While I was in the Florida House something happened.

I’m from New Jersey, born and raised. I was born in Paterson NJ and moved around to Wayne, Bloomingdale, Butler and Kinnelon by the time I started school. I had a hard time behaving in school and a hard time with my family at home so my head was a very busy and scary place to be in from the very start. The intensity of my emotions and amount of time I stayed in my head got more and more until I finally just started acting out more and finding ways to get out of myself and escape. Whether that be from jumping out of trees in 2nd grade for the rush, throwing things at cars in 4th grade to be rebellious, or cutting myself in 6th grade to relieve the pressure inside. I was uncomfortable in my skin for as long as I can remember. I had my first drink in 5th grade and my first suspension from it was in 7th grade. I started going to psych wards (Summit hospital and CCIS at St Clares mostly but Bergan Pines and Franklin 5 briefly as well) around that time for hurting myself and trying to overdose on different kinds of medication. In psychiatric wards I formed an addiction to the different anti psychotics they would give me that would calm my mind down and I would med seek them while I was there and during outpatient treatment and then when I got out I would drink with friends and experiment with weed and pills. This went on until 8th grade where I got placed into an alternative school in Bergen County and found more people like me that would take pills for fun or too escape and got more into benzodiazepines and pain killers.

I eventually landed in chemical dependence outpatient called High Focus in Parsippany at some point due to my addiction but got switched to the psychiatric part for cutting myself. I was however ordered to attend a drug group along with my regular therapy at my school which offered a therapeutic environment. After my best friend killed himself while I was in a psych ward because of another failed overdoes caused by a mix between a failed codependent relationship and some sexual trauma, my parents shipped my off to my first treatment in Illinois to hopefully get me more serious help and to avoid the state stepping in. I got put in a psych ward out there for cutting myself and left after a month or so because I used my uncle dying as an excuse to come home. Once I got home I started drinking worse than ever. I was in constant pain still but now I declared the whole world as my enemy, I was very angry. Thankfully My school somewhat understood this and didn’t kick me out even though they had every right to so they would suspend me instead. Ian passing was a tragedy for everyone at the school who cared about him; I just took it worse than everyone else because he was like a brother to me. I graduated though and took a year off to work then attended County College of Morris in Randolph, New Jersey. I struggled to make it to class often there but I was really interested in going back to school so I went for like 4 or 5 years until eventually I had gotten into shooting heroin and couldn’t even make it to the campus half of the time and if I did I was nodding out in class. Eventually my girlfriend who had introduced me to the rooms of AA when she moved back from Florida had overdosed in my arms and I called the cops but since I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of the needle and heroin they arrested me too. From there I got put on probation through pretrial intervention because it was my first arrest as an adult. After that I tried to stay sober through going to meetings but I always went back to shooting heroin, snorting benzos, and drinking whiskey. Thankfully the amazing women and men I met through north New Jersey AA and even some in NA ended up being there for me every time I honestly wanted help.

And when I finally was ready to surrender and commit to getting physical separation from my adddiction my friends brought me to detox and when I came out my sponsor told me to call Peter Marinelli and go to the Florida House Experience so that’s what I did. That phone call changed my whole life. Soon enough I was on a plane to Florida and had no idea if this was going to be able to help me. While I was in the Florida House something happened. I finally was able to break down some of the walls and delusions of my addiction that had been keeping me from hearing the message and I learned about healthy ways to cope with life besides using self-destructive behaviors. The staff there was challenging but so caring and helped me with my self-hatred and my inability to handle emotions. It was a very amazing experience for me. When I left I was instructed to do things that would help me kick my addiction but somewhere in a matter of 3 months I decided to do things my own way and I relapsed. The staff at the Florida house were the first people to reach out to me and got me off of the streets and back into treatment. The second time in treatment I learned more about what drove me to relapse and again they changed my life. I got out and listened to what they instructed and saw a Florida House therapist and stayed very involved with the alumni program and was able to get a year sober. I knew inside that I wanted to return up north and go home. I made a few visits and spoke with my support network in depth. I made the decision to leave my halfway house and move in with sober friends in Morris Plains, New Jersey and it was one of the hardest decisions I had to make but I knew I had to try it. I was told I would always have a place to return to if I ever felt like New Jersey wasn’t working and not to let my pride get in the way if I knew it wasn’t working. This made sense and made me feel better. After moving back to New Jersey, I stayed in contact with friends and Florida House staff and had to throw myself into New Jersey AA all over again. I had to act like I was fresh out of treatment again and find a sponsor immediately and start working with them. I found a sponsor and started the steps and stayed active in service and therapy. Life has gotten hard up here and there’s a lot less of a comfortable bubble then in Deerfield but I haven’t picked up and have just kept going, addiction free. The north east is a lot more gritty and fast paced but I know it’s where I am supposed to be right now and I am coming up on 2 years sober, I moved to Montclair NJ and am working on getting back into school, and I plan on visiting Florida for my second time since I’ve been gone and celebrating with my Florida House family. Because of the Florida House Experience and New Jersey AA I am still sober and so incredibly grateful for the life I have today, no matter how rough it gets and what mistakes I make I know if I don’t drink or use and I try to do the next right thing I will be ok. Thank you so much to everyone at Florida House, Peter, Marion, Meg, and all my alumni brothers and sisters.

– Alex F