Forty-one-year-old Stephen Ellis knows the depths of drug addiction and was once imprisoned for six years for his role in a desperate armed robbery. According to HeraldNews.com, this Fall River native now understands why his loved ones gave up on him when his life was ruled by drugs. Stephen is now a manager at Zero Tolerance Recovery House, where he reaches out to tell his story. He hopes to warn people of the hard road he knows, as well as inform them how he maintained his sobriety.
"My life sucked, going in and out of jail," Stephen said. In addition to the robbery charges, he has been arrested for possession of heroin with intent to distribute. "You lose family. You lose relationships. You lose jobs. And you lose people's trust."
Now Stephen hopes to show others that recovery is possible, even for those that are, like he once was, in the worst part of addiction. He said, "Sometimes when everyone shuns you away-don't get me wrong, sometimes you need that-but I want people to know there is some hope."
Stephen has been clean and sober for 15 months. He said, "I want to get more people aware of this. I want to let them know about where I was, and where I'm at today. I still have problems today. I just learn how to deal with them without drink or drug."
In 2010, Stephen was one of nearly 30,000 men and women admitted to substance abuse treatment in Massachusetts. According to statistics from US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), heroin was the most frequent addiction that was treated in Massachusetts that year. Addiction to other opiates is the second most common in the state, with nearly 5,000 being admitted to treatment in 2010. There are many more addicts out there that do not seek treatment.
One of the turning points for Stephen Ellis was when his wife died of a heroin overdose in November of 2010. He recalls, "I cut her out of my life, and I got a call that she died of an overdose." He was trying to get clean at the time, and he relapsed. Today this memory reminds Stephen why he needs to stay clean.
Stephen started smoking marijuana at 13, and began to experiment with other drugs. He started using heroin at 21. After he started using, Stephen was in and out of jail on drug-related charges. He said, "Back then I thought going to jail was cool, because everyone I grew up with got high and went to jail." In 2000, he provided the getaway car for a masked-knife robbery of a convenient store, which landed him in prison for 6 years.
After being released, Stephen began working as a roofer. He fell off a roof, and was given Percocet 30s, an oxycodone-based opiate, for pain. Immediately, he began abusing them. His addiction began to rise again, and it wasn't until early 2011 that he put the drugs aside. He began to focus on his recovery, with a combination of methadone treatment and becoming active in a 12-step program.
Stephen hopes to share his story with those struggling with addiction. He said, "To be sober, you have to change everything about you. I still have the same personality I've always had, although I laugh more than I ever did when I was high. But I practice the steps and live my life. But under any circumstances, I don't pick up. I'm determined and motivated."
Stephen concluded by saying, "My goal is to tell people that, to warn students and parents, so they can identify what their kids are going through. I don't want parents to think their kids are failures. Most kids are doing it recreationally. But what these kids don't realize, it turns into addiction, and it's like a disease. Then soon enough, your life is a mess."