Meet Craig, Rise Barber Shop:
My mother and father split up when I was four, so my mother was a single mother. She worked three jobs. I was always with my grandmother and she didn’t have much control over me. I took advantage of that. The streets sucked me up. I wanted to be liked, I wanted to be loved, and I wanted to be accepted. To fit in and be involved, the thing to do was get high. From age twelve on, that’s just what happened. By sixteen, I was in my first halfway house. I graduated and continued to get high. Then I went back and did the same program. By that time I was eighteen and in the adult house. My friends were like, “Why?” I couldn’t stop.
I came to Nashua when the Process Recovery Center first opened. Before I came up, I was on a run for years. I remember calling Chris DiNicola. He got me out of Lynn, MA. I was here for six or seven months and relapsed. Looking back at it now, I guess I was “doing my own program,” as they say. I wanted to stay clean but I wasn’t surrounding myself with the right people. I wasn’t giving back what I was given. I was just running my own show. And it happened a few times. The first time I went out, I went to detox, came back, lasted a month, and got high again. Then I went back to detox and got high again. That’s why I decided, “I’m all set. I’m just going to get high”.
I went on another run for two or three years. I had warrants out and I ended up getting picked up. That was a blessing in disguise, honestly, because I was already waving a white flag. I had no ‘out’ – no options – so going to jail was a blessing. I was only out of jail for twelve hours and I overdosed twice. I got picked up within those twelve hours and went back to jail. It was another blessing in disguise. After that, I was done. The day I was released, I got in a huge fight with my ex-girlfriend. I had nothing. I think I had the clothes on my back. I called Chris, crying. He sent an Uber from Nashua. Sitting in his kitchen, I still didn’t have any hope. He was talking about the barber shop: “Six months from now, you’re going to have your own barber shop”. In my head, I thought, “Okay, I can’t even stay clean, and you’re talking about a barber shop”.
The next morning I went into Process and moved into housing. As miserable as I was, I really wanted it. I ended up moving to Rise Above and graduating from Process. At that point, the barber shop was already in motion.
Opening the shop was stressful. Even when we got the place, I thought, “this isn’t going to work”. I called Chris every day: “This isn’t going to happen”. Furniture was coming in slowly, but I wanted it done now. It was taking weeks. Chris said, “relax, breathe, it’s going to happen”. It literally unfolded before my eyes. The amount of support and love from everybody is still overwhelming. We’re about to have the Grand Opening on August 10th and it’s going to be a big thing: Streets shut down, vendors, the whole nine. We’re also making t-shirts. Whoever buys them makes a donation toward a free haircut. Say you buy ten t-shirts: We’re going to give Keystone Hall, Process Recovery Center, Farnum, or Gatehouse ten free haircuts. It will say who bought it, so it will be a personal thing. Our goal is three hundred free haircuts.
To this day, it’s surreal to me. I’m coming up on a year clean. I haven’t had more than six months clean in the past eighteen years. To be able to put other guys on as apprentices who are also in recovery is amazing. Giving back to the community – helping the homeless and people who are coming back into recovery – it’s huge.
This time I really wanted it. I still do. Now the people with whom I surround myself have a significant amount of clean time. Seeing all this stuff makes me want it more and to give back more. Walking in the door, it’s like, “wow, I’ve got a lot to live for!” That’s something I’ve never had in my life. I’ve had my barber’s license for ten years, I’ve worked in shops here and there, mostly cutting hair out of my house. I never thought in my whole lifetime I’d have my own shop – let alone hire people who are in recovery, too.
When it came down to rock bottom, I had to ask for help. I was going to die. Thank God I haven’t died yet. I know it’s tough, but reach out. People I don’t know come in to the shop who are going through it. They know what we’re about. I’ve had people come in numerous times who just needed to talk. Come sit down, come hang out, come talk. You don’t even need to get a haircut. Come have a conversation with us.