STRATFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– Peter Patria says he was raised by a good family, in quality schools, but something about the streets enticed him at a young age.
“Once upon a time there was a kid growing up on the east-side of Bridgeport,” said Patria.
But his life is no fairy tale.
Patria said, “At two different times in my life, in two different hospitals in the state of Connecticut, I had two different nurses tell me, ‘I don’t know what you’re doing or why you’re here, but I should be on the phone with your family right now.'”
“I come from a good family, good education, good school,” said Patria. “At a young age, I was just enticed to the streets.”
At 17, he tried a Percocet.
“Once that entered my system. All bets were off and that’s when I say I started the journey down the rabbit hole,” said Patria.
A year later, looking to get his next high he went tried to rob a Bridgeport store and the owner flipped the script. He was shot twice.
“I was hit in my chest and I was hit in my back and I remember saying, ‘Wow is this it? Is this how my life’s going to end?'”
He healed and went to prison. When he got out he said opioids pulled him back into that way of life. He robbed a movie theater in 2014.
“I got high because it made me feel good. it gave me a sense of confidence, It gave me a sense of not feeling pain,” said Patria.
After two overdoses, two prison stints, something had to give.
“I think what’s helped me is I had a plan when I was incarcerated.” He said, “I just started with little things and those little things started to grow.”
Over the past three years, he dropped 100 pounds doing it all drug-free through diet and exercise. Then, Peter landed a job selling cars at Stratford’s Autotown.
“That’s part of my identity. I’m proud that I’m in a profession where I can say I’m Peter Patria and I’m a salesman,” he said.
Autotown Owner, Anthony Amoroso said, “There’s so many good people out there that have problems like this and it’s been hidden, but now it’s time for people to come out and give these people a chance.”
Peter says work keeps him busy and working-out has replaced the drugs. It’s not easy, not a fairy tale, but with family and fitness he hopes to inspire other to live their own version of happily every after.
“I want to be part of the solution. I’ve been part of the problem for so long,” said Patria. “People really can change. Yes, you can hit a rock bottom place, but you can overcome and you can live a healthy life.”
He says his family’s unwavering support has helped pull him through. His father would send him cards for every holiday when he was behind bars and every card read, “Never Give Up”.