In the years since the dream of PraeSpero Farms began, we have been privileged to cross paths with several wonderful people. Many of them are eager to share their struggles in hopes of inspiring greater passion and understanding for our mission.
Here are some of their stories in their own words.
“This farm isn’t going to save everyone. It’s not going to make everyone get better. What it will do is this: it will give us a chance to change. It will give us a chance to get our pride back and find our self-worth. It will give us a chance to grow into the people we want to be.” – Read Wally’s Story
“I’m 38 years old and I’ve spent more than half of my life in prison, detox, and quick fix programs.” – Read Billy’s Story
“My mother is a long-term addict …I was powerless to help her. I couldn’t fight her demons for her and I let it fuel my anger at the world. – Read John’s Story
“Every time I closed my eyes, I would fall back into a violent dream; and when I opened my eyes, those nightmares became real. I had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and no one to share these horror stories with.” – Read Leonard’s Story
“Now, suddenly, it’s not so hopeless after all.” – Read Mike’s Story
This farm isn’t going to save everyone. It’s not going to make everyone get better. What it will do is this: it will give us a chance to change. It will give us a chance to get our pride back and find our self-worth. It will give us a chance to grow into the people we want to be.
My name is Wally. I’m 35 years old and I’m doing a prison sentence of 2 1/2 to 3 years. I’m also fighting another case that may keep me here the rest of my life.
I started using heroin at the age of 15. My life of crime and drug addiction started soon after. I started off doing little crimes, but like my addiction, they grew. I was very lucky and was able to get away with these crimes for years. I met my daughter’s mother and we fell in love and had a child, but that still wasn’t enough to make me stop. Soon after she was born I was on the run and headed for prison. I’ve done almost 15 years since then and every second of it was because of my addiction. I’ve lost so many friends along the way due to addiction. My daughter’s mother died on December 19th 2012 of a heroin overdose. I got out of prison after doing 6 ½ years on July 26th 2013. I tried so hard to do the right thing, but when doing the right thing gets you nowhere it hurts and we often give up.
I was on the ropes and ready to throw in the towel, but Sarah Froio wouldn’t let me! She made me try and she picked me up when I fell. She knows how it is, not because she’s been through it, but because she cares enough to stand by and help us through it. She believes in people like me. She sees something we don’t see. She wants to save lives, our lives. I believe her farm will save lives. It will give us a place to go and there we can work on becoming the people we want to be. Caring for the animals will give us some kind of responsibility and through the animals we can learn to love something other than our addiction.
Sarah also knows firsthand the loss of addiction. She lost someone very dear to her heart in September 2013. Her name is Colleen. She was a sweet, caring person. She introduced me to Sarah. Colleen too was a heroin addict that died way too young due to addiction and lack of help. She tried time and time again to get the help she needed, but like most of us, she was turned away and placed back on the street. I don’t know if you understand how dark it is for a heroin addict, if you can understand the pain it takes to stick a needle in your arm, if you can understand how alone and helpless we feel, or if you can understand how death can seem like the light at the end of the tunnel. Heroin addicts are people too and for the most part we’re good people. We’re scared, hurt, ashamed—scarred so we turn to what we know, all we know! It’s pretty sad that all we know is sticking needles in our arms because we can’t get help.
This farm isn’t going to save everyone. It’s not going to make everyone get better. What it will do is this: it will give us a chance to change. It will give us a chance to get our pride back and find our self-worth. It will give us a chance to grow into the people we want to be. It will give us a chance to be sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, and brothers and sisters. Everyone deserves a second chance, even a heroin addict. We’re lost and trying to be found. None of us dreamed about being a heroin addict as kids. Today I dream about a place like the farm. Someplace peaceful where we can get the help we need—a place where I can find Wally and be more than a heroin addict. Sarah believes in me and I want to dream with her, pray with her and walk with her!
I’m 38 years old and I’ve spent more than half of my life in prison, detox, and quick fix programs.
Like Pat and Colleen, I too struggled with the ongoing battle of addiction. I started using heroin at a young age and continued to use heroin throughout my adult life. My addiction brought me to many of those quick fix places: hospitals, detoxes, psych wards, and eventually prison. I tried many times to get sober but those quick fix places just place a Band-Aid on a life threatening illness. I understand it’s my choice to stick a needle in my arm and I accept the consequences that come with that. What I can’t accept though is that my drug dealer was often more dependable and understanding than most of the treatment available, like helping me out when I was dope sick.
I’m 38 years old and I’ve spent more than half of my life in prison, detox, and quick fix programs. Again, I made the choice to stick a needle in my arm and to commit the crimes I committed. But maybe I could have committed to something else if I had a place that was committed to helping me. The idea of this farm was built on broken dreams, broken people, and a broken system. I’m sick of being broken and a Band-Aid can’t fix a broken soul; but love can. This farm offers that, along with hope and a sense of self-worth. We can’t do this alone, but you may be surprised by what we can do as a family.
My mother is a long-term addict. . .I was powerless to help her. I couldn’t fight her demons for her and I let it fuel my anger at the world.
I am not an addict. I am, however, a convict. I’ve been around addiction my entire life because my mother is a long-term addict. Early on in my life, she moved from so-called “hard” drugs to prescription medications. In a way, she was blessed to be early enough to avoid cheap heroin and the rise of OxyContin.
