“I’m in a family of immigrants from Italy. One side was from Italy, my mother’s from Sicily. That caused conflict in my family, a lot of conflict. There was a lot of drinking in my childhood. There was violence and I didn’t know it at the time, but years later, I found out there was sexual abuse. I was raised in Massachusetts in the Boston area. My father went to MIT and became an engineer, did very well as an engineer. I was the youngest of three boys. My dad would beat my brothers. Everyone was drinking.”
I didn’t do any drugs in high school, just drinking. I was opposed to drugs. My dad was very opposed to drugs. I went to California for college and there, I had a hard time socializing. I couldn’t break out. Once I finished school, I started working for a chemical company. One of my friends was a drug dealer. We would hang out and at first he mostly brought marijuana. Then he started bringing pills, LSD, ecstasy. He started bringing cocaine, which I liked right away. Eventually, I used more and more of it and I was off to the races. Something new came out called freebase, which I liked a lot. We were also copping somewhere between 10 and 30 pain pills a day. Before long, I started to run out of money. My life got out of control. Eventually, I went to rehab. I got clean and sober in 1988 in Laguna Beach, California.
After that, I stayed away from illicit drugs. I kept working. After three years, I went back to drinking. I got into technical sales and moved to Pennsylvania. Over time, the drinking got worse and worse. The alcoholic tendencies really came out–it was clear. After a number of years of drinking, I started getting depressed and I didn’t know what was happening. I went to a psychiatrist and told him I was depressed and anxious and he prescribed Xanax. That helped me tremendously. It was no different than the alcohol, really. Now I was addicted to alcohol and Xanax, a combination of sedatives. At that time, I also had an injury, a pinched nerve. So I started combining opioids with Xanax and alcohol. And I was starting to doctor-shop, too.
At that point, I was teaching chemistry at Lincoln University. Eventually, my relationship with my wife got destroyed. She divorced me after twenty years. I got extremely depressed, then. I went through this terrible legal battle, which was very stressful. I went to rehab after rehab after rehab. Near the end of my addiction, I ended up getting into a rehab romance. We got out of rehab together and were sober for a month, then we started drinking and doing cocaine. Our habit got so bad, I was spending $1,000 a day on cocaine. I ended up losing my home, I lost my job, and I spent all my savings. I got stopped a couple of times and got misdemeanors for carrying paraphernalia. Because I didn’t show up for my hearing, I spent a year in county prison in Chester County. That was the best thing that could have happened to me. I started thinking, “How did this happen to me?” I started understanding the disease aspect of addiction. I went into a therapeutic community in the Chester County Prison. The turning point for me was when I met with the director of the prison recovery program asking why he yelled at me all the time and he looked at me and said, “I don’t care how you feel. It doesn’t matter to me how you feel. I’m not yelling at you, I’m yelling at your disease. And if you don’t change, you’re going to die.” And then a tear dropped down from his eye and I realized that he cares and that he’s telling me the truth. And what am I going to do about it? And that was the beginning of the change. My sobriety date is March 8, 2011.