My addiction started a long time ago, back when I started drinking beer at the age of 15, hanging and drinking with the kids in my neighborhood in Providence, Rhode Island. Pretty soon the kids and I started smoking pot on the bus, but it wasn’t until I graduated high school that I found my drug of choice: cocaine. Once cocaine was in the picture, my life spiraled downward from 1979 until September of 1996. At that point, I was just using and begging for food on the streets of downtown Providence. Then I found Phoenix House Exeter Center (which used to be called Marathon House)—I spent nine and a half months there and graduated in 1997.
Before I found Phoenix House, I had been to treatment 33 times, but it just hadn’t stuck. With drug addiction, you never know; relapse isn’t a requirement but it definitely happens. Statistics are not in our favor. But although every individual is different, many of us just grow up and decide to make a change. Me, I surrendered—I acknowledged that I have this disease of addiction, and I decided my life wasn’t going to get any better if I didn’t commit myself to getting help. Treatment was the way to go. My time at Phoenix House was different from all the other times I was in treatment; I really applied myself, and the program taught me a lot. It wasn’t easy, and sure, there were days when I wanted to leave, but I said to myself, “I’ve never completed anything in my life. I’m going to complete this.”
Today, I’m doing pretty damn good. I have wonderful children: my youngest is 11 and the other two are grown. I call my youngest my “higher power” because being responsible for him helps to keep me clean. It’s hard to believe how far I’ve come; I’m not lacking anything and I’ve built a great life for myself. I work in sales— Phoenix House has actually leased vehicles from me! I also worked for a while at Phoenix House Exeter Center, running groups and helping out. It was my way of giving back a little. I tell everybody struggling with addiction that the biggest thing is to “stick and stay” in treatment and recovery. I’ve lost some friends to addiction, so I know it’s a dead-end. You’ve got to break yourself out, because there’s nothing like life in recovery. It’s so much better on this side of the fence—it’s the most amazing and rewarding experience I’ve ever encountered.