For the last decade drug abuse in New Jersey has been a life threatening issue to many, where residents have watched too many people fade away and succumb to this curse of drug addiction. It’s evident the rise of drug addiction, and overdoses have proven drugs are a huge problem in New Jersey, and it’s time to shed light in this dark alleyway.
Growing up in Fairfield, New Jersey, John Saad came from a good family and was even a straight A student when he was in high school.
“My parents worked hard their entire lives and they raised me to be just as hard of a worker as them,” said Saad.
Like any normal young man in their twenties, he was a motivated college student determined to live a good life and build a successful career upon graduation. He was studying a dual major of civil engineering and economics at Rutgers University in New Brunswick New Jersey, when his life was about to change forever.
“It was my junior year of college when I got into a really bad accident and hurt my back,” said Saad. “At this point in time it was when pills like Xanax and oxycodone started becoming really popular, so I didn’t like taking them, but my doctor prescribed them to me.”
His doctor prescribed him 180 tablets of 30mg Roxicet, 90 tablets of 30mg Adderall, and 60 tablets of 2mg Xanax monthly. At first he didn’t think anything of it, it was the same as any medicine the doctor prescribes to speed up the healing process and numb the pain.
“When I would take them, it really didn’t make me feel good the next day,” said Saad. “It almost felt like a really bad hangover, even worse, I couldn’t go to the gym or do anything, the only way I could feel somewhat normal again was by taking the pill,”
Despite the way they made him feel, he continued to take the pain killers. He says he didn’t sense that he was instantly hooked, and itwasn’t until after college he was addicted.
“I was dating a girl Valerie for a while, and at the end of the summer in 2012 she passed away, it just really tore my world apart, and I was miserable, so I started taking half a pill a day,” said Saad. “I was depressed didn’t want to go to work, get out of my bed, or do anything, so I started taking pills basically to numb myself of all the feelings.”
He says it became an everyday thing, and for the first few months he was able to hide it, where their were no noticeable changes in his appearance.
“After four to five months of using every day I was unable to maintain a job, unable to function, that’s when my friends and family started noticing,” said Saad. “I lost a lot of my friends, it just kept getting worse and worse, so I started selling, and didn’t even bother looking for a new job, or getting a long with my family, I basically shunned everybody out, I was in my own bubble and it wasn’t a good way to live.”
Saad says at this point in his life it felt like there was no way out of it, he didn’t know what to do except continue to numb himself of the pain and pressure of the outside world.
“I didn’t like where my life was at, it was like a spiral downwards, my life was getting worse and worse, and I’d want to come out of it, but it was just so impossible to stop because I’d just do my next set of pills and forget about it,” said Saad with a look of conviction in his eyes.
It wasn’t until he hit rock bottom, that his life turned into another direction. On September 13, 2015 Saad finally found sobriety by getting arrested and landing himself in jail.
“Reality hit me all at once that I desperately needed to change, I needed to get sober,” said Saad.“They took me to Essex County jail, the green monster they call it, and I was only in there for two weeks until I was moved to a rehab facility, where I was still incarcerated for three months.”
A few months later, he was moved into an integrity house where the memories are still fresh in his mind and had a lasting impact on his life. He recalls thinking about how he could still get away with getting high once in a while until someone put his situation into perspective.
“My counselor at integrity house was amazing, I’ll never forget the day that I officially knew I was done for good because it still crossed my mind that I could get away with doing it once in a while. “I have an engineering background so he put it into terms of an experiment..”
“He was like okay so you’re a science guy, so think about an experiment, you have oil and water, you put them together will they ever mix? No, never, so you do the experiment, and you do it again, no matter how many times you do it the results are always the same,” said Saad. “So you and drugs, with your experiment with drugs mix good for your life and the answer is no, it was not good for my life, and he was just like what makes you think if you run that experiment for you life, even if you’re just trying to dabble once in a while that it’ll end up any differently.”
Saad says that was when he realized his life and his sobriety wasn’t a game, if he was going to be done for good nothing would ever change for him. Upon returning he refused to take his old phone with all his old drug connections, but instead reached out his close friends and family to apologize because those were the type of people he wanted and needed in his life in order to change for the better.
“I’m really happy to see he’s made change in himself, it’s crazy how he looks like a completely different person, actually looks alive again,” said Mihail Mufceski, Saad’s neighbor and good friend.
Two days after being released back into the world, where he was free to do anything he pleased, he made the decision to invest in his health by getting a gym membership.
“I was determined to change my life around and get back into the things I enjoyed doing before I started getting high, I just wanted to be the best version of myself,” said Saad.
Although he does admit it is still a struggle, he said it’s important to invest time in things that add value to oneself and life.
“For me knowledge is important, so the more I read the better I would feel about for myself and I’d take my dog on long walks a lot which really helped me,” said Saad with a look of relief. “The unconditional love I have for Miles motivated me, I didn’t want to let him down again because out of everyone when I was away I thought of him the most.”
When Saad was arrested he weighed 130 pounds and now weighs 174 pounds. He now works out several days of the week, is a part of a Mix Martial Arts gym, and is fortunate to have found a successful career in project management for a local company where he is making a good salary.
“I’m onto bigger and better things, now that I’m thirty I refuse to waste any more of my time or life.”
For anyone struggling with the addiction Saad offers a story of hope, and redemption as well as a few words of encouragement.
“I’ve been sober for 15 months now and I know it’s not going to be easy, but the struggle is worth getting clean, ask for help because believe me there is a way out and redemption is possible, the most important thing you have to do is believe in yourself and know that you’re life is worth so much more than you can imagine.”
Montclair State | New Jersey