Recovery Spotlight: Paul F

My name is Paul and I’m a grateful recovering addict who is in long-term recovery. I guess I get the privilege of letting you in on my life.

I was born in Takoma Park Maryland and lived in college park. My parents split when I was 2 so my mom my sister and I moved in with my grandparents. It was a busy house cuz my aunt and uncle lived there as well. They were in their early teens. We were all a pretty tight knit family. We had a big family. My mom had 4 sisters and 1 brother. I am the oldest of 20 something grandkids. My cousins all lived close so they were also my best friends. I can remember getting in trouble at a very early age. I think I was 5 or 6 and I lit the side of my grandparents’ house on fire. Man looking back, it was funny but not so much at the time. I also remember buying and trading bullets at in grade school. I got in deep shit for that cuz the boy I was trading with, his father was a cop. My mom and the man I consider my father met when I was 6. He took me and my sister in like we were his own. We moved to Waldorf when I was in the 3rd grade. I don’t believe I fit in well there. I did make friends but I always had that feeling of inadequacy. I didn’t really remember my biological father but I always felt like I missed him and wondered why he left me and my sister. I carried that anger around for a long time. I remember hating him but at the same time I had two pictures that I kept and looked at wondering what he was like. I know I caused a lot of trouble thru these times. We went thru a lot of babysitters cuz I’d run away and act out to the point where I guess they couldn’t take it. There is a lot of my childhood that I don’t remember so my parents, brothers and sisters filled in some things for me.

Growing up I was really close with my dad (stepfather). We would go fishing camping hunting and he would help when I played sports. When I would get in trouble at a young age I would go to work with him cuz he owned his own construction company. I was 8 years old cleaning up job sites when I was suspended from school. He always joked and said it was so my mother could keep an eye on him. I liked working with my hands and was always pretty mechanically inclined. My dad tough me work ethic and how to do things myself. I learned to work on cars by helping then when I got my own it was just trail and error. I really looked up to him growing up. I wanted to be just like him. I wanted to work hard, have a family and be able to be there for my kids. My dad also was a functioning alcoholic which for some strange reason I was drawn to that as well. I was taught at an early age that there is nothing wrong with partying as long as you take care of your family and bills. I didn’t find out till later that I could not do that. My dad quit drinking when I was about 15.

In 1996, we moved to Jefferson Maryland. I made a lot of friends and also got into a lot of trouble. It was that year that I was smoking pot with friends or sneaking a beer or two. I can honestly say that when I found alcohol I found my comfort zone. I did smoke a lot thru middle school but when I drank it was like I was comfortable. All thru out high school I drank pretty heavy and stayed with pot. I was always in trouble mostly just petty stuff. I did get into a lot of fights and skipped a lot of school. I would always be down at the river fishing, drinking and smoking. I missed out on a lot during high school cuz I was always in trouble I wasn’t allowed on school property after hours so that meant no football games no homecoming dances and no prom. That was ok with me cuz I was always at the after parties. I enlisted in the delayed entry program cuz I wanted to be a marine. That was my dream since I was 3. I ended up telling my parents I couldn’t live by their rules and moved out and in with my girlfriend. During my senior year I got my girlfriend pregnant and caught a possession charge. I was discharged before ever shipping off. Then I found coke and was doing that on the weekends. Eventually, missing so much school and always in trouble caught up with me. I sat down with the principle and he told me I could walk with my classmates and not receive a diploma or I could drop out and come back the following year. I thought no brainer I would just go to work since I had a kid on the way so I did just that. The coke use increased along with the drinking. I did manage to go back and somehow manipulated my way thru high school the following year.

My sons mother and I got an apartment out in Frederick. At 19 or 20 I would work as close to 40 hours as I could but when Friday came, I cashed my check and wouldn’t show back up until Sunday maybe Monday broke as hell. That is when I really started putting drugs in front of everything. My sons mother and I split because I chose the drugs over settling down. Till this day I don’t think she knows that’s the reason I walked away.

At this time that pain inside kept growing and the depression started to be more apparent. This speeded up my addiction. I got a basement apartment worked and partied. I met a girl she and stayed with me for a while. I got busted with some pot and the lady who owned the house seen it in the paper so she kicked me out. I moved in with a group of people who were a few years younger. I sold a lot of drugs so I got to stay there for party favors. I got pretty far out there totaled my truck and hit another bottom. I moved in with my grandfathers for a few months. I ended up getting another basement apartment. After two years of on and off we had my daughter and we moved to Hagerstown. My girl and I sold and used a lot of drugs we got into pain meds pretty bad. Once the oxy 80’s were hard to get, we moved to dope. We were using more than we were selling. She started dancing, I started robbing people. When my daughter was 2 we let her stay with her grandparents. Shortly after, we split. I lost everything so moved in with my aunt in Silver Spring.

