It started with harmless experimentation. It’s not uncommon for teenagers to experiment with alcohol, and Eddie Beiler was no different. He was a normal, happy Riverview High School student — he earned good grades, he was popular, he loved art and photography and he drank socially at parties on the weekends. It was nothing extreme, just a teenager wanting to have fun, but by his senior year, Beiler couldn’t count more than a day of sobriety.
His partying progressed from drinking for fun to a life-consuming prescription-drug addiction. In his junior year of high school, a friend had some prescription painkillers from a wisdom-tooth surgery, and he and Beiler decided to try them. Soon, he was abusing Oxycontin, Xanax, marijuana, cocaine and alcohol, but painkillers were his drug of choice.
“I was taking six to 12 pills a day,” Beiler remembers. “If I was doing less, it was only because I couldn’t afford more. I was lying, stealing and manipulating. I wasn’t myself at all.”
Beiler doesn’t attribute his addiction to any one factor but believes the death of his younger brother, Caleb, in 2006 played a role.
“I completely isolated myself in my house,” said Beiler. “I would drink alone in bed. I dropped out of Manatee Community College and told everyone I was still going, I was losing jobs.”
Beiler was staying with his mom in Fort Myers while his dad and stepmother were still in Sarasota. His stepmother, Dawn Beiler, says although she suspected Eddie was having issues, she had no idea how bad things were. She was reluctant to get too involved, because she thought Eddie was happy with his mom, and she was doing her best to not put him in the middle of a fight between divorced parents.
“Never in a million years would I have thought that Eddie was in a room by himself getting high on pills,” she says. “Ever since he was young, he was constantly surrounded by friends. I can’t even imagine him isolating himself like that.”
In October 2010, Eddie realized just how bad things had gotten. One of his sisters was getting married, and he had a big hand in organizing the wedding and rehearsal dinner.
“I basically planned the whole thing,” Beiler says. “We had a lot of family and friends down, and I can’t even remember any of it. That was really scary for me. I was in a four-day blackout. People said they couldn’t even recognize me.”
Shortly after, his mom came home one afternoon to find him asleep with a bunch of pills and a bottle of wine.
“At first, my mom thought it was something I could just stop,” Beiler says. “I was out there trying to do yard work, and I was having withdrawals. I absolutely couldn’t have done it on my own.”
Beiler’s mom quickly realized the health risks involved with opiate withdrawals, including seizures, and Beiler went to detoxification and rehab in West Palm Beach. Because he had such a large amount of drugs in his system, he endured 11 days of detox, a procedure that typically lasts five to seven days. After that, Beiler spent a little more than five months in rehab and six months in a halfway home.
Today, Beiler has been clean for more than a year, and he’s ready to use his experience help others. He hopes one day to go into counseling, possibly for people struggling with addiction.
Last weekend, Beiler hosted a fundraiser to help jumpstart his newest adventure. In July, as a part of the Adventures in Missions World Race, Beiler will leave for a mission trip that will take him to 11 countries in 11 months. He will travel to Cambodia, Vietnam, Rwanda, Uganda, Latvia, Lithuania, Kenya, India, Nepal, Thailand and a yet-to-be-announced Asian country to help orphans and victims of sex trafficking.
Beiler will join a group of 60 people, who will hit the streets and bars in these countries to look for children in need and take them to medical teams and safe houses. Many of the children who have been victims of sex trafficking are addicted to drugs, and Beiler especially looks forward to working with them.
“I just can’t wait to show these kids love and see the light come back into their eyes,” he said.
The 12-Step Program is rooted in Christianity, and like many before him, Beiler discovered religion while in rehab, and he started going to church regularly while living in the halfway house.
“As cliché as it sounds, I can chase after my dreams now,” said Beiler. “I’ve always wanted to travel the world and take photos, so one of my sponsors told me to check out the World Race mission. Now, I can do that while helping other people.”