Rock Bottom (#6)

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.

Boston Always Strong 7

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.

Always Strong 7

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.

Always Strong 7a

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.

Growing Pains (#4)

Right up until this exact moment in my life, there was always a blueprint for what path I should follow. First it was to get situated in high school and figure out where I fit in and what my strengths were. Then it was to get into a decent college and obtain a degree in some discipline that would become my career. It wasn’t that I was forced into it, but since my parents were the first to go to college in their families it seemed like the logical track to follow. At this point I was finished with both of those things, but I still had no idea what I wanted for my future and where I ultimately wanted to end up. A lot of my friends went to school for very specific careers and the fact that they seemed to have it all figured out made it even harder for me to admit I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. I moved back in with my parents and continued to work at the job I had when I was still attending college. I told myself I was just biding my time until I could figure out what my next move would be. But I was not excited about my future; instead, I was fearful and apprehensive about letting myself and those around me down again.


 Within two weeks of moving home I was physically and mentally addicted to heroin again. I had no idea what the future held for me, and I was so terrified about having to make my own decisions that I just didn’t make any. I stayed working at my old job for that entire summer and couldn’t understand why people weren’t knocking on my parents’ door seeking to hire me. After all, I thought I had a very employable skill set and a likable personality. Maybe it was because of my drug addiction and my lack luster approach at taking responsibility for my own life. However, I was surviving. I had managed to save money while in college and I was still prescribed my medications, so the heroin withdrawals were not really too much of an issue at this point. Once that first summer home was over, I reached out to a friend of mine who was working in the fitness industry and I landed a position as an assistant manager for a personal training company.


At this point I was still very much in love with the gym atmosphere and not only did I fit the part, but I looked it. My hard work and dedication in the gym during my four years at college seemed to have more of a positive impact on my job opportunities than my degrees did. I was still going to the gym daily and I had these pipe dreams about competing in fitness shows. I knew I would have to stop doing drugs if I ever wanted to do that, but I knew that would be sometime down the line. I felt as if I still needed the drugs to function in society at this point. My anxiety and fear were at an all time high and the heroin became a crutch for me until I gained some confidence and self esteem. I was very nervous about assuming my new position in the personal training industry, but I became so accustomed to acting as if I had everything figured out that I just put on a facade and kept it moving. The drugs helped this immensely and I just kept telling myself that they were benefitting me for the time being.

 Once I got to understand what was expected of me in this new job, I was actually pretty good at it. It was a sales job with training and some customer service mixed in. Not only did I understand fitness and the training industry through years of trial and error on myself, but I also loved and had a true passion for it. I was excited to talk to people about their training regiments and their diet, so the idea of doing this while getting paid for it was very appealing to me. The only problem at this point was that the money I had saved was running out and my addiction was only getting worse.

College Hair

 I was quickly promoted to full time manager because of my work ethic and sales ability. The president of the company went so far as to call me and congratulate me for helping to turn my location around and make it more profitable. I wasn’t really forcing anything or pretending to be something I wasn’t, I was just doing a job I had a passion for. Not only was I able to focus on my own fitness goals, but I was able to help other people obtain theirs. I had a zeal for what I was doing because it felt like I was helping other people with their fitness goals while making great money doing so. This seemed to be the best of both worlds,  but as my money and responsibility increased, so did my habit. I had to use more and more heroin just to keep from getting sick, and the only way I had energy to work was if I had drugs in my system. It was a conundrum of sorts. I had to keep doing heroin to continue working, and I had to continue working so I could afford to keep doing heroin. I was really stuck between a rock and a hard place.

 Things continued like this for the better part of a year until I was eventually found nodded out at my desk. The medications I was receiving through college were no longer being prescribed and the physical addiction was only getting worse. My work had been slipping for the past six months and I was no longer looked at as a promising young manager in the company. I was looked at as a liability and an unreliable employee. I was once again at the point in my life where I just wanted to pull the mask off and ask for help, but I still believed I could fix this problem myself. I willingly resigned from my position and knew that I had let a promising opportunity slip out of my grasp. I didn’t know what my next move would be; so once again I just didn’t make one.

