Oaklawn donors Hans and Lisa Scheller share their personal journey with addiction
Hans Scheller remembers an exercise they had him do in rehab: a timeline of major life events. In a three- to four-year period, he had 11 significant events – marriage, divorce, death of a loved one, job change, moving, the births of his two daughters and more.
“I wasn’t able to process all of those things and that’s when [the drinking] started to really get out of control,” Hans said.
It hit a peak about 12 years ago. Today, Hans is in recovery, working as a recovery coach, and just published a book with his wife, Lisa, about their family’s experience: “From Fear to Faith: A Family’s Journey with Addiction, Recovery and Grace.”
The Schellers, from Chesterton, are eager to share their story to help other families facing addiction.
“Three years ago, I had the idea that I wanted to tell my side of the story,” Lisa said, “because a lot of times when people are out there getting help, resources focus on the addict. But this is a family disease.”
Their book presents both Hans’ and Lisa’s perspectives, as well as a chapter by their daughters, now 20 and 22.
The Schellers are passionate about connecting people to resources, which is how they found Oaklawn and became sponsors of this year’s Rockin’ Out for Recovery. In addition to the book, Lisa hosts a podcast with two therapist friends, called “Healing through Human Connections,” which aims to end the stigma around substance abuse and mental health.
“People should not be afraid to get help if they need it,” Lisa said.
That’s a very different attitude than the one she had when Hans first told her he had a drinking problem.
“When it started to really escalate, our daughters were 8 and 10, we had a business that wasn’t doing very well,” Lisa said. “The economy went downhill, we had just built a brand-new house, and I didn’t know Hans was drinking as much as he was. Then he reached out to someone that we had known for help. And I was in denial. I said, ‘We don’t have that problem.’ ”
Hans sought treatment at different centers over the next five to six years, including a hospital stay after a suicide attempt. But he continued to relapse. Eventually, Lisa told him to leave.
In 2014, he did. He moved to a half-way house in southern Indiana. He attended 190 meetings in 180 days. Each day, for six months, he went to work, went to a meeting and talked to his family on the phone – and that was it.
He remembers an “aha” moment at a meeting. “Somebody said, ‘You know, a lot of people look at sobriety as the gates of heaven opening up and letting you in. But you have to look at sobriety as the gates of hell opening up and letting you out.’ I’m not sober and everything is perfect. I’m sober and I get to live the same kind of life as everyone else and that’s awesome.”
The couple credits good friends, family and a loving church community for walking with them on their journey with addiction. And in hindsight, they say they see God’s guidance through their lives.
“We’re not saying our life is perfect,” Lisa said, “but what we feel is that our whole family has come together, and by the grace of God we’re still together.”