Who says that a recovering drug addict can’t run a marathon? Or create a recovery app? Or run for city hall?
Who says that a recovering drug addict can’t run a marathon? Or create a recovery app? Or run for city hall? The only thing that restricts a person in recovery are the restrictions that they put on themselves. If you have the right mindset, then the sky is the limit. It’s all about focusing, admitting you have a problem and overcoming the addiction. People in recovery come from all walks of life and success is not a given, but with hard work and the clarity that comes from living sober, anything within reason is achievable.
Jack Kelly, a Charlestown, Boston native, knows the dark recesses of addiction. He fought them for many years, but now he’s been clean and sober for 11 years, since October 12, 2003, and his life has taken him on a most amazing and intriguing journey. No one would have ever thought that the kid from Charlestown, strung out on OxyContin, would have turned his life around, but Jack didn’t take life for granted and now he has a wonderful life and remarkable story that he’s decided to share with The Fix.
“Recovery is the most amazing state to be in,” Jack tells The Fix. “It has peaks and valleys and life isn’t always easy, but life isn’t easy for anyone.” That is the old-fashioned truth, plainly spoken. Life is full of wrong turns and detours, something an addict knows firsthand. But when an addict gets on the right road and stays balanced, life can be both exciting and enjoyable.
“Recovery has given me many gifts,” Jack says. “I ran the Boston marathon, I worked for former Boston Mayor Tom Menino, and was an elected President Obama delegate to the National Democratic Convention in Denver in 2008. I received a college degree, ran for Boston City Council At Large and received the endorsement of Boston’s biggest paper—The Boston Globe.” Tremendous accomplishments for anyone, but especially for a former addict.
“And more recently, I created a mobile app called iRecover that will connect people in recovery to meetings and others in recovery based off of their location,” Jack says. “But more importantly than the material success has been finding myself and being able to be a good person again. I see life in a much more spiritual light. I try and live today like an asteroid is coming; meaning, enjoy everyday and be good to people.” Simple keys to success and a solution to a life that could have ended in tragedy.
“I never used drugs and only drank beer a few times at or around the age of 15,” Jack tells The Fix. “It wasn’t until I suffered a major injury to my shoulder that required surgery that my drug use began. I was prescribed opiate pain medicine and within several months was using the painkiller OxyContin on a regular basis. From there it progressed to sniffing heroin and then injecting it. By the age of 19, I was a full-blown heroin addict.” The shoulder injury and subsequent addiction derailed a once promising hockey career. Jack was on a downward spiral and dove into drug use headfirst. In sync with his addiction, he didn’t look back.
“At 17, after several months of taking OxyContin ‘recreationally,’ I knew almost immediately that this particular drug was dangerous,” Jack says. “After several months of regular use, I would suffer withdrawal symptoms. I was 17 years old and I knew I was in trouble. I didn’t know the exact extent and still could never envision turning to heroin and being homeless years later, but instinctually, I understood I was in trouble.” Like many addicts, Jack recognized the grip that the disease had on him, but he couldn’t do anything about it.
“On one particular night, my skin was crawling and I couldn’t sit still. My stomach was upset and I was compulsively sweating. I was unaware of what was happening to me. I called an individual who told me I was ‘dope sick.’ I was perplexed. I never viewed myself as a heroin addict, or an addict in any form. But this person made it very clear that I was addicted to OxyContin and if I took more, I would feel better. That night, I sniffed an Oxy and immediately felt better. From that moment forward, I knew internally, I was an addict.” Jack relates to The Fix. He came to the conclusion that many addicts come to, but at that point he wasn’t ready to do anything about it, except take more drugs. In retrospect, he has come to other conclusions.
“I believe I had a predisposition to addiction,” Jack says. “My father is a recovering alcoholic as well as other family members. So when I hurt my shoulder playing hockey and was prescribed a powerful pill such as OxyContin, I was instantly ‘hooked’ before I truly understood what being ‘hooked’ was. Articulating an exact reason ‘why’ I became a heroin addict is complex and varies with each individual. In my case, I believe it was a perfect combination of nature and environment.” And the science backs that assessment up, environment and a genetic predisposition to addiction determines the course of many drug users as they delve into drug abuse.
Addiction leads to rampant drug use where the addict doesn’t have a care in the world about the consequences of his actions. The only thing that matters is getting that next hit. And this singleminded recklessness leads to many problems. Jack had his share of dilemmas created from his addiction to drugs.
“The more pertinent question would be: what problems did they not cause me?” Jack tells The Fix. “I lost a potential hockey scholarship, got arrested several times and have a three-page criminal record. I was kicked out of my parents’ house. I caught hepatitis C as a result of being an IV drug user. I lived on the streets and was officially homeless. Essentially, I lost every material fiber within my life and lost ‘myself’ completely, in every way one can lose themselves.”
In the recovery world, they call it hitting rock bottom. Many addicts like Jack hit rock bottom several times before they decide it’s time to quit drugs, if they even get that far. Some addicts never admit that they’re powerless over the drug, or they just don’t care. But Jack finally got to the point where enough was enough. “I hit ‘rock bottom’ many times. I lost all contact with my family and every possible friend. Heroin took it all away,” Jack tells us. “Rock bottom seemed to keep transpiring. But sleeping outside on a cold night in October in Boston was the last ‘rock bottom’ I have had.” Read more “the fix”…