Barry Pietrantonio, M.A., CMHC
Chief Executive Officer and Founder
After high school, and a failed try at college. I got into the construction field. I thought it was great; it was normal for every carpenter, framer, and worker to drink and drug during the 1980’s . At the time, I could stay up until 3:00 a.m. and sometimes later then go to work by 8:00 a.m. I later found out that I was having experiences with mania. I could go a night during a manic episode. It was almost like doing drugs but not having for pay for them. In my late twenties, I tried to get serious. I controlled my drinking for a few years while getting my Bachelor’s degree in accounting. But as soon as I graduated and got my first job, my alcoholism exploded once again while working in Boston Massachusetts.
In 1994, I then experienced depression after my mother passed at an early age, so I went to counseling. Even though they kept telling me the substances could be causing the depression, I didn’t believe them. They prescribed me Wellbutrin, Paxil, and Buspirone, but I kept drinking and drugging. “The medications aren’t working I said, and I must not be depressed” I thought.
Things started to get a little more intense. I had a herniated disc in my back from doing carpentry and then I had a motorcycle accident which led to another herniated disc in my neck. I played the “oh, the pain, the pain!” card. I started using Percocet’s and Vicodin’s. When I finally had neck and back surgery, it was a free pass to prescription medications. All I had to do was declare I was having pain from the surgery. Doctors were prescribing, and “This is the life,” I thought. Six or seven months after surgery, the doctor started to restrict the opiates and my addiction to alcohol and substances exploded once again.
I got a DUI in Florida while celebrating my father’s 85 birthday. I was fortunated that the case was eradicated after a year and I swore, “I would never do it again” but just over a year later, I got second and six months later another DUI. I finally admitted that I needed help. I came to my “CROSSROADS”. My life was heading in the wrong direction and I needed to get help. My son was upset with me and told me I was a lousy parent. My entire family started to push me away. I thought to myself, “I’ve got to go to the hospital”. For the first time, I was honest and by the third day, my whole life had changed. For the first time, I could see with clarity with my past and had hope for the future. I stayed in the hospital for six days.
In the meantime, I was still working and trying to get everything straightened out. Within three months, I got laid off. That was my first experience with allowing life to happen with out Barry trying to control it and when I prayed things, life seamed managable. I started to work the steps of AA, go to meetings, and talk to my sponsor daily.
One year turned into two, and I decided to go back to school and get my Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I was also accepted into a Psy.d program. Originally, I wanted to go into mental health because I wanted to help others like myself. As I grew into my Master’s program at Rivier, I started to realize that I would be very capable of helping the dually diagnosed population. My clients say: “You have so much insight. How do you know all this?” They think I read it in a book. They don’t realize their life is really my life. The parallels are the same.
It has been a long road. I drank for almost three decades. I started drinking regularly when I was seventeen and I didn’t stop until I was forty-four. I went from being kicked out of my home to repairing my marriage. In the same year my wife and I just celebrated our 29 year anniversary and I received my “Nine Year” Medalion from AA. My son, who wrote me a letter about how horrible I was just nine years ago now tells me he loves me. He’s twenty four years old. He never came to me before - he went right to his mother. Now he says: “Dad, can you help me? I need some advice”. I also have real friends. I used to be isolated and only hang out with other addicts and alcoholics. Today I’m friends with a bunch of people and I feel like I can call any one of them. In the past, I could only call one or two people… and the only reason they would help me is because they were going to get something from me. In recovery, I learned I could count on people because they truly want to help. This is the feeling I enjoyed and I wanted to give back. I did an internship and I really enjoyed it. A lot of them were court ordered but you could see they wanted help. Like me, they just didn’t know how to ask for it.