BREAKING THE STIGMAS
All over addicts are facing stigma. Tony has faced a large number of these in his 11 years of sobriety. This keynote is extremely effective for government events, healthcare events, college events, corporate events and community events with the goal of breaking down these stigmas. Tony elaborates on his early childhood through his dark years of addiction and his many years in recovery. He speaks about his early teenage struggles with mental health which he holds as a key player in his active years of substance use. He truly believes that every addict has experienced a certain level or trauma or mental health issues that contribute to their substance use and our lack of acknowledgment and empathy for these issues are creating a struggle to effectively help the addict. If there is one thing Tony makes sure the audience understands during this keynote, it Is that addiction was beyond a choice and his listeners get a raw and in depth look from the addict’s state of mind. His doorway analogy that depicts the struggle of returning once you walk in, resonates with all of the audiences who take part. The greatest stigmas Tony faced were not so much in his active use but when he began to dream of something more for his life, something big and without substances. The judicial system, employers, community members and people on the internet have confronted Tony and judged him based on these stigmas, the same stigmas that made it hard for Tony’s parents to seek help or understand it was okay to have a child struggling with addiction. Tony has beaten the odds one day at a time and dedicated his life to bringing hope that recovery is possible and how critical it is to break down the stigmas and shift our thinking about addiction.
In this speech, Tony reflects strongly on a specific “choice” that changed his life forever. Often times, individuals may think that small, and insignificant choices have no impact on their lives. Tony walks audiences through a candid set of choices, attitudes, and thought processes that lead him to his first drug. He details his mental health struggles and encourages his audience that it's okay to have anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts but we must take action and tell someone, he believes we find healing when we begin doing the work and not keeping it to ourselves. He recalls picking up marijuana for the first time, the small choice he made that opened up the door for prescription painkiller and heroin abuse. It was that choice, the small, and at that time insignificant decision that changed his life forever. As Tony reaches the climax of his life experiences, audiences learn how that choice ultimately left him hopeless, homeless, and in a state of despair, while he suffered with substance-abuse addiction. With all the twist and turns in Tony’s life, he is able to leave his audience with a new sense of hope and empowerment. Tony speaks of overcoming, and how his new way of thinking and choice-making allowed him to become a professional athlete, Olympic coach at the Rio Olympic Games, and a successful business owner who is dedicated to bettering his community. This speech is great for middle schools, high schools, colleges, sports programs, treatment centers and can be tailored for many different discussions.