My Name Is Dean….And I’m An Addict

My name is Dean and I am an addict:

My clean date is May 18th, 2011.

When I’m in a meeting of Narcotics Anonymous I relate as an addict, and when I’m in a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous I relate as an alcoholic.

You should know that this is out of respect for the fellowships meeting, although alcohol is a drug, period.

I attend any meeting that has an (A) attached to it because if I can get something out of AA and NA I’m winning.

I used to drink a lot and use a lot of drugs together and it all started at the age of 16. This is my story:

In The Beginning

I was born the only child. My mom was half Italian, half Irish and my dad was full Italian.

My mother divorced my father (who was an alcoholic by the way) when I was 2 years old. He was very abusive to her.

We went to live with my mom’s parents. You should know my grandparents were very good to me.

Growing up as a kid I was involved in sports, all kinds of sports: baseball, football, swimming, basketball & track and field.

It all came natural to me it seemed. I was a happy little guy without a care in the world!

Growing into my character as an athlete involved being a pitcher and a “bases loaded” batter in baseball.

I also played quarterback and middle linebacker in football. Everything I touched in sports I was blessed at; my peers considered me “the best”.

I was in newspaper articles; I was in punt pass and kick competitions; I had won many trophies and medals to my credit.

This, I believed, was my future. My dream was to become a professional baseball player.

Mom remarried when I was 12 years old to a great man. Ernie Finkbeiner was his name.

He coached sports and was involved in sports. He played football for the Arkansas Razorbacks in college.

Anyway, we moved out of my grandparent’s house when they married and to a different neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley in Southern California. This is where it started.

What It Was Like

It just so happened that all my new friends that I met liked to party, drink beer and smoke weed.

I was in junior high school from 7th grade through the 9th grade. That was in the late 1970s.

The early 80s is when it all began. I just wanted to fit in. I wanted to be liked and accepted.

Of course, I started drinking beer with my friends and, eventually, the first time came when I smoked weed (Colombian Gold they called it).

I remember saying to myself of the sorts, “Dean! You have finally arrived!!”

And I had arrived indeed. This was it. This is it and that’s ALL!

My focus was now on getting high and drinking.

My mind was no longer on professional sports. What for? I had a new career of successfully getting loaded.

I let my dream go and let me tell you I hated myself for that for many years.

That resentment that I had towards myself kept me drinking and using for over 30 years.

No one in my family ever used any other hard drugs other than alcohol.

Growing up in an Italian and Irish family, there was always alcohol at the dinner table or parties with the family.

Other occasions such as Christmas or Thanksgiving was a given as well.

So you see, it was OK to drink. That is, until it wasn’t! Because what you also need to see is that I took it to another level.

I crossed that invisible line with no visible way to get back now. I had “crossed over” into the abyss.

I drank to get drunk, period. I dropped out of high school in the 11th grade to start working to support my addiction.

I worked odd jobs, any job, that would produce the finances to support my “habit”.

Through all of this, amazingly, I was fortunate enough to enter into the Carpenter’s Union as an apprentice.

Once again, I found that I was blessed with the skills that I would take for granted.

My stepfather advised and suggested to me to stay in the Union because in 15 to 20 years of working, I would have positioned myself for a solid pension.

That good advice was so far out of my perception that I was unable to receive it at the time as sound advice.

To be honest with you, I didn’t think I would be alive long enough at the rate I was going.

What Happened

I can’t describe to you how dark of a place you reside when you believe that about yourself. It is a very dark place to be.

It actually becomes a reality that you are resigned to. How dark it is before the dawn.

It should come as no surprise that I eventually dropped out of the Union a few years later.

I then started working in wood construction framing houses and doing what they call “piece-work’.

Good thing about this work (at the time) is that we could work at our own pace.

But the best thing about this job was that we could basically drink when we wanted to, use on the job when we wanted to and not have to worry about being checked by a superintendent to be drug tested.

It was perfect!…….NOT!!

So, I told you I liked smoking weed and drinking.

Well eventually I tried some reds and barbiturates. I liked them to say the least, and Quaalude, I really liked them.

And then came the LSD (acid as we know) and the Pablo Escobar 80s cocaine.

There was the PCP, angel dust, hash, cannabinol and then, the infamous, methamphetamine!

Now, truth be told, all this stuff did was ruin a perfectly good drunk. But the truth as it is…is that “I did it ALL!”

I did anything and almost every drug out there.

That is, except heroin. I didn’t do heroin because that’s what “junkies” use. I was never going to become one of those.

Again, how dark it is before the dawn!!

