Alcohol entered Scott Masi’s life early. He remembers helping his grandfather stomp grapes to make wine as a child. But when he started regularly drinking in his early teens, he knew he was different from his older sister and younger brother: “They could stop,” he says. “I couldn’t.”
From alcohol, he eventually moved to illegal drugs. By age 42, Scott says, “Alcohol and drugs identified me. They were in control.”
He tried and failed so many times to get clean. Then, one day in 2007, his aunt invited him to her house. When he walked in, he saw his entire Italian clan there: mother, father, sister, brother, aunts and uncles.
The family had called Love First
, a Michigan-based organization that specializes in interventions and recovery. During the intervention, the family learned how they could support Scott – by getting him into treatment.
“They appealed to me to get help, to become the person they used to know,” Scott says. The real gut punch? “I saw my mother’s look of love and helplessness.”
He agreed to go to the Brighton Center for Recovery at St. John Providence
, where he spent 28 days in inpatient therapy. Then, he moved to outpatient treatment at other facilities for six more months.
He has been sober ever since. Scott now advocates for other people with addictions as a referral and outreach specialist at the Brighton Center for Recovery.
Through treatment, Scott began to understand that his drug and alcohol abuse wasn’t a character flaw or moral failure.
“Addiction is a chronic illness, one I will have for the rest of my life,” he says. “It’s like hypertension, asthma or diabetes – there is no cure.” He also began to comprehend the role alcohol had played in his life. “It had taken me to all the wrong places.”
At the root of all this, he finally realized, was his poor opinion of himself.
“My self-esteem was so low I could crawl under a door,” he says.
Alcohol and drugs helped him keep these feelings at bay. But his family intervention sent him an even stronger message that he was loved and that he deserved a better life. Treatment showed him how to get there.
To cut his chances of relapse, he took a night job so he could continue treatment during the day and began volunteering at the Brighton Center. On the second anniversary of his sobriety, the center recognized his efforts and hired him as a full-time employee, first in data analysis and then in his current position. The job gives him a purpose in life, he says. “Having a sense of worth is amazing.”
Addiction may end, but obsession won’t
Nearly 20 percent of Americans are either experiencing addiction or are in recovery.
Yet even those who remain alcohol-free and drug-free are stigmatized, Scott says. Being part of the Brighton Center for Recovery allows him to be more open about his addictions, which helps him and others.
“I would like to believe I could drink responsibly, but I know I can’t,” Scott admits.
So he surrounds himself with supportive people who understand addiction. Sadly, his years of substance abuse took a toll on his marriage that his treatment could not cure. The divorce was contentious, and his history of addiction worked against him as he fought for custody of his two daughters. Eventually, he was awarded joint custody of Riann, 11, and Taron, 14. He openly includes them in his recovery journey, sharing his struggles and victories. He even takes them to his work events.
“There is nothing more rewarding than somebody coming up and thanking me for helping them and having my children see that,” says Scott, who considers himself an addict despite his strong recovery. “People need to understand that even when you do stop, the obsession is still there. If you think, ‘I have this under control,’ you’re wrong.”
Are you addicted?
“Alcohol is a rite of passage for young people,” Scott says, but its destructive power knows no age boundaries.
You may have a problem if you:
- Keep drinking even after your companions have stopped
- Neglect your personal or professional responsibilities because of alcohol or drugs
- Have legal and financial issues related to substance abuse
Scott’s advice for alcoholics:
- Ask yourself “What are the consequences if I continue on this path?”
- Recognize and address your denial.
- Learn as much as you can about addiction.
- Keep reminding yourself that you’re worthy of a better life.
Where to get help
HAP Health & Wellness/Men and Alcohol
HAP Health & Wellness/Alcohol Abuse and Problem Drinking
Henry Ford Maplegrove Center
St. John Providence Hospital Brighton Center
Michigan Department of Community Health
Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority
Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority