Barry Pietrantonio, Class of 2017G

Barry Pietrantonio’s long road to sobriety inspired a career change. In 2017, he earned a master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling at Rivier and now co-owns a counseling and recovery center.

Sharing His Past to Help Their Future

Barry Pietrantonio admits he’s not proud of his past, but what he is proud of is that he’s using those experiences to change his clients’ futures.

When Barry was a child, it wasn’t uncommon for his family to have a little brandy when they were sick. That, he says, is likely where his 30-year battle began. Through his teenage years, he and his neighborhood friends would sneak beer.

“As I aged, my addiction progressed. I wanted to drop out of high school, but my mother refused to sign the papers,” he said. “After five years, I managed to graduate.”

Barry began working in construction. He found many coworkers drank and used drugs, and he partied along with them. “At the time, I could stay up until four in the morning, and go to work at six or seven,” he said. Later, Barry discovered these were manic episodes—functioning on very little sleep is part of the criteria for mania.

In his early 20s, Barry began to take his future more seriously. He earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting, and he stopped using for three years. But as he settled into his first professional job, his “addiction exploded.”

When he fell into a severe depression and started counseling, Barry was told it was the substance misuse causing the addiction, but he didn’t believe his counselor. He continued to use, and when he still felt depressed, he stopped taking his prescribed medication.

“I said, ‘I must not be depressed,’” he recalls. His troubles didn’t stop. He already had a herniated disc in his back from his carpentry days, and a motorcycle accident in 1998 led to a back injury. He needed surgery, and the recovery period gave him access to opiates. After six or seven months, when his final prescription ran out, he turned to cocaine and hard liquor.

The Wake-Up Call

Barry’s addiction—and subsequent issues—continued throughout the years: a DUI, marital trouble, and difficulties with family members. He eventually sought help in 2009. Rather than go to a detox center, he went to a psychiatric facility. And he was honest about his addiction for the first time.

“Within two days, I was diagnosed as bipolar,” he said. “By the third day, my whole life had changed.”

After about a week in the hospital, Barry’s road to recovery continued with a month-long outpatient program called Quitting Time. A year-and-a-half of sobriety later, he had to face a judge for his DUI. The judge told him, he recalls, “‘We’re not in the position to put recovering people in jail.’”

“I took the outcome of all my trials as a sign from God and said, ‘I’m sticking to this program,’” adding that he maintained his sobriety for one year. Then two.

A New Life. A New Direction.

Barry’s experiences and bipolar diagnosis got him interested in a career in the mental health field, but he didn’t pursue it at the time. As his recovery continued, as he restored important relationships, and as he found more clarity in life, the idea of helping others with addiction and mental health issues returned. At the suggestion of a good friend, Barry pursued a Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Rivier University.

“As I grew into my Master’s program, I started to realize that I would be very capable of helping the dually-diagnosed population,” he said.

Barry graduated with his Master’s in May 2017, and he not only had the degree and counseling training but he also now had seven years of sobriety. His professional and personal experiences would prove beneficial in approaching his clients with empathy and firsthand insight.

Today, Barry is CEO of Crossroads Recovery Center, LLC in Salem, which he co-founded with his friend and fellow Rivier alumnus, Tom Donovan ’13—who just happened to be the good friend that introduced Barry to the Master’s program.

Crossroads specializes in individual and group counseling programs for substance misuse and co-occuring disorders, as well as aftercare planning, relapse prevention, and intensive outpatient services.

Motivated by his childhood experiences—and data about the early onset of substance misuse—Barry helps local youth and their families learn more about mental health and substance use disorders. He speaks to a wide range of audiences about his journey to sobriety to raise awareness and educate them on resources for assistance.

“Education and rehabilitation are key to battling substance use disorder,” he said. “By providing more opportunities for treatment and address contributory factors early in people’s lives, we can make a difference.”

He’s thankful for the difference others made in his.

“I’ve learned so much about myself and what I can accomplish,” he said. “I’m not proud of the things I did, but I share my story to give others hope and motivation for their recovery.”

Learn more about the M.A. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program that gave Barry an opportunity for a new beginning.

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