Raphael’s Journey to Recovery

“I began my journey into recovery like every other addict does: completely broken physically, mentally, spiritually, and financially. I was a wreck.” 


Raphael began using alcohol and marijuana in high school in 2004. By the time he graduated, he was selling weed and using prescription drugs. He started and dropped out of college, found and lost jobs, got into debt, and continued his downward spiral. His first rehab came in October 2018, where he met his girlfriend. Relationships that start in rehab (“rehab romances”) frequently don’t end well, and Raphael’s romance was no exception. Both relapsed and spent months living and using together. In May of 2019, tragically, his girlfriend overdosed, and in his grief, Raphael sunk deep into his addiction.  

In the fall of 2019, Raphael found the inner strength to ask for help, entering rehab in Monmouth County, and completing treatment at a halfway house in Long Branch in May of 2020. While at the halfway house, he met Preferred Behavioral Health Group’s ’s Anthony Gambarony, a Case Manager for the STAR Program. STAR (Support Team for Addiction Recovery), funded through the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services, provides case management and recovery support services for individuals with opioid use disorders. In Raphael’s words, “The program has recovery coaches trained to engage and support individuals affected by substance abuse. While at the halfway house, STAR staff would drive me to NA/AA meetings, take me to get food afterwards, and regularly stop by or call in to check to see how I was doing.”  

When Raphael left the halfway house, he moved to the Phoenix Recovery Sober House in Asbury Park. The STAR staff continued to stay in contact with Raphael and the other residents of the sober house despite the difficulties that the pandemic brought. “They offered consultation services for those seeking to get back into school, needed help finding a job, or putting in a friendly word to the courts. We had ZOOM meetings, and even game nights to have some fun.” 

Raphael has known many people addicted to drugs and has lost those he loved. Today, he is grateful to be clean and sober and is looking forward to the future.  

He works as a fuel technician in a train terminal in Perth Amboy – and in the seven months he’s been there, he has received 2 raises and a promotion. He loves the stability of his job and the opportunity for growth. He is now mentoring and training new hires! 

Personally, he is strengthening his relationships with his family members, attends NA/AA meetings regularly, and is an avid writer. He finds the sober house a great fit for him in recovery and continues to live there. He has been journaling during his recovery and hopes to eventually publish his work.   

About the STAR program, Raphael says, “The staff are a blessing for individuals as myself, and I really hope they continue to provide this service to the next hopeless person suffering and seeking help.” 

For more information on the STAR program, contact Jean Hennon at jhennon@preferredbehavioral.org.

®Preferred Behavioral Health Group. April 21, 2021