MIAMI COUNTY — It was one phone call that changed Marty Niccoli’s life — for the better.
Jailed on theft charges, Niccoli, 36, of Troy, had finally reached rock bottom in December 2015.
Rock bottom didn’t happen after he had overdosed on heroin for the second time. Rock bottom didn’t happen after he was sentenced to prison once again for drug related offenses. Rock bottom wasn’t using heroin after being sober for three years while he was serving a prison sentence.
Rock bottom for Martin A. Niccoli was the phone call and visits he received from his father telling him of his failing health and begging him to get clean in December 2015.
Marty said he then realized he was spending yet another Christmas in jail — another holiday he would miss with his family due to his addiction to heroin.
“I’d been locked up a lot of holidays. (My dad) said ‘Marty, I love you, but I’m dying.’ His cancer was getting worst. I went back to my rack (jail cell) and I just surrendered to all of it. When he came to the next visit, we had a serious talk. Every other visit it was about me. Me getting money for commissary. Me. Me. Me. But this time was different. He didn’t look the same. I just didn’t want to believe it. It was definitely that visit that did it to me. I finally had enough.”
Marty was tired. It was time to wake up.
And it was that conversation with his father that Marty said started his path to recovery.
“Growing up, we didn’t have a lot, but my father always made it feel like we did,” he shared. “Every time I went to jail, prison, rehab — when I messed up — he was always there and gave me his last. He always had my back whether I was right or wrong. He was the true definition of a father. He was my best friend. I love him.”
Marty graduated from the Miami County Municipal Drug Court program on March 3, 2017.
In front of a courtroom full of supporters and other drug court defendants, Judge Elizabeth Gutmann commended Marty’s hard work and focus on the program.
“I’m worth more,” was Marty’s mantra to push through the lows of recovery, including his father’s passing just 11 days after his drug court graduation.
“Words can’t describe how much I miss him,” said Marty, holding back tears.”(Sobriety) was all he ever wanted. Life ain’t hard, I made it hard. I never realized that. Just being normal, how a normal person lives life, it’s not that hard. I can’t even describe it.”
Sober for more than a year as of April 13, Niccoli described his recovery in three words.
“I feel blessed,” he said.
Niccoli shared how he now pays child support, has a bank account, has his employer’s trust and volunteers to share his story with troubled youth.
Niccoli shared how he had used heroin for nearly a decade, including a drug raid on his home on Union Street in June 2015.
“I just got tired of being broke … my dad begged me for years to change my life. I just got sick and tired. And I wanted to show everybody that I while I could be super bad, I also could be super good if I wanted to be. I just did it for myself.”
After those phone calls and visits from his father around Christmas 2015, Marty contacted the Miami County Recovery Council’s Drug Court Coordinator Jessica Auxier to help him enroll in the program.
“I’ve been to six different prisons, five different county jails, I’ve been to three rehabs — overdosed twice — it was really bad, really negative. I just woke up after that phone call from my dad,” Niccoli shared. “They took a chance on me. I’m so grateful they did.”
Niccoli shared how he was released from jail in April 2016, enrolled in the Drug Court program and started to put his recovery first. He started going to meetings and receives the Vivitrol shot once a month.
“It’s my biggest safety net. I’ll stay on it for however long it takes,” he said. “I’ll get off when I feel like I’m ready. It’s doing good.”
The Vivitrol shot has cut his cravings to use heroin. He has been receiving the shot for more than a year from MCRC.
“It saved my life,” he said. “It kills my cravings. It keeps me focused. Vivitrol helps tremendously. It’s what I owe this to. Counseling helps. Meetings help. Having a sponsor helps. Having that shot though keeps me focused.”
Marty shared how he’s thrown himself into working for a local construction company and enjoys the simple things in life, like paying bills.
“I have money in my pocket now. I like paying bills. I like taking care of my responsibilities. I like not having to worry about warrants, going to jail, or stealing off somebody, or somebody stealing off me and running around people like that,” he said. “I’m better than that. It took me a long time to realize that.”
He credits his employer, Rock Scott, for allowing him to take time off of work to attend meetings and his Drug Court program.
Yet, Marty said there are times he struggles in spite of the accomplishments and strides he has made.
A self-described trouble maker in his youth, Marty shared how he began using drugs, first using marijuana at age 22, and slowly progressed to cocaine, Ecstasy and other drugs until he tried heroin.
