I’ll start my story the summer of 2016. I was ill if I drank, I was ill if I didn’t. I ended going to my GP and said, “Doc, I really can’t stop drinking.” He said hang on, walked out of the room and came back with a script for blood pressure meds. That’s it. Nothing about 12 Step Fellowship, nothing about recovery or peer supports. Looking back now, I’m sure this doctor just wasn’t overly familiar with recovery, or maybe he just wasn’t comfortable having an uncomfortable conversation. But I needed serious help. I was on the verge of losing a lot, barely employable, hardly seeing my beautiful twins, unable to be a father, son, uncle, and brother. This was my new reality. Fast forward six months to the winter of 2016; now my disease of alcoholism has me violently ill. My family asked me to get honest and show them how bad it was, and I did. This was the beginning of my transformational period. In-patient was set up and, within days, my brother-in-law drove me to my intake. I was super grateful for the sesame bagel he got me (still my fav).
So, now what? Well, I started to listen and to learn. I decided if I am going to do this, I have to be teachable and open-minded. I attended in-patient for a month and IOP for many weeks afterwards. I learned about why I drank and the way I drank. I also learned how important a support network is. I learned the opposite of addiction is connection. (Pretty brutal on someone with social anxiety, but you get passed it.) I knew down time was not a very good thing for me, and I was looking to fill my downtime with positive outlets. I found out about PIK through a friend of mine, and I began to volunteer at the Jefferson Recovery pop up. I made a lot of great friends at this pop up. We would grill, have coffee and snacks, and enjoy an All Recovery meeting. It was sweet and very different than my normal 12 step fellowship. But I was left wanting more. So, I inquired about becoming a CPRS. I thought, recovery has given me so much why not work in the field and help others? And that’s what I did! I got trained through the PIK/CARES program. It was tough balancing work and the class, but it was so worth it.
I started my journey working as a Behavioral Health Tech with Garden State Treatment in Sparta, NJ. I then found out a peer position had opened with PIK/CARES, I applied, interviewed, and got the job. I began to realize peer work and community outreach is an incredibly good fit for me. It is rewarding and challenging. Working with CARES, I realized the importance of peer work and carrying a message to the person struggling to find their own transformational period. I continued to evolve in my own recovery and as a peer specialist.
PIK afforded me many opportunities to grow both spiritually and professionally. PIK has an amazing staff, driven by like-minded colleagues. Because of this growth spiritually and professionally, I was able to secure a job with Atlantic Health Systems Morristown Medical Center, and I am proud to say I am the first Peer Recovery Specialist to work in the hospital setting full time. It is so exciting to see the peer movement picking up steam and I am grateful for this opportunity. None of this would have been possible without my sober network, 12 Step Fellowship, SMART Recovery, sponsorship and taking action in my own recovery. It’s amazing what people can do in recovery. I have seen it, and I try to live it every day. Recovery is possible, just keep going!