I come from a great family. My parents made sure we had everything we needed and most of what we wanted. Once I got into a school, I never really fit in. I always wanted to be the popular kid. Academics never flew with me. I did as well as I could to get on to the next grade. I excelled in sports and that was where I found my home. I felt at peace playing baseball, golf, and football. When I got to high school, sports were still a big part of my story, but I got hurt in baseball. The pain never subsided. A friend of mine at the time introduced me to Percocet. I thought, “wow, I could do this all the time”. I found that – when things weren’t going right at home – Percocet was always there. When Percocet got too expensive, heroin came into play. I remember doing anything and everything to get my next fix. Stealing from friends, family, the neighbors – it was all of little consequence. I was morally bankrupted by my disease.
I stole a substantial amount of money from a really close friend. The disease told me to lie about it, and lie about it, and lie about it. I finally ended up turning myself in and becoming honest. The shame and guilt kept me up at night. I did a little bit of time – nothing crazy – but jail is a part of my story. I got out in November, just before Thanksgiving. I looked really good, I felt really good, and I was in a good headspace. I was working for a friend of my dad’s in Laconia, New Hampshire. Everybody there was supportive and knew I had an addiction issue. They didn’t know that inviting me out to the bars to keep me close was a foot back out the door. I spent about four months getting relationships back with people who weren’t fans of me going to jail, but I gave it all away for another bag. It didn’t bother me. When I started using again, I lost my job because I wasn’t performing. Jail doesn’t make you better – it makes you worse. I heard everybody’s story and I knew what not to do – how to get away with things or lie better – basically all the things recovery has taught me not to do.
Most of my friends stayed around. I used when I wasn’t with them. I’d make up incredible stories: “I gotta do my laundry, I can’t hang out”. I knew what I was going to do and I’m sure they did, too. At the time, I just didn’t care. I wasn’t missing out on anything. As they were making their lives better, I was making sure mine wasn’t going anywhere fast. I got into crystal meth heavily. That was a big thing in Laconia. From what I’ve heard, it’s not getting any better. My journey took me to a dark place of fear, doubt, and insecurity. Nothing was important to me. I just needed the next fix.
A good friend of mine, Ryan, saw me as who I was when I was younger. We had always been close friends and he knew the truth. He never judged me for what I was going through or what I was putting other people through. He kept a close eye on me when I was around because, obviously, I would steal from anybody. But he showed me unconditional love. I remember thinking, “I hope to one day have that to give somebody else”. One day, we were playing basketball outside his house and I broke my ankle. I went to the hospital and back to my parent’s house. For awhile, I had been using their credit cards to get cashback for drugs. A week after I broke my ankle, the bill statement came in the mail and my world really came crashing down. The jig was up. I found myself on the street with a boot and crutches. I was bouncing around from place to place, couch to couch. I didn’t want to live anymore. I had no self-worth and no self-confidence. I truly didn’t care if I overdosed and passed away in a ditch. I was up for anything. Whatever life threw at me, I was going to be high.
When the last of the money I had stolen that summer ran dry, I made a phone call to my grandfather. I said, “I need you to pick me up. I’m not doing well. I got kicked out of the house”. He said, “Okay, meet me at the Public Library in Laconia”. So I did. Literally minutes before I got picked up, I ran into someone I had wronged along the way. He walked straight up to me and punched me in the face. At that point, I thought, “I deserved that”. It all started rushing back: my morals, my desire to get clean and stay clean. A punch in the face was literally my spiritual awakening. I said, “Alright, you got that, but my grandfather is about to pick me up. Maybe this isn’t the time”.
My grandfather was a man I looked up to my entire life. My father and I never saw eye to eye. I was rebellious. Whenever I had an issue or needed a man to talk, my grandfather was the one. He was always there for me, no matter how many times I wronged him. I’ll never forget when he came to pick me up. He’s passed now, but he said, “wow, you look terrible”.
“Yeah, I know, Papa,” I said. “I’m not doing good”.
“No kidding,” he said. “You’re in a boot, on crutches, walking around Laconia, New Hampshire. And you’re about 125 pounds”. For people who don’t know me, I am 6’1” and comfortably 205 lbs. It was quite the spectacle.
I went to bed that night very, very dope sick. My grandfather woke me up the next morning. He was a big fan of the morning – and I was not. It was 4:15 a.m.
“I have a cup of coffee ready for you. What’s going on? Let’s figure this out”. He was never one who was going to let me just fold and give up. He always challenged me. He said, “what do you think about rehab?”
