Heroin. At first it was actually pretty fun. Then things started going downhill pretty fast. I lost a business, lost jobs, ran out of money, brushes with the law, losing friends…
I am an avid Crossfiter, but I go back and forth between being obsessed with Jiujitsu\MMA style training to Crossfit style training. From mid-2016 to early 2018 I was pretty obsessive with Jiujitsu and didn’t do much Crossfit, and earned my blue belt in a year and a half.
Once I got my blue belt, I set a new goal of gaining 10 pounds of muscle, which I just completed! I went from about 151 to 160 over the last 11 months or so. My plan is to compete in the Crossfit opens this year and then possibly go back to Jiujitsu with some Crossfit and maybe even get my first MMA fight.
I also own a successful internet marketing agency where I do SEO, consulting and a range of digital marketing services.
On top of that, I started “Project Unbroken” with a good friend of mine who is an ex-heroin addict as well. We started Project Unbroken to help get people out of addiction and steer them towards diet and exercise as a big part of recovery.
The Early Days
Growing up I had a really normal upbringing. I come from a good middle-class family and a lot of my childhood was spent outside. We lived close to an area called White Clay Creek so I was always back in the woods, throwing rocks, knocking down rotten trees, riding bikes and living a great childhood.
I was also very heavily into sports. I started playing baseball at age 4, which I continued playing until I was 18. My high school team even won the state championships in 2001 when I was a junior.
I also dabbled in wrestling for a couple years, soccer for a year, and played other sports recreationally.
I started lifting weights at age 12 and always loved it. By age 17 I was about 135 pounds and was bench pressing about 290. Back then it was all chest and arms…leg day didn’t exist back then!
I drank and smoke weed a little bit in high school, but sports and exercise (lifting weights) really kept me away from harder drugs for the most part.
My parents did a great job at keeping me in line, I knew that I had to play a sport throughout high school or I’d be fighting against the wind with them. To their credit, it worked very well, because baseball was the main thing that kept me out of trouble in high school.
Also to their credit they never did drugs and never drank around me or had alcohol in the house. They really did everything that parents are supposed to do to keep a child away from the types of thing no parents want their kids near…hard drugs.
Everything Changed After High School
When I got out of high school everything changed. The first thing was that I had no sport to “keep me in line”. I also moved to Philadelphia with a couple of friends (one of them being Matt who is my partner on Project Unbroken).
When I was in high school it was easy. Everything was scheduled and regimented. Now all of that was gone and I found myself not totally sure of what I wanted to do with my life, and also with a lot more free time.
I started drinking and smoking marijuana a little more, even though I never really loved doing either of them – it was the type of crowd that I started hanging out with.
My First Experience With Opiates
Then one night one of my friends came to visit us in Philly and he brought something he called an “Oxy”. It was an 80mg Oxycontin. That was the night that started a ripple effect for me.
I’d never done an opiate so had no idea what to do…but he took the lead in scratching the coat off the pill, chopping it in 4 pieces, and crushing it up. He then passed me my 1\4 portion of the pill which I sniffed with a rolled up dollar bill. The next thing I remember is laying on the floor and feeling like I was floating. I was in heaven.
Over the next couple of years I did a fairly good job at controlling my opiate use. At least I thought I was doing a good job.
Much of the first year I stuck to doing them about once a week. Over the next year it gradually turned into more towards twice a week. Also, I started exercising less and less, and eating healthy wasn’t a part of the picture anymore.
When I didn’t have it I wasn’t necessarily withdrawaling, but it got to a point where I wouldn’t feel that great if I didn’t have it. Kind of down and not wanting to be around anyone.
My First Experience With Heroin
Then one night I was out drinking and couldn’t get pills. The person I was with had heroin on her, which I never had any plans of doing. I turned it down, but being a little buzzed from drinking that night I said OK to “just half a bag”. By the way, what’s the big deal about doing half a bag? It’s the same type of drug and this is the only time I’m ever going to do it. This little lie I told myself lead me into a deep heroin addiction over the next few years.
I pretty much immediately started doing heroin every day. It was cheaper and it was stronger. I also completely stopped working out and didn’t watch what I ate a single bit.
At first it was actually pretty fun. I would say that lasted for about 6 months to a year or so. Then things started going downhill pretty fast. I lost a business, lost jobs, ran out of money, brushes with the law, losing friends – more and more started piling up.
It got to a point where I couldn’t take anymore and tried to quit. I failed many times. A constant cycle, a constant battle.
To make a long story short I eventually got on a controversial drug called Methadone. The plan was to just stay on it forever because the word was that it’s impossible to get off. They call it liquid handcuffs. I was OK with that for quite a while.
I stayed clean off all other drugs and earned myself take home bottles after a couple of years. So I only had to go to the Methadone clinic once a week which was nice.
One time I went on a trip to Florida and I brought my Methadone with me. Except when I got there I realized a bottle was missing, and I completely freaked out. It ruined my whole trip.
