‘We just need support’: How a recovering addict is helping others in Fresno

FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE) – “It’s crazy because using in the end wasn’t even fun. It was just surviving. I would get sick every single time I used, every single time.”

Those are the words of a drug addict in recovery after he overdosed four times, but Narcan saved his life.

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His name is Howard Piper, and he has a story to share. In his own words, he says he is lucky to be alive— and now, instead of shooting up, he is sounding the alarm on fentanyl.

Piper says he grew up in Brockton, MA, a boxing city where Rocky Marciano grew up. Without struggling to find his next sentence, he dives into how he was first introduced to drugs.

“I got dared to do coke when I was 13 in school in math class, and I did it and the next weekend I did more. Then found out I could make money off it. Why would I go to school when I could sell drugs and make 20 times what my parents did?”

Howard Piper shared his life story of struggle, a death wish, and recovery.

“I started doing heroin and I mean it was a fraction of the price. Same if not better high and got bad real fast,” he said.

A story of addiction that started in middle school and would continue for 25 years.

“Weed, cocaine, heroin, pretty much every prescription medication that had a side effect that would be beneficial to not feeling like myself… angel dust, acid, LSD, I can now say meth. I used to be able to say everything but meth until I did that.”

A story of loss: his dad died when he was just 19 years old, he lost custody of his 2-year-old daughter from his addiction to drugs, and he lost his friends, one after another to pills, powder, and poison.

“Overdoses, police, jails and detoxes. I probably went from 2016 to middle of 2018 at least 30 detoxes. I knew I had an understanding of what I had to do, or else I saw quite a few, more than I want to say people die in the same spot where I’m using.”

Howard would string sentence to sentence together untangling his complicated story.

“I like to say, I went to a party when I was 13 and I stopped partying in 2018. I tell people I did coke once for 25 years. It uh, it just got bad.”

Howard would continue for 28 uninterrupted minutes and then I asked, “Do you wish it was different? Do you wish you took a different path?”

“I ask myself this a lot. From where I sit right now. No. I wouldn’t change a thing. Do I wish that we didn’t lose as many people as we did and yeah, of course, I would never wish that on anybody,” Howard answered.

On New Year’s Day 2020, sobriety and a fresh start brought him to the Central Valley and into a sober living house in Clovis.

This July, Howard will celebrate six years of sobriety.

“It’s indescribable and I speak a lot about it. There’s nothing I would trade for what I have now and not materialistic things, just the way I feel about myself and the small accomplishments that I’ve had they mean so much more because of the hard work I’ve put into it.”

He founded Fentanyl Anonymous, a Fresno nonprofit with a mission of providing a sanctuary of support and empowerment to those grappling with fentanyl addiction.

“We call it Fentanyl Anonymous because fentanyl is in pretty much everything. And we’re getting out there. We’re halfway across the country already. We’re working on our third meeting here in Fresno and we just need support. The more we can get the word out the more people we can help and that’s the whole goal of this.”

He hopes one day that fentanyl won’t exist. The pain of nearly losing it all– his life, his family, his future to drugs in the end would not have been worth it.

“To anyone actively using. Just try it, man. It was told to me, give it a year. If you try it for a year and your life hasn’t dramatically improved the street’s still there. You can go out. It’s always going to be there.”

When asked, “Do you miss it at all?”

“No. No,” Howard replied.

If you or anyone you know is battling with addiction, you can find valuable resources through the Fentanyl Anonymous website.

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