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Addiction Recovery Research Center

Fralin Biomedical Research Institute

2 Riverside Circle

Roanoke, VA  24016

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Phone: 540-315-0205

Email: iqrr@vtc.vt.edu

Media Inquiries:

John Pastor, FBRI Director of Communications

Phone: 540-526-2222

Email: jdpastor@vt.edu

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John's Story 

“It was difficult to measure success in my life at one time. I thought that if I had enough dope to make it for a few days, then that was being successful. Today my success is measured by how well I’m doing inside, how I’ve managed or not, to apply spiritual principles to all my affairs.

I first came into contact with alcohol at age 4, a small half of a shot of wine, like the adults. Sips of my dad’s beer at times. I began smoking, or faking smoking, cigarettes at age 5. I remember getting caught at age 8-9 smoking, got ratted out by the very kids I was smoking with. I was addicted to sugar long before anything else, but it was just a sign of things to come. My first memory of that was standing on a kitchen chair at about 3-4 trying to make toast and put a ton of sugar on it, you know, piled higher and deeper. This was how the rest of my substance use would look like. I started stealing wine from home, cutting it with grape juice to cut the bitter taste, and taking it to school to drink with my buddies. They in turn would do the same. I remember breaking into a home and finding a bottle of Canadian Mist Bourbon, awful tasting stuff, but nonetheless, drank some, finding it really did change how I felt, thought, and acted. It wasn’t really to my liking though, but when I found Marijuana, oh it was much more manageable. Little did I know that I would spend the next 25 years chasing down a high in one form or another.

I chased my high all across the country, even hitch-hiked across America, taking Greyhound, jumping freight trains, and getting random rides from strangers. If I wrote a book about it, it would really read like a Hunter S. Thompson novel met Stephen King I think, both odd and scary. I went through phases in my use, periods where I drank more alcohol, smoked more weed, smoked and snorted more cocaine, took LSD, shot Methamphetamine, and even grew psychedelic mushrooms. I got arrested during the time I was addicted to Methamphetamine. I was praying to God one day that He would get me out the circumstances I was in, knowing I couldn’t get away from the Meth without help. So a buddy and I took off to go to Mexico to live on the beach, eat steak and lobster and live like kings. After all, we had a bag of about 3 pounds of trimmed leaves that we could sell and live on the money we made in Mexico where it was cheap to live (1986). (As you can see, magical thinking was a part of my addiction story). Long story short, we had left where we were, my Honda motorcycle in the back of his truck, headed to San Diego from Northern California. We didn’t have any gas money, so we decided to go to the Calaveras County Frog Jumps and sell some weed because it was before harvest and no one had any weed. I ended up getting arrested by an undercover police officer, while my friend got away by diving through a barbed wire fence and never got caught.

I spent a week in jail and was released on my OR with a promise to return to court in 2 weeks. I promised I would be back, little did I know, it would be 12 years before I returned. I left for Hawaii, where I had lived for a few years just prior to moving back to Northern California. I spent the next few years over there, even got on National Television Good Morning America, as a tour guide. Hard to believe I did that, knowing I had a warrant in California, but when in active addiction, good decision making isn’t usually happening. In Hawaii, I eventually put myself into treatment, spent 90 days in a crisis residential program, got therapy outside the program, was introduced to NA and AA, NA being my program of choice. I stayed clean a couple of months after leaving the program. I didn’t change all the things I needed to change, mostly my playgrounds and playmates. I went back to my tour guide job and eventually went back to using. It took another 8 years of wreckage to finally get back to recovery. I got hooked up with a some Deadheads, did summer tour in 91.92.93, and 94 all in the west, never went back east. Started growing mushrooms, selling weed, all the kinds of things one does to make money to support a large habit of smoking weed and drinking beer daily.

I met some great people, had some great times. I was with a girl for a short time, whom I met up with after coming back from Hawaii in 91, we got together again for a short time in 96, and as a result I have a son, who just recently had to get clean from his opiate addiction. The relationship with his mother didn’t work out for many reasons, mostly because God had other plans for me I guess. I moved from Salt Lake City where I had met his mother, and after Jerry Garcia died, found myself in Northern California again growing Mushrooms, mind you, doing all this while having a warrant for my arrest here in California. Had I been caught doing what I was, I wouldn’t be here writing this story today, I would still be in a penitentiary. God had other plans for me still. I was in a relationship with a woman, whom I thought I loved. I realize now that I had been compromising my values to be with her, as I had to denounce my faith in God to be with her. She proclaimed to be pagan and if I was a Christian, well we couldn’t be together. That relationship ended poorly for me at the time, as my internal resentment at myself for the choices I made, my own insecurities, my addiction, my unresolved problems, all came to a head and our relationship was over.

It was all my fault, I wasn’t capable of controlling my anger and internal turmoil. I thought if I got help for my anger that we would be able to get back together. I went to a therapist, was told they could help, but I needed to address my addiction, they gave me a referral to anger management. Anger management said they could help me, but I would need to address my addiction. Anger management gave me a referral to the county mental health and drug and alcohol program. I went there and they said they could help, but I would need to stop using drugs to be in the program. So I started going, tried to get clean, but started smoking weed again during the program and lied about it. Eventually my lying to them and myself stopped working. I got home from group and started to smoke some weed and began a conversation with myself, realizing I had asked them for help and I wasn’t letting them help me. On my way out of group that day, the counselor had said she didn’t believe I was telling the truth about my clean time and suggested I go to NA meetings. I knew about NA, had the Basic Text in a closet in one of my grow rooms. I went upstairs and got the book and began reading and realized they were talking about me. I got the courage to get the phone book and actually call the NA helpline. I found a meeting close to my house and went that night. I heard the things I needed to hear and began going to meetings every day. In the first 90 days I went to 224 meetings of both NA and AA. Eventually I stopped going to AA and just went to NA, that seems to be where I fit in best and the literature spoke my language, the one my heart identified with.

I walked away from the drug life, gave my partner all my drug business assets and moved into my sponsors house and slept on the living room floor, because another addict was already on the couch. I worked construction during that first year and then went to college. I was a high school drop out, but I took and Ability to Benefit Test and passed with high enough score to benefit from college. I was in an Alcohol and Drug Studies program that would prepare me to become a counselor. I worked part-time through the 2 year course at a men’s residential treatment program until the 4th semester where I now had to do my internship. I began working at the site I was doing my internship and ended up working there 10 years, rising through the ranks and eventually became the program manager. I was a certified counselor and eventually joined the largest counselor certification organization in the state and was elected to the board of directors. I have served on that board, eventually becoming the president of the board. I participated in consolidation of the 2 largest organizations in the state while president.

I have been serving the new organization as treasurer for this last year, and will remain on the board for the next 2 years until I step down to take some time off. I work for the largest healthcare organization in the state of California as a counselor. I love my job and the people I work with. I still am active in my recovery, work with a sponsor, have sponsees, go to meetings etc…. I’m now coming up on 18 years clean and my clean date is 12/5/97. I have been blessed to be where I am at today. I faced Hepatitis C treatment and have been virus free for 12 years. I got married and will celebrate 7 years on October 11th. I now have a relationship of sorts with my 19 year old son, who has been clean for 8 months now. I have a relationship with my parents and siblings. I have so many people in my life who love me and whom I love. Life is incredible. Heck I even went to the White House as a representative of the counselor organization and met with Deputy Director of Demand Reduction Deputy Director David Mineta. So you can tell, my life has taken turns that never would have been possible before recovery. This is a very short version of my recovery story, so much has happened that it is hard to capture in a short story. Suffice it to say, I’m living the fairy tale life that only recovery can bring a person.”