I really believed I was never going to become a junkie.

Let me tell you, the first 10 years of using was all fun. Running from the police and committing crimes was all new.

The next 10 years was all fun with an occasional bad day here and there. It was to be expected.

The last 10 years was ALL BAD! with an occasional fair day.

At the age of 36 years old I thought I would step up my game and stick a needle in my arm and shoot up some methamphetamine.


That day was a pivotal point for me. It changed my life for the absolute worst.

Approximately 6 months after I stuck a needle in my arm, I picked up my first prison term for grand theft auto.

I did 2 years on that sentence at California State Prison – Corcoran, better known as CSP-COR.

I had so much fun on that term working IDL, which stands for Inmate Day Labor.

As a construction worker within the Prison Industries making 95-cents an hour, I was released and did good for 13 months.

I discharged my CDC number, started shooting up methamphetamine again and picked up another prison term for GTA (grand theft auto).

I was sent up north to the California Correctional Center, better known as Susanville or “Susie’s House” by convicts.

This prison was on and cracking, being a very political prison yard.

This type of “yard” is referred to as “Gladiator School” being very active in racial & political conflict.

I was involved in 2 racial riots that extended my time for another 8 months on top of the 2 years I was already doing.

I was released on September 13th, 2005

After that, I did good for 13 months again and started shooting up methamphetamine once again.

In 2010, I was at it again, stealing anything that wasn’t bolted down.

I was headed back to the life of being in another institution.

I was arrested once again for stealing a vehicle; however, they couldn’t find any fingerprints that belonged to me, so I signed a deal for receiving stolen property.

I was sentenced to 6 months in Los Angeles jail.

I was released and once again I went back to the needle.

Once again, I was lost with not a speck of light at the end of the tunnel for me.

I was lonely with no hope. It was a very dark place I was in.

My girlfriend at the time said I could stay with her at a friend’s house sleeping on a blow-up mattress in the living room.

I had nothing. No job, no ambition, no life. She was hooked on heroin at the time, and I didn’t know what the big infatuation was with the heroin so I said, let me try that stuff.

I was getting high on heroin now and thank God I hated that stuff.

Mind you, I would smoke it if someone had it but I never wanted to get high on it back to back.

The next day after getting high on it the day before, it felt like I was hung over from drinking alcohol.

My girlfriend got busted and was sent to a place called Prototypes for women in Pomona California.

She was there for a year and thank God for that place.

She graduated and now has 11 years of sobriety

She graduated the program and now has 11 years of continuous sobriety now.

I myself was still living on this guy’s living room floor and he wanted me out like yesterday, but I had nowhere to go.

I was able to stay until I could figure some stuff out.

It was coming to an end for me, one way or another, sink or swim.

One night I was watching something on TV about the Mayan calendar, good and evil how the world was supposed to come to an end on December 12, 2012. (This was still 2011)

I was 47 years old at the time watching that show, and it made me really think about life and death.

I was thinking where I was and what a pitiful life my life was.

I was a failure just waiting around to die. I never wanted to take my own life. I was just taking up space here.

I went to sleep that night and I woke up the next morning, saying to myself, “that’s it, I’m done with this!”

I had a moment of clarity with God. My spirit had been woken up.

God had one arm and the devil had the other.

Needless to say, God pulled me out of the devil’s grip, finally!

I called a homeboy who was clean and asked him, “what do I have to do to stay clean?”

I thought for a moment…I have never been clean in my adult life. Ever.

From the age of 15 to 47, minus the 4 ½ years of incarceration in prison, I had no clean time.

He said, “Let’s go to a meeting!” to start with and we did just that.

What It’s Like Now.

I was on fire for the Lord. I was a soldier for Christ overnight. It’s still like that today, by the way!

But back then, people would tell me that I was glowing. I had to admit…I was on fire for the good of things!

I eventually moved out of that guy’s house to a sober living house for 6 months.

Not long afterwards I started managing a sober living house. I did that for 2 years.

Moving along with life-on-life terms now, I decided to attend community college for addiction studies.

I had an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I had for my sobriety and wanted to help others now.

Fast forwarding, I made it through school.

I graduated with 2 associates degrees: 1 in addiction studies and 1 in behavioral studies.

I positioned myself to test with credentialing agency CAADE, past my test and was certified as an Alcohol & Drug Counselor.

I was hired on at a treatment center as a technician and moved up to counselor.

After working there for 6 years I got a job with Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health & Homeless Outreach.

I still work at the treatment center 2 days a week and for LACMH 4 days a week.

I stay busy. And my pension has never looked greater!