After college

 I had a little bit of money in the bank because my only expense while working the past year was heroin. I was living at my parents house and working so much that my social life was nonexistent. For a few months after leaving that job I did nothing but lie around the house and do drugs. I either watched Sports Center while struggling to stay awake or I smoked cigarettes on the porch while waiting for my drug dealer to pull up. I was extremely depressed and resigned myself to the fact that this was going to be my life. I would always be just another drug addict from Malden Massachusetts – no matter how hard I tried to change that.

In fact, I was no longer going to the gym at all and my eating habits were terrible. Carbohydrates and sugar were the only two parts of my diet and I was ingesting them in large quantities at the worst times possible. I had gained a lot of unhealthy weight during this part of my life and was close to 215 pounds. I had gone from the young and undersized wrestler to an overweight drug addict with no prospects and no plan. Even with all this going on, my ego and my misguided sense of pride told me I wasn’t a real drug addict because of my college education and my ability to earn a living for myself. Both of these were lies I told myself in order to keep on living the only life I felt I was good at.

Freshman year

 My brother was back in another drug treatment program and I figured it was time for me to do the same. I knew that I couldn’t get out of this cycle on my own, so once again I asked my parents for help. My parents were fed up with my shenanigans, but they still did everything they could to find some type of help for me. I did not really want to stop doing drugs, I just knew that I was out of money and my habit was impossible to afford. I didn’t want to have to keep breaking laws to get money so I figured it was time to go away. As soon as my brother returned home from his 30 day program I was shipped out to the same location. I don’t think my family or the facility wanted us under the same roof because whenever we were together it was a recipe for disaster. I can remember flying to Texas and being so full of fear and regret. I was a jobless 23 year old with no money, no girlfriend, no permanent residence and no hope. I guess the only place to go from here was up.

 Upon arrival the nursing staff took my vital signs and weighed me. I was 215 pounds and my blood pressure was so high that they rushed a doctor in to do an EKG. It took two weeks of terrible withdrawals for my mind to start functioning somewhat regularly and I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit to being suicidal.  I was a prisoner to drugs and my life felt like self inflicted torture. I was physically free to act how I wanted, but I was held captive in my own mind. But I had the humility to do what I was told and listen to the people around me who had my best interests in mind.


I spent the next 45 days in that treatment center in Texas surrounded by people who were just like me. We all had different substances that we were addicted to, but the feelings and emotions were always the same. It was like an intensive crash course in addiction for all the troubled students they could fit under one roof. By the time I completed my program and was ready to return home to Boston my parents told me I wasn’t welcome at their home and needed to go to a halfway house. It was November at this point and I figured I might as well escape the cold, so I found a halfway house in Florida. I had all my belongings in a suitcase and I was traveling to a foreign state with no friends or family within 1,000 miles of me.


How did my life get to this point? How could I have had so many promising things going on in my life but time after time I chose drugs over my future? What am I going to do now? How will I earn a living? The questions poured into my brain relentlessly and I couldn’t even imagine what this new chapter in my life was going to be like. I had no references to base it on but movies and A&E documentaries, so I assumed the worst. I guess it was time for me to grow up and take responsibility for my actions, and that is exactly what I set out to do. This was my opportunity to make it on my own and finally be the true author of my own story.

I continued to think about a quote that my wrestling coaches embedded in my brain some ten years earlier. Albert E. Gray said, “The successful person has the habit of doing the things failures don’t like to do. They don’t like doing them either necessarily. But their disliking is subordinated to the strength of their purpose.” It was time to pull myself up by my boot straps and afford myself the opportunity to grow. I knew what it took for my body to grow physically in the gym, but the growth I needed was more emotional, mental and spiritual. After all, I was a 23 year old with a chip on my shoulder, anger in my heart and pain in my eyes.