At the time, I had a bunch of friends who had gone to rehab and started using again. I wasn’t a believer. I didn’t understand the disease of addiction. I knew I was an addict – I knew I was in way over my head and I needed help – but I had no faith in going to rehab and staying clean. Somehow, this fragile old man talked me – the most stubborn human being on the planet – into calling rehabs. I agreed to make him happy and get him off my back. We looked online and found a few places. Everybody I talked to sounded so by the book and un-energetic. And then I got on the phone with somebody from Farnum. I forget the lady’s name, but she was bubbly. She explained it with pure passion. I thought, “if I’m going to do this, that’s the one”.
The next step was calling my mother. I hadn’t spoken to her in a month. For the record, I’m a huge mother’s boy. I love my mother wholeheartedly. She knows that and I’m not embarrassed to admit it. My mother’s love gets me through to this day. Even though she was incredibly upset with me, she came the next day and picked me up. She brought me back to the house to pack a suitcase as fast as humanly possible, and to grab something to eat because I was emaciated. Then she brought me to Farnum in Manchester. I did the six day detox and I weighed in at 130 lbs on the dot. I was a walking smile and ribcage. I looked like a Marlboro cigarette….a Marlboro light.
They had a Suboxone protocol so I wasn’t as uncomfortable as I thought I was going to be. I took a ton of aspirin because my ankle was still demolished and I had missed all my physical therapy. I was doing really well, participating in groups, and doing this thing called the 3 Principles. At the time, I thought, “this is not going to keep me clean”. People said, “just give it a shot, open your mind, read these books”. I did everything they asked. They sent me up to Farnum North at Webster Place, where I met the man who was in charge of programming at the time. He was very much not by the book. He talked to the guys in a way that connected with them. But that’s what worked. That’s what clicked with me. I remember sitting in groups and being mesmerized by how this man related to people. He’d been to prison himself, got out and put himself through school. He always said the twelve steps got him clean, and the 3 Principles kept him clean. Right then, I thought, “I’m doing it backward. I’m not going to stay clean”. I went into panic mode: “How am I going to do this? I want what he has but I’m doing it different than he did. What am I going to do?” By addressing it, I came to understand that everyone’s journey is different. My path won’t be the same as anybody else’s. It’s the work that I put in that’s going to keep me clean.
One of my counselors had me write a paper for my graduation day. It was basically an overview of what the 3 Principles did for me, how I could project them to someone else, and my biggest forces for doing so: Vulnerability, the ability to tell my truth openly and honestly, and being comfortable with self. I remember not wanting to open up to anyone, but we watched a Brene Brown Ted Talk, and I’ll never forget it. Even to this day, I watch it once a month when I feel myself getting complacent.
After treatment, I moved to sober living at Rise Above, which is a huge component of my recovery. I strongly feel I could get all the treatment in the world, but the love and support I received from complete strangers is what gave me the desire to stay clean. The group of guys at Pine Street stayed clean and had fun doing it. They were progressing in their jobs and going to meetings. At night, they would come home and cook dinner as a family, and invite new people to be a part of what they had going on. That was home for me. My biggest issue was that I never fit in. As soon as I got to Rise Above, I fit in. I will never forget how all of my anxiety washed away as soon as I got out of my mother’s car. I struggled – don’t get me wrong – it was tough finding work. Then a really good friend of mine, Nick, got me hooked up at Infiniti driving swaps. I was 25 or 30 days clean, driving $80,000 cars to New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, and anywhere in between. I felt powerful. I felt like I mattered again.
I remember talking to a customer at Infiniti and giving them what we would call a “walk around”; when you’re trying to buy a car, the salesman will give you a pitch about why you should buy it. I didn’t have a suit and tie on like all the other salesmen. The sales manager noticed me taking the time to talk to this customer while they were having their morning meeting. He pulled me aside and said: “Hey, you should think about selling cars”.
“It’s above my paygrade. I could never do that,” I thought.
I remember doing swaps for the last time in September of 2017. The next day I drove up to Tilton to drop off a friend. I had gone with another buddy from Rise Above. We were walking around the Tanger Outlets in Tilton when I got a call saying that my friend, who I called my brother, Steve, was in a coma.
Steve’s parents died when he was very young. He had gone through life on his own. He had three great brothers but – through his addiction – lost his way. We were two strangers who met in a bar in 2015 and had a ton in common. Mostly drugs – but also family struggles and the feeling of letting people down. We connected on all the wrong things. I had been thrown out of the house many times and I always went to his home…until it was foreclosed. He was paying rent to the guy who owned the house and the guy wasn’t paying the bank. So we lived in an abandoned house together. I chose to be with him because I had nobody else. We did everything for each other. We made sure the other ate, had the same amount of money, and the same amount of drugs. We lived a miserable existence until he got locked up in January of 2017.
