There is something to be said for being completely removed from society for a month and a half with no means of communication to the outside world. The only dialogue I had was with people just like me, and they all had their own reasons for being in a treatment center. I think it is fair to say that nobody struggling with addiction or alcoholism grew up hoping their life would turn out that way. After all, this disease does not discriminate by age, race, gender, ethnicity or economic status; it simply destroys all families and homes equally. Who would have thought that my life would have come full circle and I would end up right back where it all began.
Welcome back to Malden Massachusetts!
I don’t think my family ever truly believed that coming back home was going to be the best thing for me, but I think I used their fears against them without even realizing it. No matter where I was, at this point in my life, I was using drugs but at least if I was home my parents could keep an eye on me to make sure I was alive and breathing. The PTSD from my recent overdose and brush with death was still at the forefront of their minds which helped me weasel my way back into their home. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I had the best intentions, but even as pure as my motives were, I was still a drug addict and an alcoholic. If I had learned one thing about this insidious disease at this point it was that its center was in my mind and it would do everything in its power to convince me my life was completely under control. Drugs and alcohol were never my problem; they were my solution to a problem I couldn’t even verbalize to myself.
When I arrived home I felt like a changed man. I was so excited about my future and what I could offer a generation that was in the midst of a drug epidemic. I was working a very simple job and interning at a recording studio. I was going to the gym every day and pouring my heart and soul into my fitness and personal well being. Working out had always been a means of escape for me and my passion for it never dwindled through all of my ups and downs. At the gym I had an outlet to release all of my nervous energy and anxiety and I loved seeing hard work and dedication manifest themselves physically through my body. Even my brother was doing well at this time, and we were rebuilding our relationship that had been damaged by our addictions. We spent hours every day in the gym together and I felt I had finally found the secret to success and happiness.
I was fully aware that I could not use heroin and smoke crack while living a normal life, but I wasn’t convinced that I couldn’t drink and smoke weed like a gentleman. I didn’t think these two things ever completely took over my life and instead I saw them as a way to relax and let loose every once and a while. For about eight months this was the arrangement: work while living at my parents’ house with my brother and my girlfriend Cassandra. Three former heroin addicts were living under the same roof functioning in society like we never thought possible. Why was this so difficult for me before?
Then one night, when no one was around and I was once again stuck between my own ears, my mind, I decided it would be okay to do one single solitary Percocet. The weed and the alcohol were just not cutting it anymore so I figured that might help take the edge off just a little bit. At this point I had not done any opiates in nine months and I refused to believe that taking a Percocet one time would effect my life in a negative way. Within two weeks I was doing heroin and using needles again, and so were my brother and Cassandra. Things got ugly faster than usual, and with three addicts living under one roof I’m not surprised how bad they became. I cant believe what we put my parents through at this point. My mom was recovering from shoulder surgery and learning a new job while trying to save all three of us from slipping back into hell.
All three of us had car accidents that we couldn’t even remember because we were basically sleeping behind the wheel. I still don’t know how we didn’t hurt anyone while in this state and for that I am so grateful that we made it through this time in our lives without doing so. There was one incident when I popped my tire on the highway and just pulled off to the shoulder and fell asleep in my back seat. I was woken up by State Troopers who were wondering why I had been there for so long. I would often go into withdrawals that were so bad at work that I would neglect my duties. I often asked coworkers if I could borrow money to get my next fix and I always seemed to have some excuse for why I was broke three days after I got paid. Cassandra and I became regulars at the emergency room, and as sad as it is to say, the paramedics and the EMTs knew us both by name.
Towards the end of this debacle I walked in on my brother stealing my mother’s jewelry and even in my state of mind I couldn’t let that happen. My brother and I hadn’t been seeing eye to eye for months and there was no loyalty between us. At this point it was every man for himself and we did what we needed to do in order to feed our addiction. So when I saw him with the jewelry I instinctively went for him and we had a fist fight in my parents hallway until my dad came upstairs and broke up it. He kicked both of us out of the house that night and told us we needed to find some type of help. Of course neither of us did, and because it was the dead of winter and we were his only two sons, he let us come back. However, after only a week back at home I stole most of my mom and dad’s Christmas money and voluntarily signed myself into another treatment center. I was on my way to another detox just three days before Christmas – if that is any indication of how bad it truly was. As my mom has often said there are no Christmases, Easters, or holidays when there are drug addicts in the family who are actively using.
