Today July 4th, 2022 I get the chance to celebrate 7 years clean & sober. Honestly I don’t know where to start. Every year I usually make a video to put out on social media but this year is a little different. I tried but I can’t get through the video without crying so I decided to write instead.
I want to take you back to July 3rd 2015. My Mother booked me a One-Way plane ticket to Scottsdale, Arizona. I remember being in Newark Airport and hugging her… (I’m already starting to cry) I’ll never forget what she told me. “Give yourself a chance this time pal”. I didn’t know it at the time but those words would go a long way. I was on my way to my 14th impatient facility. We hugged and I boarded my plane to Scottsdale. Deep down something told me it would be the last time I see her for a long time. I sat on that plane for 5 hours next to this older gentleman and while I don’t remember much of the flight I remember him asking me “what’s bringing you to Arizona?"
I responded “business”. Our conversation pretty much ended there. I’m sure he knew I wasn’t going there for business. I was too embarrassed to tell him the real reason.
I landed late in Phoenix Sky Harbor airport around 8:30 pm. I didn’t have to get any checked luggage because I pretty much sold all my clothes to thrift stores while I was in active addiction. There was a guy standing there as I get off the plane with a sign that read “Gerard”. I remember the look in his eyes. It was a look my family often gave me. The you’re about to die look. I was 120 pounds (yea I gained 80 pounds since I got sober so WHAT! ) with yellow skin and my eyes were sunken in with bags under them.
We hopped in the car drove about 30 minutes to Scottsdale. While we were in the car I was looking out the window and it was gorgeous. Palm trees, mountains, cacti and not a single piece of trash on the roads. It was so clean and for the first time even though I was scared it was refreshing to see.
We get to the house where I’ll be living with 8 other guys and they all looked so happy to meet me. So kind and generous. They asked me if I was hungry or needed clothes, I responded “both”. Charlie cooked me a burger. It was the best burger I ever had. Probably because my stomach was so empty from not eating the last 2 days. Charlie is one of the best dudes I ever met. We became roommates right away. He made me feel so comfortable. We shared so many laughs during my stay in rehab.
The next day is July 4th, 2015. I didn’t know It at the time but that date would go on to mean so much to me. That date is tattooed on my right wrist with the words “Hold On” underneath it. It’s a holiday so there isn’t any meetings going on and I didn’t get the chance to meet my counselor “Joe Ross”. That weekend I remember hearing all the stories - hopefully you don’t get Joe Ross he is a mean motherfucker. He is going to scream at you and make you feel like a piece of shit. At the time I was hoping I didn’t get assigned Joe Ross as my counselor. Fast forward to that Monday we head into group where I will be assigned my counselor. I was smoking a cigarette that I bummed off Charlie when this intimidating guy approaches me with a suit on dressed to impress. I reach my hand out and he says “who the fuck are you” with my hand still reaching out I say “Gerard”. “Put your motherfucking hand down , I’m not shaking your hand. Where are you from and what’s your Drug of Choice” he asked. I responded “New Jersey & Crack Cocaine”. He laughed “perfect you’re in my room - 'THE LIONS DEN”. I was shook. All the guys over the past weekend said I didn’t want him as a counselor and just my luck I got him. Looking back It was the best thing that could’ve ever happened to me.
I entered the “Lions Den” scared I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was this man is going to scream and yell at me. He definitely did that for about 80 days straight. He broke me. I cried in the lions den for 80 days straight (No Joke). He made me realize the big picture. I wasn’t just hurting myself- My family was suffering with me. As I look back my family had too many sleepless nights. They were filled with heartache and worry for way too many years. I didn’t have enough in me at the time to get sober for myself. Instead I made this about other people. I didn’t want to see them suffer any longer. There was a specific moment that I’ll never forget during my stay. I asked him “when does it stop?". I was tired of going away. I was tired of getting arrested. I was tired of running and disappearing for days at a time. I was tired of using crack cocaine and heroin. I hated who I was becoming. I’ll never forget what he said. He looked at me in my eyes and he started to cry .