“Heroin was it for me. Nothing else came close. It’s crazy how it makes your brain work — you can look (awful), but think you are a movie star. It was crazy addictive,” he said.
He gestured towards the streets of Troy saying drugs are everywhere in his hometown. He can still recall what gas stations to stop at in Dayton to pick up a quick fix, saying, “For years and years, they’ve never ran out of heroin. Seven in the morning. Two at night. It’s always there. All day, every day.”
Marty admitted he wanted to use following the death of his father, but he shared how he went to a meeting the evening of his death and worked through his grief without using drugs.
“With all that’s going on, I feel like I’m tested all the time. Just as long as I go to work, go home, do what I got to do every single day, then I’m fine. If my dad (passing), didn’t break me, nothing’s gonna break me,” he said. “I feel like I’m safe. I feel like I can give back. I feel like I have hope just by doing what is expected of me.”
Marty said he’s been sharing his story as much as he can, “to give addicts hope. To give families of addicts hope. To give law enforcement hope. The courts hope. My community hope.”
“Every story doesn’t have to be a bad one. People have to have hope and to value their time. Life’s too short. I just want to be an example. I want everybody to say, ‘Man, you’re still doing good.’ It feels good.”
Marty shared how he reaches out to those who struggle with addiction, including visiting youth in detention centers and recovery meetings.
“They see me clean. They see me have money in my pocket. It feels good. They see me preach Vivitrol all the time. They see me preach MCRC all the time. You got to want it,” he said. “I want to share my story. If I can do it, anybody can do it.”
“Life is better than I ever could imagine,” he said. “Sky’s the limit.”
May designated as National Drug Court Month
MIAMI COUNTY — The Miami County court system has two Drug Court programs in Common Pleas and Municipal Court. Miami County Recovery Council’s Drug Court Coordinator Jessica Auxier shared details about the program, which helps addicts who seek active recovery in lieu of jail or prison sentences.
“The family and the community can help by educating themselves about addiction. Addiction does not discriminate. Addiction is a disease. There is help available and people can and do recover. Become part of the solution,” Auxier said.
• Once accepted into the program, participants must be involved in treatment (individual and/or group counseling, medically assisted treatment and psychiatric services, if appropriate), attend sober support groups, participate in random urinalysis screening, have regular court hearings to review their progress, maintain sobriety, comply with probation and the court, and have no new charges.
• The program is designed to be completed in a year. Their progress, or lack thereof, will make the determination on how long they actually are in the program. There are rewards for progress and sanctions for lack of progress. The hope is that they get stabilized in treatment and then work on developing a recovery program and strong support system to help them maintain their sobriety upon completion of the program. They also work on getting employment, addressing their criminal thinking, learn pro-social behaviors and getting their lives back together as well as with their families.
• Municipal Drug Court is for offenders with misdemeanor charges and Common Pleas Drug Court is for felony offenders. The programming is very similar for both courts once they are in the Drug Court program. In terms of consequences, Municipal Court participants are often facing jail time and Common Pleas participants are facing prison time if they are not successful in the program.
• People can be evaluated for the program by the Drug Court coordinator either at the jail or at MCRC.
• The typical drug court client is someone who has and admits they have a drug problem and are ready for change.
“They have typically lost just about everything and are sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Auxier said. “They want and need structure and accountability. Currently, 80 percent are opiate users and 60 percent are on Vivitrol/naltrexone.”
• The key to success in Drug Court is the desire to want something different. To surrender. To be willing to have an open mind and follow suggestions. To be honest and reach out for help when struggling.
• Participants often face issues with housing, employment, finances, scheduling issues and transportation. We try to link them to services and other community agencies to assist them with these issues. Drug Court is an intensive program that requires a lot of time and commitment.
• Miami County Recovery Council has Vivitrol/naltrexone available for clients. This drug is to assist clients who have an addiction to opiates or alcohol. It is an opiate blocker. There is no euphoric effect from the medication and no withdrawal after they discontinue the medication. They meet with a doctor and a medical decision is made between the doctor and the patient to decide if this is an appropriate course of treatment and for how long. The injection form for one month costs about $1,500 and the pill form costs about $40. The medical appointment and the Vivitrol/naltrexone is covered by Medicaid.
“Clients who have used Vivitrol/naltrexone mostly explain the medication as lifesaving and a miracle,” Auxier said.
For more information about Miami County Recovery Council, visit www.mcrcinc.org.
Troy resident Marty Niccoli works on flooring at his job in Troy recently.