I never looked at my future as a future of helping others, only myself.

Well, my future had others plans than the ones I created earlier. I’m living it now. I destroyed my life.

Today, with God’s grace, I’m picking up the pieces now.

I’m able to pick up the pieces because of these 3 ingredients: “Trust God, Clean House and Help Others”

Without this, I’m nothing and representing nothing.

Today I represent the voice of many that have overcome addiction against ALL ODDS.

I’m coming up on 11 years clean on the 18th of May 2022.

My name is Dean, ….and I’m an addict.


Dean has gone on to accomplish 2 Associate Degrees in Addiction Studies and Behavioral Science as well as state certification with Alcohol & Drug Counseling credentialing agency CAADE for The Addiction Counselor Certification Board of California. Dean has also accomplished his Class “A” Driver’s License.

Dean maintains his sobriety to this day and continues to selflessly give back to the communities he once took much from. He serves as an Alcohol & Drug Counselor for Tarzana Treatment Centers and is a full-time employee with Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health & Homeless Outreach Services. Dean serves as an Alcohol & Drug Counselor II and Liaison for the mental health & homeless communities throughout Los Angeles County.

You should also know that the girlfriend that got clean at Prototypes before he did…. well, that girl is now his wife, Kathy Michele. I won’t share anymore with you because Kathy Michele will also be telling her story here at Timo Therapy very soon.

Dean’s testimony is a fact that happy endings do exist…. if we are willing to work for it. Thanks for your inspiration Dean!

Feel free to leave any comments or any questions and tune in soon for another “Success Story” from Timo Therapy!

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9 thoughts on “My Name Is Dean….And I’m An Addict

  • February 24, 2022 at 1:29 AM

    Wow, good stuff brother, what an example for those who have lost hope and want more out of life – what an inspiration you are, your story is, Praise Jesus- Amazing, the power God has in one’s life to accomplish what’s considered the impossible for guys like us – when we’re just able to step aside and Let HIM direct our lives amazing lives is the result ! Thanks for sharing that ! !

    • February 24, 2022 at 1:44 AM

      Amen brother! The blood of Jesus cleanses a multitude. Thank you for your leadership in being instrumental in Deans recovery. When we let go, and let GOD, great things submerge. Deans an example of doing the footwork and staying out the results. You are an example of leading him through that footwork. God Bless you brother!

    • April 10, 2022 at 9:58 PM

      Dean!!! Thanks for your testimony bro. I love your spiritual awakening and how it proves the power of God! Thanks for taking me under your wing and showing me how to live, one day at a time!!

  • February 24, 2022 at 2:07 AM

    My dearest Dean, you’re testimony is so inspirational and I am so proud of you. You’re journey through this life hasn’t been easy, but you have become such a beautiful man of God. Thank you for being so candid and transparent, it’s amazing that God granted you all the gifts He has blessed you with. I am so proud to call you my brother in Christ and I look forward to all the lives you’ve changed and lives you will be changing in the future. Darkness is somewhere we have all been, but you being the light of life for others will bless you in abundance my brother. God bless you today, tmrw, and always! Sending you all my love and blessings to you and Michele.

  • February 24, 2022 at 2:48 AM

    Dean Vitelli is a bright light who is dedicated to helping and healing those in need. His generosity and kindness are unparalleled and his perseverance and determination are admirable. Dean’s story is inspiring and is an accomplishment to be proud of. Without a doubt Dean imbues strength , persistence , and the motivation to continue maintaining a sober lifestyle.

  • February 24, 2022 at 3:02 AM

    Buddy!!! Thank you for sharing your story of hope and the power of God. I feel like I got to know you that much better. I’m so blessed to have you in my life. Just in case you didn’t know… you still got that “glow”. You light up every room you walk into, your faith shines bright.

  • February 25, 2022 at 6:55 PM

    Such an inspirational story my brother. I can’t tell you how many times you are laughter and smile has made my day so much better. Even through my roughest of times.
    You have taken that chance, to be helpful to others, in meetings, on the street, and at work.
    Keep going strong my friend. Your light is shining among many whom you have helped along your journey.

  • February 25, 2022 at 8:54 PM

    I just wanted to say that I am grateful that I have been able to get to know Dean both professionally and personally. Dean is such an amazing soul and he is so caring for people who are in need for both substance use and mental health.

  • February 26, 2022 at 1:38 AM

    My dear friend Dean You are such an inspiration I am so proud of you and all your successful accomplishments throughout your journey. I have personally witnessed the kind hearted man that you are always willing to help out the next addict and guide them to a new way of life love you so much my friend


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