5400 West Atlantic Blvd Margate Fl. 33063
754-205-7428
info@ffrco.org

September 2021

For the month of September 2021, Fellowship RCO would like to recognize Dean Pasquale

Hello,
 
My name is Dean Pasquale and I’m in recovery from alcohol and substance use disorders. My sober/clean date is August 8th, 2018. I will be sharing on what it used to be like, what happened, and what it is like today. Everyone has trials and tribulations throughout their life. I’ve experienced jails, institutions, and yes death two times. 
 
I’m from Pinellas County Florida, and I am 34 years old; the youngest of three children. My father was an alcoholic, and for many years I experienced physical abuse and witnessed severe domestic violence in my household. My mother took us three kids out of the abusive situation and tried her best to provide for us.Unfortunately, with a middle school education and hardly any work experiences my mother too began to smoke crack cocaine. My mother was able to keep custody of myself and my two older sisters for about 2 years until other family members noticed that we were living in deplorable conditions. We had no food in the fridge, eviction notices on our door, and no supervision. One day, the Florida department of children and families came to take us away. 
Ill never forget being in the back of a station wagon, screaming for my family to stay together. One by one, gripping each other’s hands, my sisters were ripped from my hands placed into orphanages. This event caused me serious depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I was fortunate enough to be placed with my aunt. My family said that my sisters were too bad to be in their households. After 2 years apart from my sisters, my father went to Alcoholics Anonymous and was able to regain custody of all of us kids and reunite us.
 
Life went great for the foreseeable future, I excelled in school, participated in extracurricular activities, and had childhood friends. When I was roughly 14 years old, I remember telling my sisters who were dating older boys, that I would tell my dad that they were drinking unless I could have a beer. too. From that first drink, I could remember feeling an escape. The haunting memory of the traumatic events from my past were gone. I felt like I had an improved sense of humor, and the feeling was out of this world. Throughout this year I experienced marijuana for the first time, and of course I loved that too. I always got a kick out of doing something bad, whether it was drugs and alcohol, littering, stealing, or cursing.
 
At one point in my teens, I attempted to reach out to my mother who I had not seen in many years. I had heard that her drug use had led her to prostitution. I tried to call her, and when she answered the phone I told her my name was John, She had no idea it was me on the phone, her own son. I was hurt, and traumatized. I hung up on her after letting her know she was speaking to her son and refused to speak with her for many years after that experience. 
 
I used to play the old pity party and say that I used because of issues in my life, but the truth was I used substances because I liked the effect produced by them. I had many good times in my active addiction, but there were many more bad times than good. Drugs and alcohol did not have an immediate negative effect on me, it was progressive. I graduated high school a year early, enrolled in college, and got a job working as a military defense contractor for Lockheed Martin Corporation. In 2010 I found out that my girlfriend at the time was pregnant with my daughter Lily. I was so excited, I had this great job and means to support my family, and I vowed to never be like my parents.
 
In 2015, the side effects of my disease began to take a toll on how I treated people. One day, I came home from work and my whole 3-bedroom house was empty. My child’s mother took my daughter from me out of fear. I became so depressed that I began having chest pain, and the doctor said I had a broken heart, and prescribed me the lowest dose of Xanax possible. I did not consider myself a heavy drinker at that time, maybe 2 beers after work kind of guy. I began abusing the Xanax and combining them with alcohol. I went from being in a 2-year committed relationship and a father, to being single with no child at home; I began to seek alcohol and drugs to fill the void in my soul like I had done in my early childhood.
My inability to cope with my life and my increasing use of drugs and alcohol put me in situations where I wrecked my brand-new car the day after I got it, panic attacks, psychological institutions, and arrests. Even though I was embarrassed, I didn’t think I had a problem. I thought that each first was a one-time event and I still had control of my drinking and drug use.
 
Two weeks later, I got a new car and I got into a relationship with my high school sweetheart, she was a full-blown alcoholic with 2 DUI’s to prove it. When she would get drunk, she would get angry, and we would fight. When we were sober things were great, we were best friends and would laugh constantly. When we were drunk things would turn for the worst quickly. After a long night of drinking at 3AM and decided to make the 3-mile journey home. I ended up going the opposite direction of my house, and when I realized it, I made a U turn and remember going underneath the US 19 and Park Blvd. overpass. I ended up blacking out behind the wheel of my car with my foot jammed on the accelerator. My car flipped 3 times at 90mph, and witnesses said they were in the fast lane and my car was upside-down speeding past them. The next thing I remember was waking up on the operating table with my hand in a 5-gallon bucket of iodine, and the doctors saying I was going into surgery. When I awoke to each of my sisters cleaning out my dirt filled ears, with my eye swollen shut and hand bandaged, I was told that my hand was degloved, which is where all the skin had been peeled back making my hand look like a baseball glove. The doctors told me that the jaws of life were used to extract me from the car, where I was not breathing and had to be brought back to life. I went through another surgery and physical therapy, where the doctor prescribed me Percocet. In the matter of 1 month, I had totaled 2 cars, got 2 DUI’s, and now I was physically disfigured. Was that enough, nope… 
 
