BLOG: Frank’s recovery story

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Frank Aquino receives a Professional of the Year award from NAMI Stark County in March 2016.

Recovery is possible from addiction. Yes, that’s right, it is possible. I know it’s probably pretty hard to think of the possibility, given the large number of individuals we have lost to the heroin and opioid epidemic in the last one to two years here in Stark County. I would like to bring some light and hope to those who are out there suffering from addiction. I am the Program Coordinator here at Stark Mental Health & Addiction Recovery, and I am also a person in long-term recovery from alcohol and substance abuse addiction. It is possible to recover and be a productive member of our community. I hope that this short synopsis of my journey will inspire you and provide the hope that you need to begin your recovery journey.

My recovery journey started some six plus years ago when I came to realize that I had a problem with alcohol and drugs. My addiction had affected my relationships with my family, friends, and there had become a point to where it also affected my employability. Everyone on the outside looking in could see that I had a problem, but I could not. I had the support from family, my church, the 12-step program/community that I was associated with and my counselors. I had many supports in place to become successful, but, you see, addiction changes the chemistry in our brains and affects our decision-making center. I kept making the same decisions for the addiction, not for my sanity and overall well-being. I continually kept choosing the substances as a way to resolve my problems.

Learn more about how addiction hijacks the brain »

Starting around 2007, I was getting individual counseling, spiritual counseling, going to church, etc. Even though I had these supports in place, I continued to spiral downward, unable to stop myself from hurting myself and others in my path. In 2008, I got a sponsor in the 12-step program and started intensive outpatient therapy, along with going to church. I continued to address quitting on my own and with all the help mentioned above, but I was not successful until 2010. By September 2010, I had gone through three sponsors and four attempts at outpatient therapy over a three-year period before things finally clicked. Was it easy? No way. I was fearful of the changes I would need to make in my life. I would question myself and ask myself each minute, each hour, each day, each month. Would I be able to live my life without substances? Would I be able to make new friendships? Would I become a good father, son and brother? Would I be able to find an employer willing to take a chance on me? The addiction was still offering answers: “No Frank, go hang out at the bar, call up your dealer and you can feel better immediately.” It was a battleground in my mind. I was scared, but I had come to a point, a moment of clarity, where I wanted life and sobriety more than the life my addiction had provided me. I had to change the places I hung out at, the people I associated with and basically start from scratch. Incorporating a 12-step program was huge in my recovery. I was able to make new friends and develop a strong support system. I went to IOP (intensive outpatient therapy), and I learned about my triggers and coping skills to deal with those triggers. I learned about my addiction and how it worked. Once I had gotten past the fear of change, a whole new world awaited. I’m blessed to have made the choice to take back my life, and, if God will see to it, I’ll be celebrating six years of sobriety this September. There are many pathways to recovery, and it is up to each of us to choose what our own path might look like. There are a number of resources in Stark County to assist those suffering from addictions.

Learn more about help for addiction »

In conclusion, if I could give any advice to families with loved ones who are struggling with addiction, it would be please be patient, understanding and loving. Do not ever stop believing that your family member can recover. For the addict or alcoholic who suffers, never ever give up…

Recovery is Beautiful!


About Frank Aquino

Frank Aquino joined the Clinical team at StarkMHAR in July 2014 as the Program Coordinator. At StarkMHAR, Frank oversees Housing Programs and Permanent Supportive Housing Support Services programs, including Adult Care Facilities (group homes) for persons with mental illness, those of which have contracts with StarkMHAR. Frank monitors grant-funded programs such as the PATH (Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness) Program, which is a street outreach program that operates in the community to find homeless individuals and connects them to mental health or other services. Frank also monitors CABHI (Cooperative Agreements to Benefit Homeless Individuals) Program), which is focused on addressing housing and service gaps to chronically homeless veterans and non-veterans. For further information about the PATH & CABHI programs visit ican-inc.org. Frank also oversees Peer Support Services in Stark County. He is a trained facilitator of the Ohio Peer Recovery Supporter Training integrated curriculum. Prior to Frank’s role in the Clinical department he was employed by Crisis Intervention & Recovery Center (CIRC). While employed with CIRC, Frank was the Supportive Services Team Leader at Hunter House and prior to that he served as a Peer Supporter Specialist for both the REACH & SHELTER grant teams. Frank is a strong advocate for individuals with mental health and substance use disorders. Most recently, Frank received a “Professional of the Year” award from NAMI Stark County. He was recognized for his dedication to persons with mental illness and substance addiction, specifically in the realm of improving housing retention. Frank has a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Kent State University with major focus in Psychology.