Stories of addiction and recovery shared at Northampton Recovery Center 

  • The Northampton Recovery Center  GRETA JOCHEM

Staff Writer 
Published: 9/15/2018 12:04:38 AM

NORTHAMPTON — When he was a kid, Frankie Petrolati broke his arm. His doctor gave him prescription painkillers — a lot of them. 

His arm ended up growing back crooked multiple times and doctors kept re-breaking it so it could grow back straight. He ended up missing a lot school and taking the prescription drugs for three years. Later in high school, he started smoking and drinking.

“I thought I was doing the cool thing,” he said, “I wanted to fit in.”

Petrolati shared his story of addiction on Wednesday at a community event called “Voices in Recovery” at the Northampton Recovery Center. The peer-driven addiction support community hosted the event in honor of National Recovery Month. Petrolati, an inmate at the Hampshire County Jail and House of Correction, was one of a small group of people who spoke at the event. 

Petrolati recalled how he came across oxycodone. At the time, he remembered his experience with painkillers and took it.

“I knew how I was going to feel when I took it,” he said.

He later got hooked on heroin, robbed some banks and was sentenced to prison. Of his friends, a group of 13 people, he is the only one left. Everyone else, he said, has overdosed on heroin or fentanyl.

Petrolati is still incarcerated, but he’s three years and two months sober, the longest stretch since he was 15. He said being a member at the center has played a role in his recovery.

“People there understand where you’re coming from...Everyone can relate to each other,” he said.

The center was started with the help of the City of Northampton’s Hampshire HOPE Coalition, a group focused on fighting the opioid epidemic, and the Northwestern district attorney’s office. It’s open to everyone, including those who are recovering from addiction, plus their family and friends. Last spring, the center moved from Edwards Church to 2 Gleason Plaza in downtown Northampton after it got funding from an anonymous donor.

The recovery center offers a wide range of activities and services, including peer support groups, yoga, writing groups, and other community building programs. Program Director Lynn Ferro said that she is working on establishing a grandparents group for those who are taking care of their grandkids because their children are unable to.

“Connection is the antidote to addiction,” Ferro said. 

Shaquille Rodriguez, who has been going to the center for about two months, also shared his story at the event. In high school, he started drinking heavily and went through a traumatic experience. Fueled by alcohol, a fight broke out and his friend accidently stabbed him. He missed more than half a year of school.  

“That was just the beginning of alcohol,” he said. He later realized he was an alcoholic.

Now he’s incarcerated and in a work-release program, and the center has had an impact on his life. “Everybody is welcome...It’s a judgment free zone,” he said.

The center’s structure is all about giving members a voice. For example, all the members helped write the mission statement, goals and code of ethics.

“It’s a bottom-up thing, the members really rule,” Ferro said.

That’s something that resonates with Rodriguez. “It’s an amazing feeling, to have a say in things that matter,” he said.

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com




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