Drug addiction pushes Utah man to the edge of suicide
Rob Eastman kneeled alongside a bench, taking a deep breath while overlooking the Bountiful Temple. He had just become homeless, was suffering from drug addiction, separated from his wife, and could only see his daughter, Sophie, under supervision.
Rob began visualizing Sophie growing up and never knowing who he was and how he got here. He stared into the horizon above the Great Salt Lake with a gun in his mouth and a finger on the trigger.
He just needed a sign.
A sign to save him — from himself.
Bullied from a young age
Rob’s descent into addiction can be traced back to the second grade.
“I felt pretty normal until I got to school,” he said. “Once I found out that everybody else could sit in their seats for a long amount of time and I couldn’t, I was getting in trouble a lot.”
Rob went to see doctors a couple of times a week. One doctor gave him Ritalin in the second grade to help ease his anxiety and worry. He never thought anything of it until he was scolded by his teacher.
“Robbie, why can’t you sit still like everybody else? Take your pill and sit down,” the teacher said to him.
This scolding and Rob’s “wild-child” ways created a slippery slope into him being bullied, but he believes it also opened the doors for something more sinister.
“The pain inside of me was so bad…that it was in the third grade that I developed my first suicidal thought,” he said.
He began to combat the hatred he was feeling by reciprocating that same resentment onto other students.
“I felt tons of pain and it was because of these people. The next person that caused any pain to me, they were going to feel some pain back,” Rob described. “So, I fought back.”
Numbing the pain
After years and years of this pain, Rob began to feel completely alone and empty.
“I would go home and I’d be so empty inside I’d just want to be by myself,” he explained.
His lack of feeling and early ideas of suicide led him to numb out his pain. During his sophomore year, he began to experiment with acid.
Rob finally experienced the solace he was looking for. He described it as “taking him to a different place” where the “pain would go away for a minute.”
Rob also said that his use of acid just “opened the door to weed, pills, drinking. And that stuff worked really well as an anti-depressant for a while.”
Untouchable no longer
Rob became accustomed to his new lifestyle as a young adult.
His father was a successful car dealer, school board president, and majority whip at the Utah State Senate. He says that enabled him to continue with his improper behavior.
“Cops would come into a party, they’d see me and they would shuffle me out the back door and take me home,” Rob said.
On the day that his dad got appointed the new DUI chairman, Rob was arrested for driving under the influence. Ultimately, his dad resigned his new position due to Rob’s behavior.
“I think I did it because I felt untouchable,” Rob explained. “Even when I did get busted, before the tires even stopped on the cop car, I was bailed out.”
His run at being “untouchable” was a long one. Then everything came crashing down once he was married, twenty-seven-years-old and attempting to get sober.
Rob’s slide into drug addiction
“I had just bought like $500 or $600 worth of cocaine and heroin and I owned a concrete company at the time,” Rob said.
He drove down to his shop in North Salt Lake with a worker who was with him. Rob says he wanted to get rid of all of his drugs and needles. He just needed to “shoot up” one more time.
“That’s all I remember,” he said on Project Recovery. “The [worker] said I came out and was sweating like crazy. I had a convulsion and I threw myself back and my head hit the concrete.”
Upon hitting the ground, Rob began to bleed out of his nose and ears due to the impact. Then Rob’s heart stopped beating. Rob’s co-worker saw what happened and immediately left.
Feeling guilty, the co-worker anonymously called the police and told them where Rob fell.
Upon arrival, paramedics worked on Rob for twenty-five minutes to resuscitate him.
Rob had suffered a brain hemorrhage and would spend the next seven days at the University of Utah Hospital in a coma.
After spending two weeks at the hospital, Rob had convinced a friend to break him out of the intensive care unit and to drive him to a customer’s house to sign a contract.
Except the customer didn’t have a contract as Rob explained. He also wasn’t a “customer.”
Twenty minutes later, Rob was back at his drug dealer’s house.
The steep hill of recovery from drug addiction
Although Rob was still struggling with addiction, his family never left his side. Two weeks after almost losing his life, Rob’s family convinced him to check into a rehabilitation center.
Rob committed to getting clean. He even began to thrive while attending rehab.
“Once I could sit safely in rehab and just work on myself, I felt good,” he said.
After his stint in rehab, Rob felt better than ever. He trained at a local gym, built his business back to its previous level of success, and even married his girlfriend in the Salt Lake Temple.
Rob started putting the pieces of his life back together. He even celebrated eighteen months of sobriety.
Until he tore his ACL playing indoor soccer.
The concept of consuming pain relievers to ease the pain he was about to endure was inconceivable after struggling with drug addiction for so long.
“The second that nerve blocker went off, I was in so much pain that I didn’t know what to do,” Rob explained.
The start of a family
Rob knew how he could fix the pain that had begun to overtake him.
“As soon as [my wife] left for work, I called the old number to my drug dealer,” he described. “I had a needle in my arm within an hour.”
Rob’s decision to dive back into his drug addiction came in full force.
Meanwhile, they were striving to have a baby and on a day when the couple was heading to the store to buy a pregnancy test, Rob needed his fix.
This time, Rob’s wife had had enough. She gave him an ultimatum; get clean, or leave.
Rob decided to leave.
His wife called his phone thirty minutes later. Finally, it was time to come home; they were going to be parents.
He brought his addiction with him.
Nine months later, their daughter Sophie was born.
The drug addiction becomes too much
Rob began to use more and he would watch Sophie while his wife was away at work. Rob ultimately bought dope from his dealer instead of buying groceries for their daughter.
The breaking point had come. His wife was finished.
“My ex-wife did the right thing. She made a big decision to pack up and leave me,” Rob described. “I find myself, at 31 years old, back on my parent’s couch because I can’t afford the house and that thought process keeps coming through my head about suicide.”
Rob put eight “balloons” into a spoon in an attempt to end his life.
“I shot up and in my head, the worst thing happened,” he said. “I woke up.”
Finally, Rob’s parents decided to kick him out because of his drug addiction.
Losing all will to live
He began to stay in his car around Pioneer Park in Salt Lake City.
One day, he realized he could get back into the house to see Sophie after being granted supervised visitation and was able to visit his daughter.
In addition to seeing his daughter, he then found a gun hidden away in his parent’s house.
“I went up, kissed my daughter, snuck in and got a gun,” he said.
Sophie was seven months old at the time; young enough that “she would never have to know” who her dad was.
Rob knelt down beside a bench that overlooked the Bountiful Temple.
Sitting there, he began to put the gun inside his mouth and began to have visions of his mother and daughter.
He analyzed the pros and cons of what he was about to do and after contemplating what he was about to do, he prayed.
“I said a little prayer. I said, ‘I don’t know anything about a still, small voice; I’m going to need something a little bit louder than that. If I open my eyes and I don’t get a sign, I’m going to pull the trigger,'” Rob said.
Rob opened his eyes to something he could never have expected; a firework display began to light up the Bountiful Temple.
Rob turn’s a new page in life
They say in the recovery world that “you have to do it for yourself.” You have to focus on yourself. You have to get yourself clean. You’re going to be the one who gets you clean.
Not for Rob.
“I hated myself. If it was left up to that, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now,” Rob said. “I did it for my daughter, in hopes that if it did work long enough, that she might understand who and what I was.”
Rob would spend the next sixty days as an in-patient at Renaissance Ranch, an addiction treatment center in Bluffdale, Utah, trying to overcome his drug addiction.
Along with tackling his recovery, he came in contact with GPP Fitness owner, Neil Anderson, and learned how to train former addicts.
Rob now owns “Eastman Fitness” and focuses on changing people’s lives and is coming up on 10-years clean from drugs.
Along with raising awareness surrounding suicide and mental health issues, you can listen to Rob on the “Stand and Fight” podcast.
To hear more from Casey Scott and Dr. Matt Woolley, you can listen below or subscribe to the ‘Project Recovery’ podcast on Apple Podcasts and be sure to check out the ‘Project Recovery‘ page on KSLTV.com.
Suicide prevention resources
Advocates urge anyone who is struggling or anyone with a loved one who may be at risk of suicide to use the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at any time, by calling 1-800-273-Talk.
Read more of KSL Newsradio’s coverage of “Healing Utah’s Teenagers” here.
KSL’s combined coverage “Reasons to Hope” is found here.
And resources for help around Utah are here.