“It’ll never stop , until you stop”
That was it for me. Obviously a lot of work still needed to be done. But I stopped and once I stopped everything else stopped. It was recommend that I enter sober living, I really thought I was going home but Joe Ross had other plans. He said you're going to live at this sober living, get a job, and go to AA meetings everyday for a year and stay sober. If you don’t like your life in a year come back and I’ll give you $1,000 and you can go get high again. I did what he said. I got a job at the local supermarket bagging groceries for minimum wage but I was happy.
I did that for about 3 months until one day I decided to make a fake resume on indeed.com (No free ads). I lied and said I was an electrician and applied to this solar company. Long story short I got the interview and I walked into the interview gave him my license. He asked what I was doing here from New Jersey. I told him the truth, I was sober for around 6 months living in sober living and I wanted to find a better job. I told him I was willing to work for minimum wage and be one of your his hardest workers. He sat back in his chair and started to tear up. At that point I didn’t know what I said that made him have that reaction. With tears in his eyes he said “kid I just celebrated 25 years sober a few weeks ago. The job is yours”. I was shocked. I was just in the right place at the right time. God works in mysterious ways.
After a few months I saved up enough money to get my own place with Charlie. We were in the same sober living together as well. Man was it a blast. We cooked together, we went out hiking together, we went to meetings together. We did everything together. Still to this day he is a great friend. I learned a lot while getting sober. I learned how to cook, how to save money and even how to do laundry. I never did my own laundry before. It’s the little things I was beginning to learn that I really started to enjoy.
I hit a year sober, called Joe, and told him I’ll pass on the $1,000 offer. He laughed. I didn’t have a life beyond my wildest dreams yet but I had purpose for once. I felt human again. Me and my family started to communicate more and more. I was in the picture again. We would talk everyday and I don’t know how to put it into words but after every phone call I realized how happy they were. They got Gerard back.
After a few years I moved back to New Jersey. They trusted me again. I landed a great job for one of the biggest utility companies in the country. I busted my ass at that job. It was grueling work but I enjoyed it. I made a lot of friends there really fast. They thought I was hilarious. That’s when I started to make funny videos and started to get some recognition on social media. I didn’t understand it at the time but social media is so powerful.
10 months ago I decided to leave that job. It was a really tough decision. After working there for 4 years I made so many friends and honestly I loved the hard work. A lot of my coworkers really talked me into taking the Barstool gig. Especially the old timers. Listen it is a great job but at the end of the day really demanding . You work so much you really don’t have time for anyone else. I had a son on the way and a lot played into my decision to come to Barstool. So far I’m loving it. I feel like I fit in really well here. I hope the higher ups here could say the same. I think I made the right decision.
While working here, I started a podcast called “Friend of Jerry”. I decided the show I wanted to do would be based on addiction/sobriety. The reason I started this show is to bring awareness to the disease of addiction. This is my passion. There have been so many people who have helped me along my journey too many to name. In the big book it says “helping others is the foundation stone of recovery”. I try to do that with my podcast. At the end of the day all the hours and episodes that go by I realize more and more this is what I was set out to do. If I could help just one person I did my job. If I could save one persons life then I accomplished my mission.
If you are struggling don’t hesitate to reach out. It doesn’t have to be me it could be anyone. There is so much help out there and people don’t realize it because it isn’t talked about enough. We’ll now it’s my job to spread that awareness, normalize us addicts, and give us a voice.
Today I have a life beyond my wildest dreams. You know why? Because someone told me “give yourself a chance this time pal” .
I gave myself a serious chance this time around. I listened to suggestions. I took advice from people who had more time in sobriety then me. Most importantly I called people when I was struggling. We all have bad days in sobriety but I make it my business to not pick up “NO MATTER WHAT”. That’s the club I’m in today. The “NO MATTER WHAT” club.
I dedicate this 7 year anniversary to my Son. You give me even more reason to stay sober today. Daddy loves you more than you know. This year is for you son.
“One day at a time”
July 4th 2015 “We do Recover”