In 2014, Springfield residents Abby and Eli Glaser and their five children were pictured on a billboard for a local organization promoting healthy relationships.
At home, however, the family struggled as Eli Glaser battled a prescription pill addiction and depression that saw him blow through the family’s finances. He tried to get clean multiple times but wasn’t ready.
It wasn’t until his family staged an intervention that he sought treatment. Two-and-a-half years later, Eli Glaser is in recovery.
“I didn’t want to dive into my past, dive into who I was, what I hated about myself and work on it,” Eli Glaser said. “A sense of community is huge, surround yourself with people who care for you. Even if you don’t have that, if you go to meetings and dive in, you’ll find those people. There’s a higher power in community.”
After he forgave himself, life got better for Eli Glaser and his family, he said. Abby Glaser is also a recovering addict who used multiple drugs in the early 1990s.
“I realized I don’t have to be perfect,” Eli Glaser said. “I don’t have to be perfect. I am who I am. I’m made the way I’m made and I’m going to be me.”
During his recovery, Eli Glaser has found happiness in exercise, recently competing in Spartan Races across the region. He hopes to open a fitness center for recovering addicts that will implement different recreational events.
“I don’t think it’s the golden ticket but I think that’s a component we’re really missing,” he said.
The perfect family
In 1999, Springfield residents Eli and Abby Glaser had their first child. Before she became pregnant, Glaser was abusing hard drugs throughout college, she said.
“I realized if I didn’t stop, I was going to die,” she said. “I woke up one morning and was like, ‘This has to stop, I have to do something else.’”
She detoxed in her apartment in Cleveland for a week and came home, she said. She later came back to Springfield and became a social worker.
“I wouldn’t say I went through recovery,” Abby said. “I got clean but I had no idea what recovery looked like.”
Years later, Eli Glaser — who was working as a bricklayer and doing side jobs in the evening to keep his family of seven afloat — faced an emergency appendectomy surgery. He also struggled with the family’s place in the church.
“I really felt like God was disappointed in me,” he said. “I was at a place where I really just wanted to give up.”
Eli Glaser received pain pills after his surgery, which also relieved other pain, he said. Shortly after, Eli Glaser hurt his back and received more pain pills.
At one point, he was being prescribed Vicodin, muscle relaxers, Xanax, anti-depressants and a fentanyl patch each month, he said.
“I became an addict,” he said. “That turned into wanting the pills to numb everything we were going through.”
Eli Glaser continued to work, getting a job within the local courts system. He would take a month’s worth of pills in two weeks and would miss a few days per month to deal with withdrawal. By the end of the month, he said he would feel better until he was able to get his prescriptions refilled — a cycle that lasted for nearly four years.
Abby Glaser picked up the slack to hide her husband’s addiction, she said. He was a high-functioning addict, meaning he continued to provide for his family, Abby said.
“As far as everyone around us was concerned, we were the perfect family,” she said.
A fast spiral downward
On Dec. 31, 2010, Eli Glaser overdosed on pills and alcohol, she said.
“I was afraid to call the squad because I didn’t want him to lose his job,” she said.
She called her mother, a registered nurse, who helped her bring her husband back, Abby Glaser said. A few days later, she asked him to leave. He got clean and later came back to his family, he said.
“We really had no idea what recovery looked like,” Eli Glaser said. “We thought you just stopped.”
In the summer of 2014, Eli Glaser fell 20 feet from a ladder while working and injured his back. He went to the emergency room, where he was prescribed pain killers.
“It was a fast spiral down from there,” Abby Glaser said.
In November of that year, he began having seizures.
“By that time, I was buying them on the street, trying to get them anywhere I could,” Eli Glaser said. “I would work a side job just so I could buy pills off the street.”
On Christmas Day of 2014, Abby and Eli Glaser’s family staged an intervention. She gave him two days to make a decision about his future.
“We just said, ‘We can’t do this anymore,’” she said. “I knew he was going to die. He looked like a skeleton.”
Abby Glaser works as a counselor at the Marriage Resource Center and the Trauma Recovery Center. The billboards promoting healthy relationships stayed up for nine months, she said.
The family spent every dime they had to send Eli Glaser to a dual diagnosis treatment facility in Florida to deal with both his addiction and mental health issues, he said. He stayed at the treatment center for 37 days and has been clean ever since then.
“It was worth every penny,” Abby Glaser said.
During that time, Abby Glaser began attending 12-step meetings to hear from other people in recovery, she said. The first meeting she attended, she saw three clients who thought she was checking up on them.
“I needed to hear someone say, ‘I’ve done this, it can be done,’” Abby said. “I felt a comfort in that room. It felt safe … It was difficult but it was a beautiful thing.”
“Everyone’s recovery looks different,” Eli Glaser said.
He began going to meetings in Springfield but eventually realized what worked for him. Eli Glaser, who’s now been clean for about a year and a half, spends an hour each morning working on his recovery, which includes the 12-step just for today meditation.
“I hate it, but I love it because it reminds me that I’m an addict every morning when I wake up,” he said. “My day can be great and my life seems amazing and I forget that I’m an addict. I know it feels weird to remind myself but it’s good for me. It keeps me grounded. I’m living to be good for my family and everyone around me and for myself.”
SPRINGFIELD’S OPIOID WAR