Kevin Polito Finds a New Life After a Dozen Rehabs

Kevin Polito Finds a New Life After a Dozen Rehabs

(Novus writes inspirational stories of people in the news who have overcome addiction. This is not to infer that these people are connected to Novus Medical Detox Center but simply to provide hope and encouragement to those fighting addiction.)

Kevin Polito openly admits that while he was in college at Duqesne University in Pittsburgh, PA, he was a "functioning addict" - a sort of "dual-personality" person who is fully addicted to drugs or alcohol, but who still manages to get a lot done in life without attracting attention to their addiction. In fact, Polito says, he maintained a perfect 4.0 Grade Point Average and held a full-time job, and was doing well in school. But at the same time, he was heavily abusing prescription pills and cocaine before heroin caught him in its grip for five long, difficult years.

A bit rebellious

Polito began dabbling with drugs when he was 17 and in his first year of college. Although it may not have been a contributing factor to his later addictions, Polito's dad was a recreational pot smoker around the house. Growing up with a couple of siblings in a fairly rough Pittsburgh neighborhood, Polito said he nevertheless was something of a class clown at school, and a bit rebellious. And his home lacked a definite moral and spiritual foundation. "My dad was an old school Italian guy and he was really strict on us," he told the New Frontier Chronicle, the Salvation Army's own newspaper. "At the same time, he also used marijuana recreationally." "I was baptized and I had my holy communion at a Lutheran church when I was 10," he said. "I think my dad did that more from pressures from his sisters. I still don't believe that my dad really believes in God." At college, Polito pledged with a fraternity, and was almost immediately immersed in a party atmosphere where substance abuse was a constant, almost daily event. The temptation was high, and so were the kids. And he really wanted to be accepted as part of the scene. "All of a sudden, I was thrust into this world where there were a lot of people much older than me. People partied and experimented with different chemicals and I was very eager to fit in." He soon met people who introduced him to more serious drugs, including prescription opioids like Vicodin and Percocet. By his second year, cocaine became part of his life. "They would be like, 'Hey, want to do a line of coke?'" To Polito, it was all easy and fun. There was no perceived threat because, he says, he "felt invincible."

The party continued

After graduating, he didn't get sober and settle down like his fraternity brothers. For him, he told the Chronicle, the party just continued. "Mushrooms and acid, marijuana and cocaine-the substances changed but the persona never did. I was always a functional addict." Polito says he bounced from job to job, and moonlighted as waiter to help pay for his drug habits. "I would use my intelligence, my wit, my personality, my charisma, and I would always use that to keep my head above the water." Then a co-worker asked Polito if he wanted to try some heroin. "I would never stick a needle in my arm. I'm not that stupid," he told an interviewer recently. Instead, like many first-time heroin users, he snorted a dose. "I still remember the first time I did it," he said. It felt like "somebody wrapped a warm blanket around my soul. I felt at ease. Peaceful - and a couple days later, I did it again." Polito says that after using for 24 hours, the withdrawal "is almost intolerable. It's like you have a super-flu" and those flu-like symptoms can last for days. Polito's solution was to simply find some way to always have enough and never suffer withdrawal. "I fell in love with heroin," Polito said. "It became the primary relationship I had, and eventually I got to a point where after using it for five years I was fired from a number of jobs. I was thrown out of a number of places. I was homeless intermittently and staying on my brother's couch or in rehab."

More than a dozen rehabs

Yes, during those years, Polito recognized that life couldn't continue the way it was going, and that rehab was going to be the only way out. He first went to rehabilitation in 1998 and by 2005, he'd been in and out of rehab more than a dozen times. "I would often go to get help, but it was always for the wrong reason," he said. "I was never really sincere in wanting to quit." By 2005, he was at the bottom. On a dark and freezing cold March night, Polito found himself wandering aimlessly on a street, homeless, nowhere to go, carrying everything he owned in a laundry bag. He found a payphone at a fast food restaurant, dialed 9-1-1 and told the operator he wanted to kill himself. The cops came and took him to a psych ward, and from there he was released to Pittsburgh's Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center. Polito planned to stay there a few weeks at most, but within the first few days, everything changed. "The divisional commander was giving a sermon and looked straight at me and said 'Kevin, [His] grace is sufficient for you. [His] power is near perfect in your weakness.' I had no words." The commander's quotation from The Corinthians in the Bible lit up Polito's world like nothing else ever had. Although he felt unworthy for some time, he received constant encouragement from the officers. He completed the Army's six-month rehab program, and was soon at the Salvation Army College for Officer Training in Suffern, N.Y., where he began forging a whole new future. And it's also where he met his wife-to-be, Kelley, from Wilmington, DE.

Career made in heaven?

Today, Captain Kevin Polito is 42 years old, and has been clean and sober for over a decade. His career choice seems to have been made in heaven. And his personal experience is invaluable when he provides counseling to substance abusers needing help in Pottsville, PA. That's where Polito and Kelley serve as the corps officers, and where they're raising their three kids, Jubilee, Nathaniel and Justice. "I get to work with many different people," Polito said. "We have great youth programs, we work with seniors, people who have addiction problems. Through ministry, when I am stressed out, when I help others, it takes the focus and stress off of me. It gives me peace." Here at Novus, our focus is on helping people get their lives back, and we're very successful.

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