Joe Difabio is the Director of Business Development for Atlanta Center for Mental Health and Atlanta Detox Center. Originally from Fulton County, Georgia, Difabio grew up in a violent and abusive household. Most of the time he felt insecure and unhappy. At 12, he discovered that drugs and alcohol changed those feelings.
Although his early days of substance use consisted mostly of drinking and smoking pot, Difabio began using heroin at 16 and the downward spiral began.
“I barely graduated from high school and was stealing,” he said. “From ages 18-25, I was either homeless or incarcerated. I’ve been arrested more times than I’ve had birthdays.”
For money, Difabio would panhandle outside gas stations. He took shelter in burned-down or otherwise abandoned homes. After a period of six weeks during which Difabio overdosed eight times – twice in a single night – he realized he couldn’t keep living this way.
“I went into a gas station and called my probation officer,” Difabio said. “I asked him for a warrant for my arrest. Exactly three weeks later, I turned myself in.”
Difabio spent close to five months in Cobb County Jail. When he was released, he was sent to live at Anchor Sober Living Home in John’s Creek, Georgia. It was here that Difabio met his new best friend and future co-worker Troy Roundy, Southeast Regional Director of Business Development at
In early recovery, Difabio found work in a number of different areas: selling shoes, flooring, and plumbing. He started doing recovery advocacy work and speaking engagements, a skill that Roundy found valuable. Roundy, who recently began working for Atlanta Detox Center, told Difabio he would be good for the job.
In his position, Difabio meets many individuals who have hit bottom. He can relate to these clients and share his own experience, strength, and hope.
“I try to assure them that whatever they are struggling with —alcohol, drugs, mental health disorders— I know what that feels like,” he said. “ It feels like forever and it seems so daunting right now, but a lot of people have recovered with us and some even work with us now. We employ people who have recovered from substance use and mental health disorders.”
In fact, the majority of the staff at Atlanta Center for Mental Health and Atlanta Detox Center are in recovery from Substance Use Disorder, something that Difabio believes sets the treatment centers apart from the rest.
“The biggest thing at ADC is the team that we have,” he said. “A lot of places do detox and treatment. But our team, from the BHTs all the way up, 90% of our staff is in recovery.”
Difabio says the most rewarding part of his job is getting phone calls or texts from former clients, informing him that they have reached various lengths of continuous sobriety. It’s especially meaningful for Difabio when members of a client’s family reach out to express gratitude.
Difabio knows that the road to recovery is not an easy one, but he also knows that with a little willingness, it is an attainable one.
“When you’re talking to someone on day one, they’re filled with fear and reservation,” he said. “I want them to have a little bit of faith and know that it will all be worth it.”