That said, medication dominates her life. When I was around 12 years old, she spent entire days in bed and in some cases needed me to administer her pain management drugs like Imitrex. I was powerless to help her. I couldn’t fight her demons for her and I let it fuel my anger at the world.
As I progressed in my criminal life, I met more and more people just like my mom. Unable to fight anything on their own, they turned to the easy way out, chasing the dragon with their addiction fueling their crime.
Choices are things we all make. We are responsible for both their positive and negative consequences. Choices don’t happen in a vacuum. Even as various government people promise all kinds of money and progress, it takes ages for those things to come to fruition. PraeSpero Farms is the fruit of action already taken; commitments already made.
I remember sitting in doctor’s offices as my mom got new medications from a doctor she just met. Referrals to programs are never followed up and all of the state-run programs were overwhelmed. There was no one-on-one treatment. There was no treating of her person.
Knowing that someone, anyone is going to spend personal time engaging treatment plans designed for specific people makes me hopeful. Hopeful that real success is possible. Hopeful that those folks won’t feel powerless and that their families, like me, won’t feel powerless anymore either.
Every time I closed my eyes, I would fall back into a violent dream; and when I opened my eyes, those nightmares became real. I had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and no one to share these horror stories with.
I went to sleep every night hoping and praying that I didn’t wake up in the morning. The sexual, physical, and mental abuse ripped out my insides and turned me into an empty shell. All that remained inside of me were the secrets that tore my family apart. Every time I closed my eyes I would fall back into a violent dream; and when I opened my eyes, those nightmares became real. I had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and no one to share these horror stories with. I could never trust anyone with these secrets so I held on to them. These secrets haunted me for a long time. They talked to me every day. They told me I was worthless; that I was broken. I tried to fix myself a couple times—once with a rope and another time with a couple bottles of pills. I failed and was more broken than ever. Now people knew I was broken. I was placed in several psych wards only to be told I was broken and would always be broken. My whole life I fell through the system, every system. Now I’m part of the system. A broken system can’t fix broken people.
Now, suddenly, it’s not so hopeless after all.
As a drug addict, I know on many different levels the disastrous effects of repetitive cycles. I know the cycle of chasing drugs and money to get drugs. Underlying that cycle is a cycle of harmful behaviors and character defects. Lying beneath all of that tends to be some sort of trauma or many traumas experienced at the emotional, physical, psychological, mental, or spiritual levels.
There is a common term in prisons, jails, and treatment facilities called the “revolving door.” Detox has its own term, “spin dry.” So here we have disastrous repetitive cycles in the very same facilities—in place to treat the symptoms. (What comes first, the chicken or the egg?) Feelings of anger, anxiety, hopelessness, etc. amplify in early recovery. When the treatment facilities are themselves failing, repetitively giving their patients all the intense statistics of how little the chance of success is for one to achieve lengthy sobriety, all feelings and emotions and thinking disorders which lead to relapse only magnify.
I believe treatment for people with addictive tendencies has been such a failure because the manner in which addictive behaviors are viewed (by mainstream) is entirely false. Sometimes the most obvious simple truth gets pushed aside. Simple works best.
I am a human being with a heart and a soul. My problems lie there within me. Everyone I know who was able to address root-cause issues, stay sober, and achieve lasting positive change, did so after feeling an intimate connection at an empathetic level early in their treatment. Feeling cared for in ways they hadn’t experienced in years allowed them to achieve something they had forgotten they were capable of. Now, suddenly, it’s not so hopeless after all. “Something” sank into their essence, shifting their perception to one where anything is possible. This “something” moves mountains.
The bringing about of this “something” into the lives of the suffering is the only common thread I see among people who change themselves. So when this is understood by the treatment community and when a treatment facility as a whole is built around this concept, it will achieve much success.
While it is true the person within the throes of addiction needs to be in a receptive state to receive tenderness, the tenderness must be given to be received. Unfortunately it is true that compassion is almost nonexistent in the majority of society today; let alone in jails and institutions. Ironically the last thing found (usually) in treatment is the very potent source of positive change: love. Could it be that simple? Could it be the very force that warms, nurtures, cares, helps, guides, informs, enlightens, and constantly only achieves success might be what’s been missing? Particularly needed in those who feel cold, forgotten, directionless, hopeless, confused, and trapped in failure? Love, simple, works best!
PraeSpero Farms seems to embody this concept. It has all the tell-tale signs of coming from that “something.” The very idea for this farm was produced by “chance.” A very compassionate woman who worked in an area with a large homeless and addicted community felt a desire to get involved in some of their lives. She would listen to their stories, their struggles, visit them in jails and institutions, and bring them food, blankets, gloves, hats, socks, coffee on cold nights. On many levels, she was providing “something”—warmth, care, help, in a nurturing manner.
That “something” is now the very essence of PraeSpero Farms. The seed of love is in the soil, in the foundation of this farm and it can only grow. When I hear of new trail-blazing innovative approaches to holistically approach addiction symptoms with treatments such as animal therapy, dirt therapy, and meditation exercises, I recognize immediately this “something” will succeed.