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Former Heroin Addict Turns Life Around

on Thursday, 12 July 2012. Posted in Voices in Recovery, Breaking News, Heroin

heroin addict finds recovery

In Boston, a local recovering heroin addict shows that life can get better through getting clean. Joe Putignano, once a desperate heroin addict, is now a star gymnast in Cirque du Solei’s Totem. Although some days are still a struggle to stay clean, he has come a long way. Homeless as a young man, Putignano roamed the streets and had several close calls with death. He was even declared clinically dead twice.

Putignano remembers when the addiction began, “It started in Boston, I would say the birthplace of my addiction started in the 90’s and the whole rave thing,” he said. But now Putignano is back in his old neighborhood for a different reason, to perform with Cirque du Solei. “It was really almost terrifying to come back here with the show but it sort of comes full circle in a way.”

Growing up, Putignano said there was a great deal of pressure put on him as a gymnast. “Not only do you have to be the best, but you’re judged and everyone can see your score, so it’s almost as if the world can see your imperfections.” With the intense competition and criticism, the pressure became overwhelming. At age 17, he turned to drugs for relief. “For me, my escape from that was substances,” he said. “From age 17-27 I left all athletics.”

Although the pressure from gymnastics had a part in Putignano turning to drugs, ironically getting back into athletics played a part in him turning away from drugs and away from his addiction. Putignano feels that there is a strong connection between the force that drives one to succeed and the force that drives addiction. “It’s an energy you can take to a dark place, or a good place and that’s how I stay sober now,” he said.

Since getting clean, Putignano’s hard work has paid off. He has had to opportunity to perform roles in Broadway, opera shows, and now plays “Crystal Man” in Cirque du Solei’s Totem. The role was actually made custom for Putignano.

“It represents Darwin’s origin of species, when God brought light to man and I represent that kind of change; the evolution in people and within ourselves, and that part of your soul that won’t let you give up even when you want to, wouldn’t allow me.”

Putignano’s story is a great example of what someone can accomplish through recovering from addiction. That same desire once focused on finding and using drugs can be refocused to achieve positive things and to touch other people’s lives.

If you know someone stuggling with heroin addiction, please contact us.

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