Vincenzo looked like he had it all: an outstanding NCAA Athlete, a high-performing professional with a PhD, and a perfect family. On the inside, he was battling addiction, mental illness, and intergenerational trauma. Thanks to programs supported by United Way of Calgary and Area, Vincenzo and his family are on a path to healing as he now looks to help others who need support.
In October 1977 my father was working the night shift while my brother and I were asleep. I heard this massive knock on the door and when I went downstairs. My mother was on the street screaming in Sicilian: ‘Get out of the house because all of you will burn inside!’
This wasn’t my mother, but it was my mother. Eventually, she would scream nonstop day after day. We never spoke about her schizophrenia inside the home. It was taboo, but it was always there.
I was 14 years old and playing senior soccer when I had my first drink. I started getting drunk all the time, but I hid it well. Despite the drinking, I ended up getting an NCAA soccer scholarship and went to the NCAA finals. I was very driven, both good and bad. If I’m trying to win an NCAA championship, or if I’m going to get drunk, I’m going to go 100%.
I excelled in school and got my doctorate specializing in economic geography, mergers, and acquisitions in foreign direct investment. I was successful in so many ways, but just a mess internally. Inside my head, I thought “I’m a loser. I’m worthless. Why am I here on this earth? My God, you’re schizophrenic just like your mother.”
I worked for some very prestigious billion-dollar organizations, but I would be drinking 20 beers a day. I’d get so drunk that late at night I’d walk on the railroad tracks hoping the train would hit me.
I haven’t drank since December 13th, 2003. I finally found my spiritual compass, and I’m at peace. I have goals, I’m ambitious and now I’m an executive director of an addiction recovery center (The Red Deer Dream Centre).
United Way really helped me and my family through very challenging times as we began to heal from our intergenerational trauma. From my mother with schizophrenia, to me as an alcoholic, and then to my daughter when she got involved in drugs, alcohol and cutting.
Because my mother was not able to heal, it was hard for me to heal but I realized that my daughter had to heal too. That’s when United Way and its partner agencies really helped our family.
United Way is wonderful because they’re tied to everyone in the community. There are so many organizations that can help you and work with you to embrace your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual wellbeing so that you can live your life on your terms.
Photo courtesy Brett Gilmour.