7 grueling hospital stays and never once did someone talk to me about the real problem. The problem wasn't pancreatitis. The problem was I was an alcoholic.
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WARNING: Trigger Alert & Kleenex may be needed. Give yourself a few mins to read the following.
I'll never forget back in 2016 when I had to go to the Beverly Hospital emergency room 7x, being admitted in 6 of them, totaling over 2 months staying on their 6th floor for this indescribable pain in my mid section of my torso. Turned out I had pancreatitis, not once, not twice, but 7 times! That is absolutely unheard of, especially all in one year, and even more so for a 32 year old who was only 2 years removed from being in the best shape of his life running around the diamond playing minor league ball with a buncha kids fresh out of college.
Some people die from their first bout of pancreatitis, and I truly believe the only reasons I survived was because of all those years focusing on my second passion of working out and playing ball, and more importantly because there was a much bigger plan for me, I just didn't know it at the time. There had to be a LOT more pain for me experience before a miracle could occur.
My 2nd stay for pancreatitis in Beverly hospital was the longest. I spent 17 days with nurses tirelessly changing my fluids and constantly bringing me ice chips, the only “food” allowed when trying to cure this unbelievable pain. I won’t get into the amount of pain killers I consumed there and got prescribed to thereafter. In the second week of this stay a new doctor took a long at my MRIs and sighted something even worse, and he then told me disturbing news;
"I need to call your mother to let her know her
only child is about to die because of his alcoholism."
Not only did I have pancreatitis again, but I had now developed the early stages of Congestive Heart Failure and a form of pneumonia. When I left after those long 17 days I actually stayed sober for maybe 4-5 more days. Unfortunately, the demon still had a stranglehold on me and back to the same exact routine I went.
I became a regular on the 6th floor, which was mostly designated for typically much older people whose bodies were on the verge of giving up from years of them drinking, drugging, and smoking or for some all of the above. During one of my stays at my new second home my Uncle Kelso was in a room at the opposite end of the floor.
Uncle Kelso was not my real uncle, but he was a very close family friend and became one of my best friends during my darkest days. He was an alcoholic too, and a smoker, and we got along great. We really did have a strong bond especially while my father was back in jail for 2 years in 2014-15. Quick side story: My dad was receiving dialysis 3x a week while in jail because he also was an alcoholic, which I’ve written extensively about our relationship. The disease of alcohol took my dad’s life on Christmas morning 2016.
Uncle Kelso was not brought into Beverly Hospital for a short stint to get the necessary fluids and medications into his body, a quick fix and go home. No, he was in there because he was about to die. I walked down and visited him, meeting his amazing mother for the first time. I had spoken with her many times on the phone, loving her strong Irish accent. He could not talk because he was barely alive. Two days later Uncle Kelso was taken home where he could pass away peacefully.
During the 7 different stays on the 6th floor I also remember quite clearly how no one other than the nurses and doctor came into my room during those extended stays. Well, one time I met a social worker in the common room, that is it. No one came to talk to me about the problem that was far BIGGER than the pancreatitis, my alcoholism. I am tearing up as I write this because I did NOT want to drink anymore, I did NOT want another sip of alcohol. But I didn't know how to stop. So, minus the one time, I would leave the hospital and literally head straight to the packie (liquor store here in Mass) to get a sleeve of fireball (10-pack of nips) and a fruit punch 4-Loko. I had NO idea of what else to do.
I learned about Recovery Coaches during one of my mother’s visits while I was still in the Link House, the 6-month program I was blessed to go to after a month in detox. She had brought up the newspaper to show me an article on the front page an about this relatively new thing called a Recovery Coach, and said she'd pay for me to take the course. By this point it was very well-known that I had found my calling of helping inspire and give hope to those who struggle with the very same demons I did; substance abuse and mental health challenges.
I graduated from the Link on Friday February 23rd, a nice ceremony with my mother and father (I was blessed to have 2 dads as my mom met her soul mate 22 years ago) in attendance. I gave the best speech I could muster up to the dozen or so men of the house who sat in front of me, and off to the real world I went. I began my Recovery Coach classes the very next week on Friday March 1st, and for the next 5 weeks I made the trip to North Shore Community College, Lynn campus every Friday. I realized on the 2nd trip that I was taking the EXACT same trip I made 3x a day to meet my dealer less than a year prior. Life is funny sometimes.
Finally, hospitals across Massachusetts were utilizing Recovery Coaches in their ERs to talk with those who have come in from an OD or other drug related illnesses, or maybe pancreatitis like me. After receiving my certification, I applied to a plethora of places, and wonderfully received multiple job offers. That is what Recovery gives you!
Ultimately, I decided on Bay Cove Human Services, a non-profit in inner Boston who was filling up this “Peer Team” for a new state-funded program. I spent an amazing 9 months there, receiving the best education possible on working with individuals who were battling substances and mental health challenges, such as becoming trauma informed and peeling the many layers of an addict all the way down to him or her being a human being like the rest of us. I earned my Certified Peer Specialist title after a grueling 2 weeks of extensive training, 8 hours a day, learning more than any college course ever gave me.
But I wanted more. Although I thoroughly enjoyed working for Bay Cove and supporting the people within the 6 group homes (we had 43 total) I personally worked in, I wanted to get deeper into this epidemic. I was seeing horrific things in the streets of Dorchester, Roxbury, and the infamous Methadone Mile. People were sick and they needed help.
I now have that opportunity to do more. I have accepted a position as a Recovery Coach for Beth Israel Lahey Health, working in the ERs of Gloucester's hospital and, of course, the hospital where I spent nearly 2 months of my life at, wondering why no one was trying to help me with the real problem. I will now be there when individuals are at their most vulnerable moments, where they can speak with someone who knows pretty much exactly what they are going through, someone who has been there, not just some doctor or nurse telling you what you need to do.
Everything seems to come full circle in my life and that is an AMAZING thing. From meeting my soul mate and best friend at a time we both certainly weren’t looking for someone, to driving the same route to get certified as a Recovery Coach so I have the ability to help that sick person who was making that same drive, to now working in the very same hospital that my life should have ended in. I told you, there is a much bigger purpose for me. Sorry for the novel, I clearly needed to let some things out. These tears that are pouring down my cheeks are a reminder of how sick I really was, and how close my mother was to losing her only child.
If you or someone you know not needs help, but more importantly wants it, do NOT hesitate to reach out. I say wants because when we're stuck battling the bottle or drug we already know we need it, we just don't know how to get it.
RIP dad & uncle Kelso, I know you two are getting into shenanigans galore up there. Thanks for looking over me every day!
And thank YOU all for your continued support! Have a great day!
PS: For those of you wondering about Motivational Recovery, things are progressing nicely as we are working on my fall speaking schedule (including jails and prisons) and a partnership with some local police departments (can't say the town yet, sorry). Just gotta keep grindin'!
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