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MICHAEL CAVALLO
KNOCK OUT OPIOID ABUSE CONTEST finalist

What do you hope to accomplish by being a part of this contest?

Creating awareness to the fact that thousands of people are dying in this country every month due to opioid overdoses. I believe that stigma, shame, guilt and fear kills more addicts than drugs. Communication is Key to breaking down barriers and music can sometimes be a more effective way of bringing people together. Music with a message is a powerful tool.

 

People still seem to hold on to the stereotype that an addict is someone poor and wasting away in life, only thinking about another fix. How is that different then your experience?

 

In a lot of cases unfortunately that can be true. Addiction does rob you of your finances and drive to be productive and eventually you lose the power of choice. Getting that next fix isn’t a means of getting “high”, it’s literally the only few seconds in that day where you will feel a few seconds of ease and comfort. Your world becomes very small, very sad and within minutes of that fleeting feeling that the drug gave you, hopelessness, remorse, anxiety, self-pity and despair all set in at once and the cycle repeats itself. I was fortunate, I had people in my life that wouldn’t give up on me when I had given up on myself and they put me in a position to be able to recover. Not everyone is so fortunate.

Do you think there is such a thing as recreational opioid use? Why or Why Not?

 

I guess you could say there is but why risk it, especially with all of the fentanyl out there. They are pressing that stuff into pills to be made to look like every “recreational” drug out there “not just opioids” and I know a lot of people who have overdosed from snorting pills and half of them were weekend warriors just out partying with friends and wouldn’t be classified as drug addicts.  When you start messing with narcotics for fun, you never know what doors you open might become almost impossible to close in the future. It is not worth it.

 

How would you respond to someone saying “It’s only one pill, I can’t get addicted from it?”

I think I covered this answer on the last question….but my answer would be….OF COURSE you can (get addicted that is) You don’t know your own brain chemistry and how you will react to the drug….you might hate it…it might make you sick…you may fall asleep…or….you may love it and could cause you to trade Everything to get it.

 

What influences did your friends have on using or not using opioids?

Although a close friend introduced me to opioids and I unfortunately introduced opioids to a close friend as well, they weren’t something big in my circle of friends until I started going to a lot of detoxes and meeting people with similar addictions.

 

What is some of the stigma you have experienced around opioid use or overdoes?

I’ve been called a lot of names over the years…junkie,loser,piece of shit, scumbag…those were all things I called myself so it didn’t seem like a big deal. I’ve dealt with being treated like I was a “bad” person not a “sick” person by everyone from friends to health officials but for every 1 person that may have treated me as being less than there are 10 people or professionals (Doctors,Nurses,EMT workers,Police officers, Firemen) that have helped to save my life or were kind to me when I didn’t feel like I deserved it. That’s why the way we talk to people and to ourselves IS a Big Deal. The moment I really turned a corner in my recovery is when a man who worked at my last treatment center got me to believe that I was “Enough” and had done the best I could have possibly done up to that point. If I already have a low self esteem and you tell me I’m going to fail or I’m worthless or even worse, you don’t acknowledge that I even exist, chances are I’m going to fail. On the flip side, if I feel like crap about my life up to this point and feel worthless and hopeless and you look me in the eye and tell me I’m worth it… that I Can do this… that you were once in my shoes and know it is possible………..I probably won’t believe you at first but more importantly, a powerful little seed of hope was just planted.

 

How do you think the opioid epidemic has affected you personally? Friends? Families? Our Community?

Being a person in long term recovery from being addicted to opioids for over a decade it would take hours to talk about how it affected me personally and just as important how it affected my family and my loved ones. I almost lost everything (including my life on multiple occasions) but through the love, tolerance, patience and kindness of So many, what I have gained back can’t be put into words. 7 friends of mine have died since December of 2017 and many more before that. What it is doing to families all around this country is gut wrenching. I don’t think we even have a snap shot into the ripple effect that losing over 100,000 people (most in their 20’s and 30’s) in less than a few years’ time is going to have on our communities as a whole in the future.

 

Can you tell me about one or two people who have had a big influence on your life?

I’ve had so many great mentors but I’d have to say my parents have really taught me so much over the years (most of the time I probably wasn’t listening 😉 ) but those last couple years when things got really dark for me and I would wonder in and out of their lives and each time they didn’t know if they would ever see me again, they continued to show up for me and really demonstrated what unconditional Love really is and in my opinion that’s the greatest lesson one could ever learn.

 

What advice would you give your teenage self?
You Are Enough!

 

Are there any positive moments from your life that shaped you into who you are today? Any negative events that shaped you?
My life has been a rollercoaster, there have been a lot of both. I’d say I’ve learned a lot more from the negative events in that they help me to appreciate the positives when they come 11.     What are you most grateful for? My relationship with God, myself, my family, my friends and having another chance to do what I believe I’m supposed to be doing on this planet anyways…helping people

 

How is your life different than how you imagined it when you were younger?

I was a dreamer. My head was always kind of in the clouds, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but I missed a lot. When my head wasn’t in the cloud I was dominated by what others thought of me. Today my head is still in the clouds but my feet are firmly planted on the ground and I like who I am…even if you don’t.

 

Thinking about your family, now and many generations from now, knowing they may read this interview… is there anything you want to say to them? Advice or wisdom you would like to share?

I Love my Family, I always have. Today I get to express that with my actions and be present in their lives. I think that’s enough for all of us.

 

What are you most proud of in your life?

Getting into recovery

 

What does music mean to you?

That is another one of those questions that I could ramble on for hours about but all of the words would fall painfully short

 

 If you are in recovery, what helps you to stay clean? What helped make your decision to get sober?
Trust God, Clean House, (ask for help) and Help Others….repeat My family and one of my best friends sent me to treatment for a year. They made the decision when I couldn’t make one myself…then I made the decision while I was in there that I’ve given up the right to make decisions about my life and recovery on my own.

 

What advice would you give to someone struggling with opioid addiction?
There is help out there. Keep coming back no matter what. You Can do this. You are Enough. You are worth it. You are Loved and if you don’t feel lovable let some people love you until you can love yourself……Did I mention I love you?

 

What do you think the solution is to the opioid epidemic? Honesty, Open-mindedness and Willingness….On everyone’s part

 

 Is there anything else you would like to add? I’m just super grateful to be a part of this new little circle of friends that Ive made through our passion for music but more so for helping to spread awareness, break down stigma and hopefully bring change and hope to some peoples lives because so many have brought that to mine

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