The events of my life started to present a pattern. Domestic violence, arrests, jail, probation, violation of probation and repercussions of my actions leading to more jail time, violations and eventually prison. After my release from prison, my family would not allow me to live with them so I lived at a homeless shelter where I would frequent in between my jail visits. I hated my life and didn’t want to live anymore. I first walked into the rooms of AA to get out of my jail cell in county jail, but at the homeless shelter I went there because I was desperate for change. After loosing my Job at Lockheed Martin for being incarcerated, which really hit my pride and ego, I began a career in Marketing Hurricane windows and doors. I was able to get back on my feet for short periods of time, and then the cycle would start all over. I would get into toxic relationships, continue using drugs and alcohol. One night after being evicted from my apartment, I was staying on a friend’s couch. I would overcompensate and pay this friend $300 a week to sleep on her couch because I was so scared to be homeless again sleeping at bus stops again. While staying with this friend, my alcoholism really took a turn for the worst. I would drink shots first thing in the morning and throughout the whole day. I would get shaky if I did not have alcohol, I thought I had Parkinson’s disease. I would rather buy alcohol than food, and I weighed 167 pounds. One night I decided to reach out to an old jail friend and hang out at his house. That night I begged him to let me try a speed ball. My friend said he left the room for a minute and when he came back my lips were blue, and I was not breathing. He called an ambulance, and I was administered Narcan; the medication used to reverse an opioid overdose and for that I am forever grateful. 
My family found me very ill and put me in a hospital and drug rehab. I was so desperate for help; I was willing to do anything. I surrendered and became willing to change my life. I found a sober living home and a job. I started a 12-step program. I was doing well and started counting sober days as little steps towards my happiness. Until one day, I picked up a drink. That one incident triggered my disease back into motion. I started to obsess and crave alcohol again. A year went by as I struggled to stay sober. I got kicked out of my sober living home and lost my job. I was homeless, again. I was so scared and ashamed that I had let this happen. Immediately, I checked into a hospital and started looking for help. I wanted to get locked away somewhere, away from alcohol so I could search deep inside my soul and find what was making me relapse. I knew that if I went back into the streets, I would not make it back alive.
 
Unfortunately, it was time to leave the hospital and I still didn’t have a residential rehab to go to. There were no beds available. I had to wait for availability, but I had no home to go to. That is when I was referred to the Fellowship Recovery Community Organization. At that time, Fellowship had a location called the Respite. Respite saved my life. They allowed me to stay there and provided me with meals and a clean, safe shelter free of drugs and alcohol, as I waited for a 90-day facility to continue my treatment. When I finished treatment, I immediately reached out to Fellowship again. I needed a safe place to live while I looked for a job and began to rebuild my life as part of my recovery from alcohol. They provided me with a place to live in their women’s recovery housing. I welcomed all the rules they had to keep me safe and help build a strong foundation in my recovery.

I was finally tired of being sick and tired

When I was released from the hospital, my sister took me to her house. I went to take a shower, peeling off the EKG tape, weak, and miserable. In that shower I can only explain this as a God moment, but as the water was hitting my body the sun shinned through the bathroom window stronger than I’ve ever seen the sun before. I felt empowered and a light just clicked in my brain, and I lipped to myself that “I need help”. When I got out of the shower, my sister was waiting on me and I spoke those very words out loud to her. She began crying and said that she thought they were going to have to drag me into treatment.
 
Fortunately, I had insurance through my employer which I had just gotten. My other sister called around to different treatment facilities which were not close to home. I was sent to Banyan Treatment Center in Stuart Florida for alcohol and opioid detox. This detox was the worst experience of my life. I went insane from the post-acute withdrawal symptoms, became suicidal with the absence of drugs and alcohol, and wore a Jason mask for much of my stay there. Not having drugs and alcohol, and not being in control made me angry where I literally and physically saw red when I blinked. I was transferred to Destination Hope Treatment Center where I completed their partial hospitalization program, intensive outpatient program, and outpatient treatment, all in all 258 days in treatment. While at these lower levels of care I relapsed twice on alcohol, and I can say that both relapses taught me a lesson. For once I wanted to be clean and sober, and when I relapsed, I finally felt like I was letting myself down. For once I was not trying to do better for anyone else but myself.

