First I would like to thank SAMHSA for inviting me here today and for granting me the opportunity to share with you all a little bit about my experience…
My name is Daniel LaPointe and I am a person in long term recovery from a substance use disorder; what that means to me is I haven’t used alcohol or any other drugs since April 26th of 2012.
To better illustrate the progress which I have made thus far in my recovery, I find it appropriate to provide some background on myself and to touch upon my experiences with addiction. I am 28 years old, born and raised in Central New Jersey. I was born the youngest into a family of seven children to two loving parents, Patricia and Gerard LaPointe, who just celebrated 47 years of marriage last month. To say the least, my childhood was less then horrific. My family and I enjoyed a middle-class suburban existence. Education, family, and faith were stressed as the focal point in the household. Discipline was present yet within reason; expectations for educational excellence were understood. I excelled academically and partook in several extra-curricular activities. My emotional development, however, was severally thwarted. I suffered from an extremely poor body image, as I was classified as overweight, and my self-esteem and self-worth were non-existent. I remember wanting, more than anything, to be “part-of”. These feelings of insecurity and depression made me vulnerable. Ultimately, I wanted nothing more than to be out of myself. In May of 1997, at the age of 12, I won the D.A.R.E essay contest hosted by my local municipality. The topic of the essay was “Why I Wont Try Drugs”. In June of 1997, one month later, I started smoking marijuana.
The next thirteen years of my life I struggled in the grasp of addiction, characterized by an increasingly typical progression from prescription opiate usage to an intravenously delivered heroin dependency. I believe that many Americans still think of such usage as strictly an urban problem, but that is not the case. I was raised in a loving middle-class suburban environment and, despite my malady, I became a student athlete able to graduate from a Parochial High School with a 4.4gpa and to earn a full academic scholarship to one of the top-ten business schools in the nation. The destruction that results from substance use disorder can affect anyone…me…your children…your loved ones. My addiction brought me to institutions, to run-ins with the law, and to near-death experiences. Needless to say, I am fortunate to be here standing before you all today.
On April 25th, 2012, in a moment of despair I made a decision to change my life. I checked myself into a detox facility in New Jersey on April 26th. After an 8 day detox I flew down to a rehab facility in West Palm Beach Florida where I stayed for 28 days; following was a transitional housing program and then a sober living environment. Even after damaging so many relationships within the family dynamic, I was afforded numerous opportunities by those very same people in my life to get much needed acute care. I feel fortunate for such an opportunity, as I realize many, if not most individuals seeking recovery have such assistance and family support financially. Consequently, I am passionate to advocate for those young people in America in or seeking recovery that are not, or will not be as fortunate in years to come.
While I am a member of a peer-to-peer support fellowship, six months into recovery, I also became involved with a national non-profit advocacy organization called Young People in Recovery, or YPR. At YPR, we aim to move stigma from addiction, while removing barriers to young people either in or seeking recovery. Currently, I am not only a member of the Young People in Recovery NJ Chapter, but I also serve on YPR’s National Leadership Council.
What we have learned over time is that those individuals in or seeking recovery face barriers to: access to multi-level treatment, housing, employment, and education. A number of young people currently in recovery across the nation have become stagnant. Let me slow it down for a second, to clarify, this is not unique to individuals in recovery from substance use disorders, but additionally includes those in or seeking recovery from other mental illnesses. How we work to actuate change is through advocacy and grass-roots organizing to, ultimately, influence public policy. In doing so, we hope to make America “Recovery-Ready”.
Today, in recovery, I have worked to restore the relationship I have destroyed. I am a son to my parents, I am a brother to my siblings, and I am an uncle to my seventeen nieces and nephews. Today I am accountable. In recovery, I have been able to acquire a New Jersey Contractors License, and to form an LLC as a sole proprietor. Today I am a successful small business owner of a growing company. I am a productive member of society, and today I am a citizen of the United States of America.