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COVID-19 couldn’t keep ‘Anthony’ from obtaining his fresh start

Senior Editor Top Stories

Judge with GavelAt 22, “Anthony” was five months from graduating FSU and heading to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career when life came crashing down.

The police he called to investigate a break-in at his apartment were more interested in the stash of cocaine he left in plain sight.

“I basically called the cops on myself,” he said. “Imagine, my first arrest and it was a felony possession charge — I hit rock bottom all at one time.”

Anthony (not his real name) showed better judgment when he accepted his lawyer’s advice to enter Leon County Felony Drug Court.

It meant total abstinence instead of partying with friends, and instead of going to Los Angeles after college graduation, staying in Tallahassee for nine more months to finish attending AA meetings, counseling, group therapy, and random drug testing twice a week.

But if he graduated, the felony charges would go away.

“I was working 50-hour weeks, so I put my head down,” he said. “I just wanted to graduate the program, and start my life,” he said.

Then COVID-19 struck, and the walls closed in again.

The restaurant laid him off on St. Patrick’s Day. Then his counselor tried, and failed, to conduct group therapy via telephone conference, and warned Anthony that his treatment program would likely be put on hold.

“As soon as he told me I was going to have to stay in Tallahassee longer, I got an idea,” Anthony said. “I said, have you ever heard of Zoom?”

Soon, Anthony found himself sitting in the A Life Recovery Center office, showing his counselor how to schedule meetings, invite participants, aim the camera, and use the mute button.

“I was like his little IT guy,” Anthony said.

With its combination of structure and convenience, Zoom worked like a charm for recovery, Anthony said.

“We were getting 98 percent to 100 percent attendance on every meeting, and everyone was on time,” Anthony said. “The whole program kept moving despite this ridiculous, crazy virus that was shutting down the world. Everyone was phasing up and graduating.”

After kicking his cocaine habit and learning how to socialize comfortably without drinking or drugs, and completing all program requirements, Anthony graduated the program on May 1. The felony charges gone, he’s ready for a fresh start.

He’s back in South Florida, doing odd home improvement jobs and waiting for the economy to recover so he can get a job in Los Angeles and join his acting friends there. Once again, despite COVID-19, the future is looking bright, Anthony said.

“I had a lot of good things lined up before all this happened, and obviously all of that went away,” he said. “But I went to jail and I thought I would have a felony on my record for the rest of my life, and I didn’t think I would ever be able to come back from that, and I did.”

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