When I got back I was so thankful to find the missing bottle had fallen between my seats…but this put something in my brain in motion. I knew at this point I couldn’t stay on Methadone. I can’t “need something” to feel normal.
The final straw came when I found out my son was on the way (he’s almost 7 now!). At this point I put a plan to very slowly come off the Methadone. I was on a 105mg, so the plan was to come down 1mg a week for 2 years. And that’s exactly what I did (although the last 10mg’s I did 1mg every 2 weeks).
I remember being scared to death when I got to the end of my dose. Besides, NO ONE gets off Methadone – at least not without severe consequences.
Minor withdrawal didn’t start until I hit about 6mg or so. At that point I started having trouble with sleeping and restless legs mainly, a little bit with anxiety. But it was nowhere near the full-blown withdrawal from heroin addiction or if I had jumped right off Methadone without tapering slowly. I can handle this.
Then I got down to 1mg. I remember thinking…man severe withdrawal hasn’t happened yet, is it going to just kick into high gear when I make the final jump? But it never happened.
I continued to struggle with lack of sleep, restless legs, and a little bit of anxiety – but never anything major.
A Turn Back To Exercising
Around the time I hit about 10mg of Methadone on my taper down, my good friend Matt reached out to me. What I didn’t tell you about Matt is that he was my best friend and the main person I used heroin with. Matt decided to quit before me…since I didn’t want to quit he pretty much cut me off.
We went from being best friends for 10 years to not talking, literally overnight. We had no contact for a good 5-6 years.
So I was very surprised to hear from him when he reached out to me. He had heard that I had turned things around and wanted to catch up. We got together at a local restaurant and caught up. He told me he had opened a Crossfit gym and that I should come in and try it out – he thought that I would love it.
My First Day Back To Exercising
I will never forget the first Crossfit workout I did. At that time Matt was operating what is now Crossfit Wheelhouse out of a mushroom house in Avondale, PA with just a small group of people. We used forklifts to aid with certain equipment, had dirt floors, and went to the bathroom out back in the grass. I hadn’t worked out in well over 5 or 6 years.
That first Crossfit workout I did had 80 pull-ups in it, among other movements (I forget what they were). The reason I remember the pull-ups so well was for a couple of reasons. The first was that I could no longer do a single pull-up. I use to be able to do 30+.
The second was because I couldn’t straighten my arms for 3 days after that workout. And I had to use a band for every single one of them.
Fast Forward A Few Years
I really credit Crossfit for getting me back on track and helping change my life around.
All my feel-good hormones were so messed up from all of the years of drug use that I’m not sure I would have made it through without the aid of exercise and slowly implementing diet back into my life. It taught me to work to feel good, instead of just sniffing a bag of heroin or popping a pill. And this was a huge lesson for me.
If you want something, you have to work for it. There is no easy way. Just hard work.
When I was in the depth of my addiction, and even coming out of it, I had no idea who I was anymore. I completely lost my self-worth, confidence, and identity.
Crossfit was a HUGE factor in getting that all back for me. It was almost like a sport for exercising. It gave me things to work towards. It helped me start setting goals. It really helped me start piecing my life back together. Start piecing myself back together.
Every day for the next few years I went to Crossfit 5 days a week. No matter how much I didn’t want to go, especially in the early days, I went anyways.
Before I started back into exercise I had nothing. I had a job at a casino that I hated. I had no friends. I had no confidence. And I had NO IDEA who I was.
As I exercised and started implementing diet more, I slowly gained my confidence. I slowly started making new friends and surrounding myself with positive people. I slowly started building my own business. And I slowly started finding myself.
Addiction Taught Me A Lot Of Valuable Lessons
One thing is for sure, my addiction taught me a whole ton of valuable lessons. I learned that you have to work for anything that is worth having in life.
I also learned that my addictive personality can be used to my advantage.
Instead of feeling bad for myself, I started using my intense drive for the right reasons.
To build my health. To build my business. To build my relationships.
At this point in my life I had never been more confident in who I am and what I can accomplish. I’ve built a beautiful family. I’ve built a very successful internet business where I have complete control of my schedule and life. And I’ve built myself to look and feel exactly how I want to look and feel – although I just wish I was a little taller 😀
Being that I’ve reached a lot of my goals in health, business and relationships – I was ready to do something else.
That’s where Project Unbroken came in.
Matt and I always got tons of questions and astonishment about our heroin addiction – because no one could ever believe we were heroin addicts. This was because of the way we look today and the success we had.
We got so many questions about it that we decided to start Project Unbroken.
The whole point of it is to share our story about addiction. This is a disease that affects many people and we know that sharing our stories can help a lot of people.
Our hope is that sharing our journey and what worked for us, will help other people find that the same things may work for them as well. And exercise and diet are at the forefront of a lot of our advice!