In the early goings of my life, things were pretty normal for me. I was a kid who loved sports, excelled at both baseball and academics, and was close with both of my parents. But by the time I was 11, I realized my father was a drug user. I would smell marijuana in the house and he would have episodes of passing out from pain killers and benzodiazepines. This had a big impact on me and led me to think that drug use was normal, so I began smoking marijuana at age 11, causing my grades to plummet, and disrupting my participation in baseball, my passion.

By the time I turned 13, my father introduced me and my friends to heavier drugs. At 14, another life-changing event took place: my mother, who was my rock and the person I could count on, divorced my dad. I thought this would change things for the better, but she followed the same destructive path as my dad. I didn’t know how to deal with the pain and sadness, and used more drugs as the only way to cope.

At 16, at the strong encouragement of my counselor at Outreach’s Bellport program, I entered Outreach House, where I stayed for a little over a year. I was able to address all parts of my life: family, vocational, education, personal coping skills, and overall life lessons. Though my dad was not present for my treatment, I was able to rebuild my relationship with my mother, put our issues aside and move forward, both growing.The jobs and roles assigned to me taught principles of being responsible, caring about my work, and learning to be independent. The counselors, meeting with residents individually and in groups, helped me regain my self-esteem. I entered Outreach a lost boy, and came out as a mature man at age 17, with a clear vision for my life. I never would have thought that was possible.

After graduating, Outreach helped me with my first job, and to enter community college. Since leaving, I have graduated Nassau Community College Summa Cum Laude and am currently a student at Stony Brook, in my senior year, as a pre-medical student, with a 3.97 GPA. I volunteer at Stony Brook University hospital, am a certified EMT, and am an intern at an internal medicine primary care center in East Setauket. I also volunteer in a research lab, studying chemotherapy drugs and post-traumatic stress disorder, and had the opportunity to participate in a global medical brigade with Stony Brook classmates, which traveled to Nicaragua, giving free healthcare to over 1000 people and building sanitary facilities for needy families. I am in the process of applying for medical schools today.

Outreach certainly changed my life. Its mission and organization is fully committed and capable of helping all young people who face the epidemic of drug use, especially today, and in my opinion, there is no better drug treatment facility or program in the entire world than Outreach.