True Story: Keith

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

My high school years were pretty much one big party.  I was hanging out with the wrong people.  They were older, around 19 or 20, and I started smoking weed with them.  At 15, I started selling cocaine and pills, and using them once in a while.

Keith sharing his recovery story at our 2012 Fashion Awards Dinner in November.

By 17, all my friends were selling heroin and I was, too.  Then, one day, I decided to try it.  From then on, my addiction went full-blown crazy. My grades started to slip.  I was just too busy getting high. I got arrested for dealing just before I graduated, and by then, my parents knew I had a problem.

I got accepted to John Jay College in New York City. I thought, “If I move, I’ll be OK. Long Island is my problem, not myself.” So, I moved. I was on Suboxone, which is a medication that helps you get off heroin.  That didn’t work out so well.  I started doing a lot of cocaine and drinking in the city. I stopped going to college because all I wanted to do was party.  Finally, I ran out of money and I moved back home with my parents.

Back on Long Island, I got into Hofstra University.  But once again, I was too busy getting high to care about school. I got arrested two more times.  My life was out of control and I was facing a pretty long prison term.  Due to the nature of my charges, I went to drug court.  The judge sent me to a 28-day program in April of 2011.  After I completed that program, I was good for about two weeks. But then I started hanging out with the same people again.  After three months, I failed a drug test and the judge offered me Phoenix House or jail.  I chose Phoenix House.

I got to the Phoenix House Academy of Long Island on August 25, 2011. At first, I really didn’t want to be there.  I knew I had a problem, but I thought, ‘I don’t need rehab. I can just do this on my own.’ So, I’d just sit there, goofing off and not talking.

I really thought that if I stopped using, I’d never be happy again. But after awhile, I started to realize that people can be happy in recovery. I started going to AA meetings and talking to the counselors who were in recovery. And you know what? They loved their lives.

It took about two months before I actually started to change.  From then on, I started doing the right thing.  I became a senior house coordinator and helped out the younger residents. My life pretty much did a complete 180.  I completed residential treatment early and began outpatient treatment.  I went home and enrolled to Suffolk Community College.

I completed outpatient in July 2012.  I got out of drug court around the same time. I still go to Phoenix House for AA meetings. And I talk to the director and two of the counselors at the Academy all the time; they’re a big part of my sobriety. I also go back there to speak to the current residents about my recovery experience.

Today, my life is amazing. I’m 16 months clean. For once, I can relax and be at peace.  My family finally wants me around. We used to argue all the time because I never wanted to do anything they wanted me to do; I can remember the sadness and desperation on my mom’s face when she saw me in jail.  Now, my family members are my best friends.  It’s great having them back in my life.

At first, making new sober friends was hard.  I’d had the same friends since middle school or elementary school.  A lot of them died as a result of drug abuse.  It wasn’t until I went to Phoenix House that I was able to sit down and think, “Wow, you know, it’s not normal for a 19-year-old to go through this.” Some of my childhood friends still aren’t doing the right thing.  But thankfully, I’ve made a lot of new friends in AA. They’re real friends, who aren’t just there for me when I’m high.

I’m also going to school to get my CASAC and I’ve enrolled at Long Island University.  I’m hoping to do something along the lines of social work.  I’d like to help troubled adolescents by working in a rehab or a juvenile correctional facility.

The thing I’d tell another kid in treatment is to give it a shot.  Drugs aren’t the answer to everything.  There are other young people getting clean.  You can recover and have a successful life.  Just try to listen.  It’s not over.  Life does get better—and it’s a whole lot more than what you think.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Phoenix House is here to help.  Email or call our toll free number today: 1 888 671 9392.

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  • Lucy

    Hello Keith thank you for your story, may
    god bless you and keep you on the right path.Heroin is the worst drug ever my only son had been on this drug for so long ,
    My wish is that he gets help before I close my eyes . Any mother who child Is hooked on any drug suffers and her heart bleeds, everyone’s deserves to have a healthy clean life, it does not always go well for some, I have a friend who also had only one son he went to
    Jail due to drug related crime was let out went to a program was told to come back the next day, since no bed was available he died that same day of an overdose that is not what I want for my son, what can I do ??

  • ljohnson

    Hi Lucy, Thank you for reaching out. We are very sorry to hear of your son’s struggles. If you would like to speak to a member of our staff, please visit our homepage at and call the number at the top of your screen. We have also passed your message along to our staff who will get in touch shortly.

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