do. I have a 13-year-old son and a 9-year-old daughter that have never seen me drunk or high. Working in the drug and alcohol field for 13 years, I’m a proud son, father, worker and decent member of society today.

God and the 12-step program have given me all these gifts. I have returned to the prisons that I was in to share my story. Hopefully my story will give someone hope and maybe save someone’s life. Recovery is possible. I’ve been blessed.” 


  1. Nora nolt

    May 29, 2019 at 6:44 pm

    Great article, Janice. What a wonderful testimony.

  2. Janet L. Fisher

    May 30, 2019 at 1:00 pm

    Dearest Larry, your story has pot joy into my heart. Yes, be with God, He will never let you down. He is your Sun in the morning and the moon at night.. I am so happy for you. My son traveled down the same road as you and he is also clean and working at a good job. He is a miracle to me just as you are a miracle to me. I will pray for you Larry, cuz you found Jesus Christ and now He is Living in your being… As He is living within my son.. Reading y0ur story, I thought of my son.. Yes, it was very difficult to see him when he was high, but I praise the Lord Jesus for his life, because I lived life worrying about my son.. God bless you and keep you clean.. My heart knows you will keep clean.. God be with YOU LARRY. He is your Rock.. Always look to Him.. Warm Hugs Janet Fisher

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