Steve’s brothers were going to pull him off life support because he had suffered two massive strokes. I remember my whole world crashing down again. But I had a friend with me. Someone with whom I clicked just like I clicked with Steve… only through better things, like going to meetings and becoming a newfound family.
I was doing everything I could to get to Steve, but unless you were immediate family, you weren’t allowed to see him. I remember screaming and yelling at the doctor: “No, you don’t understand, I’ve been through more with him than anyone. I could tell you more about him than his entire family”. That may have been true, but it also wasn’t my place. The way his brother, Danny, put it was, “the last night you saw him, he was still in good spirits. He still had a smile on his face. The last time we saw him, he was laid out on a hospital bed with tubes in every part of his body”. That really stung.
I might have had sixty days clean at the time. But this goes back to the family aspect of Rise Above: nobody let me isolate. If I was isolating, my entire apartment would come sit in my room with me. Even if we were doing nothing, they took the time to make sure I was okay. As bad as Nick is about expressing sorrow, he was right there. I had somebody to lean on through it all.
The next day Nick called and said: “You have an interview tomorrow. Go get a haircut and dress up”.
“I have no money,” I said. “None. I can barely pay rent this week”.
“Don’t worry about rent,” he said. “Go dress up to be a salesman”.
“No, absolutely not. I’m not in the headspace. I can’t do it”.
But I did it. They hired me on the spot. Nick took the time to make sure I understood the business through and through. I did quite well at Infiniti. My first sales job was selling luxury cars – which was mind-blowing. My parents thought I was lying. But it also took me to a place where I felt “better-than”. I was “better-than” people in my sober house because I was selling luxury cars and they weren’t. I had more money than them. I was providing for other people. It gave me a false sense of security. But, for anyone who knows sales, it’s fleeting: As soon as you no longer serve a purpose or aren’t doing as well as the next guy, you’re gone. Four months later, I found myself not wanting to do it anymore. My passion wasn’t there. So they pulled me in the office and said, “we’re going to have to let you go”. Somebody quit and they asked, “do you want to be on a probationary period?” I said, “no.” I was working between 50-60 hours a week, six days a week. I had no life, I wasn’t going to meetings and I had no sponsor. I wasn’t going through step-work. I was clean but miserable.
I left that job and worked for a friend’s construction company making next to nothing. I was happy. I was with my friends all day. I was able to go to meetings as much as a I wanted. I was more involved in Rise Above. I got closer to the owners of Rise Above and The Process Recovery Center. Things were really working out. It turned out that company wasn’t the best fit for me because they didn’t have enough work to keep me above water. I ended up standing over hot vats of acid for $10 or $11/hr. I was willing to do anything it took to stay in my sober house. That was my community. Luckily, by the grace of God, Chris DiNicola called me and offered me a per diem job at the Process Recovery Center. I didn’t hesitate. I’ve been there ever since.
It’s been nothing short of a miracle to watch people grow and succeed. Since I’ve become the house manager at Pine Street, I have no days off but I wouldn’t have it any other way. People come from detox and one of the first faces they see is mine. We get close and they go through the program; I watch the spiritual, physical, and mental growth.
It’s been an incredible ride. My life today is second to none. As cliché as that is, it’s one hundred percent true. You couldn’t pay me to leave my job or the sober house. Some days I want to pull out my hair. Recovery work is not easy, but it’s so rewarding to understand that I was once there and now I can give back. I’ve been inspired by all the people I keep around me on a daily basis, and that’s what keeps me driven and ambitious. Everybody has taught me so much and I could never repay them, but the best part is they don’t ask for it back. They just want me to pass it along. All I can wish is that I use the process that was so freely given to me for the next man.
To the person out there still sick and suffering: You will find your way. It’s your journey. It’s on your terms, but we’ll be ready for you when you get here. That’s all they said to me: “We’ve been waiting for you”. You might not know when that will be. Hopefully you don’t have to go through anything tragic or life threatening to understand that. I pray you don’t have to lose your kids or your parents. Maybe you will just bump into somebody who has been there and done that. And that person – like me – might sit there and have a five minute conversation with you – explain you don’t have to lose anything else. I had six months clean and I wanted to tell everyone how to live and what to do. It doesn’t work that way. I found so much more success in guiding people to the right path and letting them walk it alone than trying to drag them. I heard it once and I’ll never forget it: “If you will walk with me, I will hold your hand. But you’ll drag me to hell faster than I’ll drag you to safety”. I don’t believe I can pull somebody along this path. It’s tough enough by myself. It’s kind of a ‘divided we fall, together we stand’ thing. You have to be in the circle. And it’s up to you to make that decision – to understand it won’t be easy but it will be worth it.
We’ll be here when you’re ready.