I got a good job as a union electrician and continued to drink. I was on probation for charges I racked up in three different counties’. I hooked up with a girl that I’ve known for a while after a month she was pregnant with my third child. I was drunk in a bar in Wheaton and I trashed the place. Catching that charge violated my probation in a couple of counties. I was looking at 15 years. I did 4 months in central booking before I made it to court. I requested an 8505 when I was in Baltimore City so they placed me in a halfway house in Brooklyn Park. I ended up relapsing and went on the run. By leaving the halfway house that I was court ordered to, I caught an escape charge which carried 5 years. I ended up turning myself in Dec 3, 2010 because none of my family wanted me around and my girl’s mom already had the cops there looking for me. I was laying in my cell on Dec 20 when the clergymen came to tell me that I have a beautiful baby girl. I asked how her mother was and he didn’t know. My daughter was 3 months premature and I wasn’t there. I didn’t have many visitors or people to call, so I was stuck there with self.

I went to court in Frederick and while in the bullpen I said a prayer I asked god to be in my favor I understand that I have to pay for what I’ve done and I would be content with whatever the outcome. I ended up catching 18 months. When I got back to the bullpen I thanked god and said I was content with the outcome. Couple months went by I went to court in Baltimore city I said the same prayer while in the bullpen. I asked to judge to run my time concurrent to my 18 months he ended up giving me 1 year consecutive but dropping the escape charge. When I got back to the bullpen I thanked god and told him I was content with the outcome. When the C.O. brought me my paperwork they ended crediting me 9 months on the year so with good time that meant I didn’t have to get back to the city jail. Was it a mistake a coincident? I believe that was god working in my life. I ended up losing custody of my oldest daughter and she moved out of the country which really hurt but I knew that she was in good hands and her grandparents could give her a happy life. A few months went by I went to court in Hagerstown I said my normal prayer. When I got in front of the judge I threw myself to the mercy of the courts and requesting that my time be ran concurrently. The judge looked at me and said Mr. Fello I see hope in you ill grant you 18 months supervised probation upon release Keep praying. I was in aw when I got back to the bullpen I said my prayer thank you Lord I’m content with the outcome and thank you for keeping me in your favor. A lot happened during that run. I went up for parole and was denied because of a lot of tickets. I spent 45 days in the hole for one fight and I got to do a lot of reading. When I got out there was a young kid messing with me so I threw up the blanket over the door and called him into my cell. I told him I’m tired of my date getting pushed back in tired of telling my kids and my parents I’m coming home on this date then it gets pushed back. I let him know I’m no bitch and I’ll throw hand if he wanted to but I really just wanna be left alone, do my time and go home. I asked him if he could respect that he nodded shook my hand and walked out my cell. I was out at wreck one day and I get called to sign some papers and I was told to pack my shit I’m going home. I said what? How? I was told I caught parole. I didn’t ask any questions I grabbed my stuff and started walking down 85. Once again, I was blessed. I was told I couldn’t get parole and there I was walking down the road.

I was really trying to do the right thing this go. I stayed with my parents for a couple months till I got back on my feet. I moved in with the mother of my 3rd child. I worked and started hustling again and her mother caught wind and didn’t agree with what I was up to. So, I once again chose the drugs and easy money over my family and I left. I got a good job a little basement apartment in Frederick. My addiction took me to places I never would of imagined. I was kicking in doors and boosting from stores. Started robbing drug dealers. It was on Christmas break I had the flu so I said this is it and went cold turkey. I was sick as a dog but I did it and I still had my job. I went two years without any illegal substance. I still drank but it didn’t cause problems. I drank while fishing or after work.

