Paul Z. – Young & Sober – A Story of Addiction Recovery

WHat It WAS Like

My names Paul Zanaras and I am an addict/alcoholic in long term recovery. A little about my past, I grew up in a broken home with a loving single mother who did everything in her power to give me and my sister everything we needed. I had a great childhood and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I was raised in a great neighborhood in South Philadelphia with all types of friends. We played sports, played games, and did crazy kid stuff growing up, all in good fun. The thing is, something was always missing inside and I never felt like I fit in, so I changed friend groups a lot and didn’t really know where I belonged. It wasn’t until I had my first drink that’s when I felt like I was alive. That feeling inside that was always missing was finally filled, and I could be “myself” and people would like me and want to hang out with me, so I thought. I started acting out for negative attention and it started getting me into bad situations that I never would put myself in sober. I was kicked out of high school and it continued into my senior year and new high school. When I moved to Jersey, I could have used this as a new opportunity to turn things around and finish high school on a high note. To no prevail, I picked up right where I left off and started onto harder drugs and more often. The feeling cocaine and heroin gave me was so euphoric, that nothing in life was as important as getting my next fix. I started to steal from family and friends, lose friends, not show up for holidays, and ruin any relationships I was in. I was inhuman and incapable of living a “normal” life and I truly thought this was how my life was going to be.

What Happened

I finally gave up fighting and went to my first treatment center after my dad and mom noticed how bad I’ve gotten. After 5 failed attempts and relapses, I went back for a 6th time. December 18th 2012 I walked into my last treatment center beaten, broken, and had no other option than recover, or go on to the bitter end by myself. I was 21 years old with no direction in life and no clue at what real responsibilities were. I decided to finally give AA a shot and that’s where I started to finally feel at home. I got my sponsor while I was in treatment and started the steps the day I got out. I didn’t know what to do, but I was ready to listen to his suggestions and those who have come before me. I didn’t do everything perfect and that’s life, I’ve fallen short many times in sobriety, but one thing I have done perfect is not picked up that first drink or drug. I started working in treatment after a year in sobriety and that’s when I really found something I was passionate about. Over the years I have endured many ups and downs, and things have not always been great in life but helping others is something that has always brought peace in my life.

What it's Like Now

Sobriety has brought me many great things in life that I never thought would be possible for someone like me. I wasn’t supposed to live past 21, let alone be almost 6 years sober, living as a productive member of society. The inner peace and content that I wake up with every morning beats the feeling of waking up withdrawing any day of the week. The relationships that I’ve been able to mend in my life has been one of the most relieving feelings. Being able to be present for my family, show up for them when they call, and be the son and brother I was supposed to be has been so rewarding. Having a fiancé and little family that are all happy to see me when I come home and love me unconditionally is one of the most heartwarming feelings in my life. None of these things were possible for me before I found recovery and got sober. There are material things that I have gained in life and responsibility that I am obligated to fulfill, but I handle them like an adult and take care of those things without procrastinating. The 12 steps and Recovering from a hopeless state of mind has truly given me a life I could have never fathomed of living 6 years ago. It wasn’t easy, but it was definitely worth it, and if you’re struggling to get it don’t give up hope because I never thought I would recover either!

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction please don't hesitate to reach out to The Phoenix Recovery Project at 484-254-6780 or email:

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