I knew that I had a long road ahead of me. I wanted everything back that I had lost overnight, and that is unfortunately not how life works. After leaving Destination Hope I took the suggestion of not going back home, and back to my old job where drinking and doing drugs was the norm. My therapist said that I needed to change the people, places, and things in my life and that if I didn’t like it in Broward County I could always go back home, but why not give it a shot. I took his suggestion and after hearing a speaker at Destination Hope named Wayne, I decided to go to Fellowship Living Facility. Shortly before leaving treatment, I did pick up a sponsor at an AA meeting. I remember being in those AA meetings gripping the bridge of my nose with my thumb and pointer finger so hard trying to get the message of the meeting. I came to Fellowship and continued working my 12 steps with my sponsor, attended 90 meetings in 90 days, learned the value of service to my community and others, and learned what true friendship and support looked like. I had a house manager named David who was interested in how I was doing during our weekly reviews and would listen to me or just let me cry when things were difficult. I quickly became a part time manager at Fellowship while working a second job marketing hurricane windows and doors in Broward County. I worked as a part time manager mainly doing laundry and bed checks for over a year and was offered a full-time house manager position which I was hesitant to take. I made a choice to be selfless and help others opposed to being greedy and self-absorbed with the thought of fast money and an exit plan.

 

I got engaged with my community, began sponsoring other men who to this day are still clean and sober, and learned valuable life lessons on what it is like to be an outstanding member of a much larger community. I learned to be an example for others, and someone for younger individuals to look up to as a roll model. I experienced a psychic change somewhere along the way, where I realized that going the opposite direction is not an option because I would not change the life I have today for anything in the world. Recovery has not been easy, from dealing with the death of my mother this year due to breast cancer without her being able to ever recover from her addiction was very hard, to seeing countless friends who I have met before and after entering recovery die from opioid overdoses to family members dying from alcoholism, without mentioning the difficulties associated with dealing with all the barriers in recovery associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Today I can have healthy relationships with my friends and family. Today I can be an active member in my community and support others in recovery.

The program of AA told me that I would have a life beyond my wildest dreams and that is so true. Today I am content and happy with the person I am today, with my flaws and all. I have a connection with my higher power that I hold dearly and is personalized to me. I no longer must lie and cheat my way around life to get what I want, being honest in all my affairs is who I am today, and my peers respect my integrity and honesty. I have worked for Fellowship now for almost 3 years, still work marketing the windows on the weakened, and have gotten back everything I lost plus so much more. Over a year ago I began the process through the courts to begin seeing my daughter again after 9 years of being estranged. On my birthday July 27th, 2021, the courts ruled that I have 50/50 custody of my daughter, and our relationship is growing every day. On my birthday the attorney I retained for my child custody case let me know that July 27th, 2017, was his 4-year sober anniversary, which is a true example of how God is working in my life today. I just took my daughter to the Glass Animals Concert in St. Augustine, Florida and that experience was priceless. My daughter and I speak daily on facetime, and the happiness I get from seeing her face light up and call me daddy is priceless. 

I went back to school and last month graduated with an Associates of Arts in Psychology, got my driver’s license back, worked on my credit and not only financed a beautiful 2018 Honda Accord Sport but also financed a car for one of my sisters. Its amazing that my sisters were the ones who helped me get into recovery, and now I can help them. Like many people before me in recovery, I am smart, hardworking, and caring, but have a disease that is both mental and physical. I’m so happy that I have been able to turn over a new leaf and come out of the dark alley that is a part of who I am, but does not define who I am. 

I have been able to vacation with friends and experience sober fun.

Today I maintain my recovery by trusting God, making sure I’m emotionally ok, and helping others. The best part about being clean and sober is that I have regained the trust from my family. Today I have house keys to my families’ homes, my father contacts me all the time, I go on vacations with true friends that want me to do well in life and having the ability to be present and in touch with reality is amazing. I no longer deal with feeling less than, today I have self-worth.
 
People always ask me if I could turn back the hands of time what would I do different? I would choose to be in recovery sooner because throughout this process I have learned so much about myself, and how to be of service to others.
 
Thank you for letting me share.
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