I met another girl and I thought this was it in settling down. She ended up pregnant and to save money I moved in with her parents. I loved the big family and how tight knit they were. She had my 4th child and things were going well. I was working had my other kids that live in MD every other weekend and we did a bunch of stuff. I thought I had it figured out. Then one day I had really bad tooth pain and I was offered some perks. I knew and thought “what if this opens Pandora’s box again?” I convinced myself that I was ok to take them so I took 5. It started the ball rolling again before you know it I was getting Vicodin for my back and taken perks on top of it. That just didn’t do it for me so I started shooting the perks and moved to dope fairly quickly. Before I knew it, my boss found out and my girl found out. My boss of 3 years paid for me to go to rehab and I was truly grateful. When it was time to get out I was scared cuz I knew I would no longer be in a safe place. After a month out of rehab I went back to work. I was using here and there and my emotions were all screwed up. My depression became debilitating and anxiety was through the roof. I ended up putting my hands on my foreman and friend and walked off the job. My foreman tried to help me keep my job but I was fired/quit. I ended up moving in with my sister and used probably 6 times and overdosed twice within a month. My sister kicked me out because they had to kick my bed room door in and found me dead. I was brought back with Narcan and some other stuff. My dad came into the hospital and asked me “why are you trying to kill yourself?”  He told me if I didn’t check in and get some help don’t show up on his doorstep. He told me the police kept a record of how many times they show up and administer Narcan. He told me the police said on record I have been brought back and hospitalized 12 times do to overdoses. I was going into full liver and kidney failure and was oxygen deprived. I remember coming to on their stretcher and I couldn’t move and my body felt like jell. That feeling like Novocain or when your leg falls asleep. I was scared I was paralyzed. I was vomiting this black coffee grounds stuff and blood. Because of that one overdose I still twitch in my sleep and my memory was really messed up for a while. I’m still not 100% from that one.

I wish I could say that’s where I got clean. I ended up talking to the ER nurse and we had a long-term relationship when I got out of rehab. But that comes a few weeks after all this. I remember telling them that if they released me I would end up dying just look at my record. At that point I felt this since of relief and like I was finally surrendering. I went to rehab stayed in a sober living worked and dated the nurse. I really gave it an honest effort to stay clean but I just couldn’t follow the suggestions. I lived with the nurse for about a year. I had several relapses and just couldn’t stay clean. She would kick me out I’d live out my car for a couple of days then end up going back to her. My depression got so bad I couldn’t leave the bed I truly wanted to get up and be the man she deserved. I put her before my recovery.  I learned a lot from this relationship. she taught me that love is an action not just a feeling. If I just received love and used it like a feeling I was being selfish, the actions and behaviors behind it is where the love is. Yes, I loved to the best of my ability and the only way I knew how to at the time.

Anyhow…. That was along messy painful breakup. I worked a program moved to Winchester, Virginia and actually accumulated some clean time. I started working but was still struggling with my depression some days I couldn’t get out of bed. I stopped calling the people I needed to call I cut back on my program until I wasn’t working one.

I met another girl; fixed her washer and ended up moving in. Hmmmm, I’m noticing a pattern. Once again, a toxic relationship because I didn’t know how to love and respect myself so how could I love or respect another. I thought it would be ok to be around a person who drank and smoked. I was good unroll she ran out of smoke and I offered to help her with that. Old behaviors popped up and before I could think about it we were on the downward spiral to a place I’ve been so many times. I went to sleep on a Sunday with a job woman and place to live. I wake up she’s gone I’m being escorted out her house and I was sick. I left it all; the car, my job, my tools and whatever else in Virginia and ran back to Maryland. I called my friend Jeremy who has helped me tremendously through the year. He never left like a lot of others. He was just waiting for a call either I would be dead or ask him for help. I was crying, begging for help to get clean. He hooked me up with Sean Nicholson with the Up & Out Foundation. I knew Korey from mutual friends and he was my counselor in a previous place. Sean talked to me a couple times a day until they got me into treatment. Korey and Sean from the Up & Out Foundation gave me a shot. They funded my stay in rehab. They both stayed in contact with me while I was in rehab. Then to top it off, the Up & Out Foundation helped me relocate to a sober house that best fit me for the time then also covered the funding for the move in fee and the first two weeks.

I am truly grateful that I was referred to the Up & Out Foundation they saved my life by believing in me and giving me the boost I need. Sean and Korey have stayed in touch and still help me find resources that will help me in my recovery. Life still isn’t easy today its always gonna be an uphill battle but with people who truly care and are there when I need them for an ear or advice that makes it a little more tolerable. I’m truly blessed to have people in my life today that will walk beside me in this battle.

Thanks to everyone who has road this wave with me. Thanks to the Up & Out for believing in people like me. Thank you to Korey and Sean for always being there for me. And thank you Lord for keeping me in your favor