« Back to Broken Lives

It’s tough to start the end
There is hope

Feature
ANTHONY SANDER’S STORY
  • 1986: Born on Feb. 12. His parents would divorce when he was 10.
  • 2000: Anthony gets hooked on pain medication after his wisdom teeth are pulled. During high school, he would experiment with marijuana, alcohol, Vicodin, Percocet, Aderol, Valums, Lauratabs and many other prescription medications.
  • 2002: On New Year’s Eve, Sanders, 16, crashes his car into mailboxes in Warren at the corner of Esther and Copeland avenues after a night of drugs and alcohol. He’s charged but not jailed. He refers to that night as “the night he should have died.”
  • 2005: Graduates high school in Champion.
  • 2005: Ships out for Reserves boot camp.
  • 2006: Returns home from military in January. He is aimless. “Didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do with myself.”
  • 2007: Son Michael Sanders is born on Jan. 26.
  • 2008: Anthony tries heroin for first time. “I fell to my knees. I never felt so great in my life. So I thought.”
  • 2009: Ex-girlfriend calls Sanders early one February morning. Sanders said she told him, “Your son and I need you.” Sanders hadn’t seen his son for nine months.
  • 2009: Sanders shoots $60 of heroin into his arm in February, walks to the Warren police station and turns himself in on four warrants. When he is released, his ex-girlfriend and son meet him at his mother’s house. This would be the last time he sees his child.
  • 2009: Heroin use couples with morphine in March. He is now a “full-blown, flat-out junkie.”
  • 2009: Enrolls in Ohio Valley Teen Challenge on Oct. 16
  • 2009: Drops out of OVTC on Nov. 13.
  • 2009: On Dec. 8, Sanders phones OVTC. His addiction is worse than ever. He crawls back into the program.
  • 2010: “My prayers have been answered.” Sanders’ mother brings his son Michael to OVTC for a Saturday visitation. Sanders holds his son for the first time in more than a year.
  • Anthony Sanders arrest record includes two domestic violence charges in Champion and four miscellaneous charges in Warren, including: theft, misuse of a credit card and two counts of receiving stolen property.
Video

Broken Lives Day 6

Feature
Doug Livingston

Reporter,
TheNewsOutlet.org

Geoffrey Hauschild

Photographer
The Vindicator

The toughest step: starting the end

Story Published on November 6, 2010
There is hope

By DOUG LIVINGSTON

TheNewsOutlet.org

The first steps of a new life are the toughest — from newborns on up.

It’s just as difficult for addicts.

“I was holding on to things when I first got in here,” Anthony Sanders said.

“When I first got here, I was miserable; I was bitter,” Greg Todd said.

What they held onto and felt was contempt and fear. They were unable to feel anything else.

Sanders, Todd and Bob Pavlich were incapable of feeling guilty when they lied or stole, or when they hurt the ones they love. Their addiction stripped them of their humanity.

Each had similar reasons for entering Youngstown’s Ohio Valley Teen Challenge faith-based residential center. They couldn’t face the ones they loved. They couldn’t stay off the streets or out of jail.

They couldn’t face themselves.

The three entered Teen Challenge kicking and biting. In the program, each broke down. Each got better. But before they entered, they would each hit what drug addicts call “the bottom.”

The day before Todd was arrested for the last time, he went to his mother’s house to use the phone. His brother was home, struggling with a debilitating heart attack suffered two years prior.

“I’m on the phone, [my brother] comes around the corner and hits me with this stick, splits my head open, hits me with about 50 punches to the face, calls the cops on me ’cause he knows I got a warrant.”

Todd was arrested. He stood before the judge bloody and battered. He was given 91⁄2 months.

After six months behind bars, Todd received a visit from a cousin he had not seen in more than a decade.

“I knew that person sitting at the county jail or using wasn’t my little cousin,” Elaine Kloss said. “It broke my heart to see him in there. But I knew that he did it to himself.”

She told Todd about Teen Challenge. The seed was planted.

For Sanders, he would spend six months in jail for his four warrants. When he was released, he suggested Teen Challenge to his probation officer after failing a drug test.

He entered the program in October with no intention of ever finishing. Sanders told Pavlich, who is a director at the center, that he had to leave because of medical reasons.

Two hours after leaving the center, Sanders was high.

In the next 20 days, Sanders would again hide. It was not from the police this time, but from the heroin dealers he had robbed in his three weeks out of OVTC.

Sanders sneaked by armed drug dealers and slipped into closets. He knocked on doors as an accomplice waited behind him with a shotgun. Nothing would keep him from getting high.

