Revere’s Substance Abuse Disorder Initiatives (SUDI) Office held its annual barbecue to celebrate National Recovery Month Thursday on the lawn at Amercan Legion Hall.
The highlight of the program came when Marc Silvestri delivered a stirring and emotional message about his recovery from addiction during the speaking program.
Mayor Brian Arrigo delivered his remarks before introducing Silvestri, the current director of Revere veterans’ services and a former Revere High School football star.
“The problems that are associated with substance use are in the forefront of my minds and we can overlook some of the successes that come from all the efforts that we make to confront this epidemic,” said Arrigo. “Today we celebrate those who are living proof that recovery is possible, that substance use can be conquered.
“And we acknowledge the valuable contributions by those who have survived and overcome the scourge of this epidemic,” said Arrigo.
The mayor then commended [SUDI Director] Julia Newhall and her staff at the SUDI “who devote so much of their talent, their time, and their energy to assisting those in need.”
“Revere’s SUDI office is a place where individuals are treated with dignity and they’re guided toward achieving their human potential.” said Arrigo.
Turning the program over to Silvestri, the mayor said, “He [Silvestri] is somebody who has truly found his life’s passion in what he’s doing and he’s somebody that I look up to and I know has overcome incredible struggles to do amazing things for the city of Revere and for so many people outside the city of Revere.”
‘A message of strength, inspiration and hope’
Silvestri, one of Revere’s greatest running backs who went on to play college football, told the personal story of his addiction and recovery to an audience that understood his plight.
“My name is Marc Silvestri and I’m grateful for long-term recovery,” he said, thanking Julia Newhall for giving him the opportunity to share his message of “strength, inspiration, and hope.”
“Addiction was not a goal of mine, not something I was looking for,” began Silvestri. “But now looking back on a younger self, I realize I was an addict before I ever put a substance in to my body.”
He said despite being a high school All-Star in multiple sports, and popular with “a ton of friends,” he felt alone.
Silvestri said in July, 2000, while he was a student in college on a football scholarship, he was a victim of a violent crime in Boston. During his 10-day stay at the hospital, Silvestri said he was given pain medication “and I had that feeling of comfortableness, I was okay with myself and really, that’s not okay.”
He returned to college for football season “and I used steroids to get back on the field.”
The star player on a championship team, Silvestri was suspended for his sophomore and junior seasons “and it put me in a downward spiral.”
Silvestri entered the U.S. Army in 2006 and after getting injured in Afghanistan in 2009 on a tour of duty, he returned in 2010 “and I was heavily in prescribed pain medication at that point and under provided for.”
In 2012, he returned to Boston and sought care and medication from the Veterans Administration.
“They weren’t going to give it to me, I was going to seek it on my own, find it because I knew the best answer again,” said Silvestri.
He described “a long, dark period” in which he was separated from his wife and children.
“I suffered and I suffered and it took me two years to wrap my head around that I didn’t need to suffer any more and there was help out there,” said Silvestri.
During an episode in January, 2013, he reached out to his brother and they drove to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Bedford. Silvestri spent nine days at the hospital in treatment for his addiction.
“I left the detox after nine days and I went to Causeway and I got on MAT (Medically Assisted Treatment,” said Silvestri. “And if you’re on medically assisted treatment and you’re here today, don’t let anyone tell you that your path is any less than theirs because I’m here to tell you that it was a path to recovery that worked for me and today I stand before you as a director of veterans’ service, I stand before you back with my children, back with my wife, I stand before you as a homeowner, I graduated from an associate’s degree to a bachelor’s degree. I lead things every day in this city to make this city a better place.
“And I wasn’t going to come here and share this message today because of the stigma,” said Silvestri. “If you’re here suffering today, know that there is a better tomorrow. If you’re not doing what you’re doing yesterday, you’re recovering. If you not know doing what you were doing what you were doing last week, you’re recovering.
“Don’t let anyone tell you your path to recovery is in any special way – because if you’re recovering, that’s all that counts. There is no easy path. There are no easy days. The struggle is real but we do recover.”
“My name is Marc – thank you for giving me this opportunity and bless you all,” concluded Silvestri.
Silvestri received a warm ovation from the crowd, and then walked over to Mayor Arrigo and the two men shared a handshake of triumph.