There’s the American dream and then there’s Christopher Poulos. Stories like his make me proud to be an American. The Washington Post recently ran a piece on this remarkable young man who we’ve dubbed our latest AfterParty hero. When Obama was elected in 2008, Poulos was in federal prison. Fast forward to 2016 and Poulos, now a law student, just completed an internship at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The guy literally went from the Big House to the White House.
Now 33, Poulos was raised by a single mother in Portland, Maine. Initially prescribed Ritalin and then Adderall for ADD when he was ten years old, a tragic set of circumstances in his adolescence also led to a severe dependence on Xanax and Klonopin. On the streets before even finishing his last year of high school, cocaine and opiates (both using and selling) were his final round before getting sober about a year before being sentenced for possession and intent to sell. He spent 33 months incarcerated and some time in a halfway house. He then managed to attain an undergraduate degree, then a law degree—not without some convincing of the University of Maine’s Law School’s admission’s office.
Champions for Poulos
Who else do we have to thank for Poulos’ second chance to live his dreams (he was apparently interested in the legal field at a very young age before things went south) with recovery on his side? None other than recurring AfterParty all-star and head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Michael Botticelli, who is all about hiring those who have personally struggled with drugs and alcohol. He told the Post, “They [alcoholics and addicts in recovery]bring a sense of depth and understanding that folks who have not had that direct, lived experience don’t bring.” Poulos met and successfully impressed Botticelli when he was working with the Portland mayor’s criminal-justice and addiction task force.
Botticelli isn’t the only Washington big wig singing Poulos’ praises. One of his home state’s senators, Senator Angus King, has sought his counsel on the drug epidemic faced by not just Maine but New England at large. Senator King was basically trying to determine if the money being allotted for increasing citizens access to treatment is worth the splurge. According to Poulos, it is. He not only stayed sober through 12-step recovery and active participation in Young People in Recovery, he also regularly speaks to newcomers at the U.S. Probation Office for the District of Columbia.
Blockades to Barack
There has been an extensive amount of red tape for Poulos with a felony conviction under his belt. Getting security clearance to even rent an apartment in DC was a challenge, much less getting clearance from Secret Service to work in the White House. But nothing seems to deter Poulos, who will finish his law degree in May. He is just one example of the miracles that happen in recovery. Then again, if someone’s got drive, persistence and a willingness to accept help, they really create the miracles for themselves. Poulos demonstrates what upstanding citizens might exist among us, and how the right addiction treatment can allow them to flourish.
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