I was so sick with addiction at this point that even the treatment center’s walls couldn’t confine me and keep me away from my obsession for drugs. I was so desperate I created a hustle while at the detox: cut hair to come up with a little bit of cash. Then when everyone was asleep I would sneak out of a hidden exit and walk the streets of Dallas looking for drugs. When I felt like I had been gone too long I would chalk that night up as a loss and drink a few beers at a gas station before going back to the treatment center. Eventually my relentless pursuit paid off and I brought heroin back into the treatment center but I was caught and exposed for the sneak and the liar I was in front of all the other residents. I wasn’t getting any better there obviously, and as a matter of fact I was actually getting worse. I couldn’t even stop when I was removed from society with no phone, no connections and in a city 1,800 miles from Boston.
I was discharged from the rehab in Texas and headed once again back home to Massachusetts. I had no idea what I was going to do or where I was going to end up, but I didn’t really care at this point. I felt like I was hopeless, and knew I couldn’t go on like this much longer. It was only a matter of time before an overdose would kill me or I would kill myself. I was in so much mental anguish, that both of these scenarios felt like viable options. I didn’t want to go on living life as a drug addict but I also did not know how to get sober; I was a prisoner stuck somewhere in between what I wanted my life to be and what my life actually was.
I can remember one night sitting in my car with the gas light on just crying my eyes out. It was the winter of 2015 in Boston and if you are from that area you remember how brutal the snowfall was that year. I had no money and no means of supporting myself and Cassandra was sober and living in a halfway house in California. I was about 135 pounds at the time and I had long greasy hair that made me look even more like a drug addict. I was Nick’s rock bottom. At this moment my phone rang and it was a gentleman from Florida who was reaching out to offer me some help. Sobbing, I said yes I need help and I cannot do this on my own.
My parents went against their good judgement and allowed me to use drugs in their house for two days before I flew to Florida. They did this, as hard as it must have been for them, because they were more afraid that I would die of an overdose on the street all alone. All they wanted was for me to get well, and they were so scared I would end up dead before I even made it on the plane. I had reached some low points in my life, but this was the worst of them all. I had no idea the decision to accept help that night while I was sitting in my car crying would have such a positive impact on my life.
Never give up. Never give up. Never give up.
I want to let it be known that writing this article was one of the most difficult things I have done for this blog. I wrote this piece as fast as I could because it felt like and elephant was sitting on my chest while I typed on my MacBook. So if there are grammatical errors, I apologize. I went as far as to share it with my family before publishing it because I wanted to be positive they were okay with some of the more personal details. This is my story and these are the situations that made me into the man I am today. So if you ever feel hopeless, just know I have hope in you. If you ever feel like the world would be a better place without you, just know nothing could be further from the truth. We are all perfectly imperfect in our own way, and every one of us has a beautiful uniqueness about us that can be used to positively impact the world around us. Believe in yourself first, and you will forever be Always Strong.
Clearly no one is perfect, and not all people succeed on the first try. Nick’s story is one of Failure… Set backs… Wrong Turns… Does all this under mind his current success? NO. From the outside looking in this is a hard read. Hard because “we” (sober people) can’t begin to imagine why it’s so difficult to kick the habit and move on. This is “Rock Bottom”…
When I originally asked Nick to write his story for Always Strong Fitness I was hoping not just to help Nick fulfill his love for writing, but reach others suffering from the disease that is addiction.
No one man or woman is perfect, we are all unique and have different experiences with success and failure. Adversity is a common ground in our lives and will always be present, how we adjust is what defines us going forward.
Health and Wellness pertains to Nick as much as it pertains to any of you. It has been his outlet and resource during his battle with addiction.