After sleeping under the Summit Street bridge in Warren for days, Sanders phoned Pavlich, begging to be readmitted.

Pavlich told him to come back to the center. Why shouldn’t he have? Pavlich was no different than Sanders when he first entered the program.

In 2005, Pavlich flew from Pittsburgh to the Teen Challenge center in Muskegon, Mich.

He sat at the Pittsburgh International Airport while his flight was delayed two hours. He drank at the bar with a man until the two fought. He was nearly thrown out of the airport for public intoxication.

That is how Pavlich entered the program, drunk and running from life.

Today, Pavlich wakes up next to his wife of two years. He returns to Poland Seminary High School twice a year to teach students about the consequences of drug and alcohol addiction.

When he stands before a church audience, he spouts Scripture and preaches gospel. All the while his wife, sitting in the pews, still can’t wrap her mind around the man he used to be.

“Because he’s so strong on the Lord,” Bob’s wife, Gail Pavlich said, “It’s so hard to believe that his life was like that.”

She does believe there is a cure for addiction, and her husband is evidence of it.

“I believe once you’re set free, you’re cured,” she said.

Pavlich is still boisterous. He cracks jokes and calls everyone “bro” — just like the old days. But his family and friends trust him now.

In April, Pavlich, who used to fight anyone that wronged his sister, will preside over her wedding.

When Todd entered the program, he thought the men were crazy. They were always hugging and preaching. “I thought they were weak-minded people who were just clinging on to something,” he said.

Todd broke down.

After experiencing what he can only describe as divine intervention, Todd said he finally swallowed his pride during chapel service one morning.

“I cried like a little kid for an hour. I remember getting mad at myself because I thought everybody was watching.”

Now Todd plays in the gospel band every Wednesday night.

He is quiet. He always has been. But he is humble now, not contemptible.

When Sanders wakes up today, his sides are often swollen from liver damage caused by prescription drug abuse. His skin is occasionally jaundiced from the hepatitis he received using a dirty needle.

But Sanders said he would rather feel the discomfort of his past transgressions than live another day under the influence of drugs.

“I always felt in my old ways, before I gave my life to Christ, that I was entitled,” he said. “I was entitled to know what goes on tomorrow. I’m entitled to know what you’re doing, what this person is doing or where I’m going to be at in three months.”

His brother and sister are talking to him again. In July, his mother brought her 3-year-old grandson to OVTC to visit Sanders, who saw his son for the first time in more than a year.

Sanders is making amends with his past. He is struggling to forgive his father. Mostly, he struggles to forgive himself for the terrible things he has put his family through.

“It’s the emotional thievery that you do that’s the worst,” he said. “Robbing them of their child. … You’ll never get that back.”

Even if Sanders graduates, his mother, Karen Petro, said she might never feel comfortable leaving Sanders alone in her home.

She has been robbed of her child, but she has gained a grandchild. The boy — with blond hair and blue eyes — bears an uncanny resemblance to Anthony.

“It’s like childhood revisited all over again,” she said.

On Sunday, we conclude the OVTC series.

The NewsOutlet is a joint media venture by student and professional journalists and is a collaboration of Youngstown State University, WYSU radio and The Vindicator.



Comments

1 Askmeificare (700 comments) posted 3 years, 10 months ago

I wish I could believe in addicts getting rehabbed, but I don't.

What I do believe in is getting these addicted people out of our town so the rest of us can start stabilizing and rebuilding our town and families without the addicts b**lls**t again and again and again coming to the forefront causing problems for everyone.

And what kind of woman would date and have the child of an addict? Just how stupid and mindless can people, even the youth, be?

If addicts want to kill themselves with dope, why not offer them legal executions and save all of us the headaches.

Don't want to sound insensitive, but too bad if my comments offend. Aren't we all tired of losers and the misery they bring.

Suggest removal:


News
Opinion
Entertainment
Sports
Marketplace
Classifieds
Records
Discussions
Community
Help
Forms
Neighbors

HomeTerms of UsePrivacy StatementAdvertiseStaff DirectoryHelp
© 2014 Vindy.com. All rights reserved. A service of The Vindicator.
107 Vindicator Square. Youngstown, OH 44503

Phone Main: 330.747.1471 • Interactive Advertising: 330.740.2955 • Classified Advertising: 330.746.6565
Sponsored Links: Vindy Wheels | Vindy Jobs | Vindy Homes | Pittsburgh International Airport