“I’ve had a lot of rock bottoms,” he said.
He dealt with incarceration in the past, and beginning in 2010 a series of tragedies threw his life off track. Vego had a liver transplant following a cancer diagnosis, six month before his brother’s whole family was killed in an electrical accident. When a motorcycle accident left him unable to walk and hooked on pain pills and his dad died from cancer, Vego was emotionally distraught.
When Vego was arrested for a DUI he was facing up to nine years in prison because of his history. However, his wife Vicky wasn’t ready to give up on him.
“I went to the judge and I fought: ‘Please, he needs a program,’” Vicky said.
Vicky found in Riverside, California, a program that was willing to take Vego despite his background and pending charges. While Vicky was thankful—especially after insurance approved 90 days of treatment—Vego was not convinced when he stood outside the recovery center.
“I was not happy,” he recalled.
“We had a meditation meeting every morning, where we would adjust for the day and get the day before off your chest, so you have no hang-ups,” he explained. “I was sharing, and just dumping on this meeting. I was ungrateful and just sabotaged the heck out of this meeting with my negative crap.”
However, a new client who was at the meeting for the first time cut through Vego’s negativity.
“He said, ‘You know I see a lot of people are angry, ungrateful and bitter, but I’m thankful to be there. MFI was good enough to take me in and save me life,’” Vego recalled. “He turned something on in me. That was my first real, legit day in recovery.”
Learning to Listen
After that moment, Vego began working his recovery program without reservation. He embraced MFI’s challenge to be honest, open-minded and willing.
“You have to have honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness to listen,” he said. “You have to listen, but you don’t have to say anything or share.”
Vego, who describes himself as “an old biker guy,” realized that people who he would have not interacted with or even acknowledged in the past could help him grow in recovery.
“I learned we had more in common than not,” he said. “Being respectful enough to listen is critical to recovery.”
As Vego connected with other people in the MFI program, he realized that his peers were a huge source of inspiration, motivation and accountability as he tried to stay sober.
“If I have to break it down and pick one thing, I fall back on staying connected,” Vego said. “It’s the most important thing: other addicts and alcoholics talking to each other is the number one tool if you’re going to stay sober.”
In 2018, after he received his one-year chip, Vego was honored as MFI’s client of the year. Having the organization that saved his life acknowledge the work he has done in recovery was a significant moment for Vego.
“It wasn’t that far back that I was standing at the gate so pissed that I was there,” he said. “To go from that to standing in front of hundreds of people to be given the client of the year award was surreal.”
Today, Vego is the alumni coordinator for the men’s program at MFI and is studying to become a counselor for other people with substance use disorder. In addition to maintaining formal alumni events, he also maintains daily contact with a group of 15 men who went through the program at the same time he did.
In the past year he’s changed everything in his life, he says, but the hard work has been well worth the payoff.
“It took a long time to get to MFI. Thank God I finally did. It took a lifetime to get there,” he said.
Sometimes, he still can’t believe where he is today.
“I drove for AAA for 25 years, I have my CDL,” he said. “I never in a million years thought I would be talking to people about recovery.”
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Photo courtesy of MFI Recovery; used with permission
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