My addiction began in 1977 at the age of 14 when I went away to boarding school. In 1980 I was expelled from high school 3 days before graduation for violating the school’s alcohol policy (I still have a notice that was posted on the school bulletin board). In 1980, I enrolled at Temple University. Drinking and other substance use increased, and I was expelled from Temple in the spring of 1983 for academic failure (my cumulative GPA was 1.47). I worked in several different jobs in the next few years, including a family business and several restaurants.
My last “drunk” was on March 17, 1986 (St. Patrick’s Day and the day my grandmother died) and my last drink/drug was on April 12, 1986. On Monday April 14th, 1986 at the age of 23, I entered treatment for addiction. I was an inpatient for 56 days at the Strecker Program of the Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia and then for at least one year at Strecker’s outpatient program. My first 12-step meeting (NA) was on April 15, and that is the day I celebrate my anniversary. After living on my own since the age of 14, I moved in with my mother for the first year after leaving the inpatient program. She became very active for a while in Nar-Anon Family Groups.
In the fall of 1986, I went back to school part-time and earned a B.A. in Psychology in 1991 with a 2.70 GPA (3.33 after returning). I had been working as a peer counselor at Temple’s drug and alcohol counseling program and when I graduated they offered me a graduate assistant position. I earned a Master’s degree 14 months later and began working in New Jersey providing substance abuse prevention programs. In 1993 I enrolled in a Doctoral program and in 2001 earned a Ph.D. in Psychoeducational Processes, also from Temple. My dissertation research was on the stress-reducing aspects of 12-step recovery programs. Some highlights of my career have been producing an award-winning video documentary about Navy Ensign John Elliott who was killed by a drunk driver and my involvement in the ongoing effort to protect Atlantic City casino employees from the health effects of second hand smoke.
In February of this year, the NJ Senate President appointed me to serve as a public member on the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.
In 1987, I met Julie, and we were married in 1993. In 1995, our first son, Jake was born and in 1999, our second son, Ben was born. Of all of the things in which I have been involved, raising my two boys has been by far the most enjoyable and rewarding.
I have great relationships with my parents and siblings today. I am able to be a father and husband. I have coached both of my sons’ baseball teams (still at it), sit on the board of my synagogue (where I have also sung in the choir and been a religious school teacher) and I am former president of the local education foundation. I have served as a member of various local, county and state organizations. None of this would have been possible without recovery.
Strecker Program alumni group – I was involved with this group as an active member until the treatment program closed several years ago. I had received treatment there (inpatient in 1986, and outpatient from 1986 through 1987).
NA/AA – I was actively involved with both until around 1988, when I began attending only AA. In AA, I have been a greeter at meetings, made coffee, sold books to other members, was a representative of my home group at the Philadelphia Area Intergroup, and held several positions at home groups (Chair, Treasurer, etc.). I also helped found a new group at St. Joseph's University. After moving to NJ about 13 years ago, I got involved with service by answering the phones at the local Intergroup office, then became an Intergroup representative again. In 2007, I volunteered at my home group to be the Alternate General Service Representative (GSR). About one month later, the GSR resigned and I became the GSR. About two months later I was elected the District Committee Member for the local District (Area 45, District 16).
Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons and Significant Others (JACS) – I was moderately involved during the first ten years of my recovery, attended at least one conference and spoke to a few groups. I also helped to found a new AA meeting at a suburban Philadelphia synagogue. The reason I am not currently involved is that there is no active JACS chapter where I live now. A few years ago I worked with someone to try to start a local chapter and there were a few meetings, but interest was low and the group stopped meeting. I still speak to groups of parents and youth at local synagogues about my personal recovery every few years.
Temple University – for several years I worked at Temple University’s Drug and Alcohol Referral and Education and Peer Assistance Counseling and Training programs, first as an undergraduate and later as a graduate assistant.
Atlantic Prevention Resources (APR) – For the past 13 years I have served as executive director of APR, a substance abuse prevention agency. APR is a member of the New Jersey Prevention Network (NJPN). I also currently serve as President of NJPN, a statewide association of prevention agencies. For many years, APR was the local affiliate of NCADD, and although not a current member, APR’s mission closely resembles that of NCADD. APR was licensed by the State of New Jersey to provide outpatient drug and alcohol treatment in 2008.
Sober Samaritan – The Sober Samaritan (SS), founded by Casey Duffy, the 2008 Recovery Delegate from PA, raises money to fund a full-scholarship treatment slot at Caron, a PA treatment center. I have participated in several events for SS and Caron, and last year personally referred a friend to be the first-ever recipient of the SS funds (he is still clean and sober 14 months later). I recently was honored to be the first person asked to serve on the board of SS. I look forward to taking my seat later this year.