One man’s journey to beating the drug epidemic

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — We are a nation at war with drugs. So many lives have been ruined and lost. But amid the loss, there is hope in the faces and the stories of those who survive.

To see Eric Fitzpatrick today, it’s hard to imagine how someone so positive and upbeat could ever hit rock bottom – but he did.

News 8 was there 23 years ago after Fitzpatrick witnessed a friend and his girlfriend die after being hit by a train.

“Right off the bat I just didn’t care,” he recalled. “I didn’t care about school and then I used alcohol and substances to just push it all down.”

Fitzpatrick suppressed that pain for the better part of two decades.

“You know alcohol was my thing when I was in high school and in my early twenties,” he said. “That’s kind of how I met people and I thought how people liked me because I could pound a ton of beers and I was the life of the party.”

A lacrosse injury led to prescription pills.

“For about eight or nine years it was just prescription pills and then a doctor that I was seeing lost her license and I was forced to fend for myself and that’s when I turned to heroin on the streets,” Fitzpatrick explained.

That’s when the person who had everything tossed it all away.

“I grew up in Brighton and played lacrosse,” Fitzpatrick said. “My parents gave me everything I could possibly want – a car when I was 16, new cleats, a new lacrosse stick – I had everything.”

To feed his addiction, Fitzpatrick sold his belongings. He stole from his parents. Eventually, he alienated the people who loved him the most.

“I like to say my rock bottom had a basement. But rock bottom was the heroin use.”

In and out of jail, all that was left was for Fitzpatrick to become a statistic – and join the ranks of those who have fatally overdosed. But that’s not what happened.

“I owe Drug Court and ROCovery Fitness to saving my life,” he said. “Had I not been in Drug Court, I would never have found out about this place.”

In November of 2017, Fitzpatrick walked through the front door of ROCovery Fitness in Rochester for eight hours of community service. He never left. “The message was that recovery is possible, recovery is pretty cool, and if I could join this group and smile, and go on hikes and live my life that’s what I want to do, and I had tried so many things before so why not try this.”

Inside the walls of the old firehouse Fitzpatrick found acceptance, community, and trust – and eventually he found himself. “For the first time there was a light at the end of the tunnel and there was more than one tunnel.”

Unshackled from addiction for the first time in years, Fitzpatrick found the courage to open up about the deadly train accident. He slowly mended the broken relationships. He reclaimed his life.

None of this, of course, was easy. He had plenty of support. But Fitzpatrick is living, breathing hope for anyone who says it can’t be done. “It is possible,” he said. “There’s so many different ways that you can approach recovery these days. Multiple pathways I love. What worked for me may not work for you but now we have options.”

Fitzpatrick, as it turns out, did become a statistic – he’s a survivor. He’s now working at ROCovery Fitness, helping others reclaim their lives. When how he would describe his life today, Fitzpatrick smiled and said, “It’s awesome. Life is good!”

To learn more about ROCovery Fitness, visit their website.

We’ve also created a special “Web Extra” feature for this story. It’s about six minutes of our conversation with Eric Fitzpatrick – unedited – where he talks about addiction as a disease, the toll it took on his family, the possibility of a relapse, and his advice for addicts today. Click the link below.

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