Jay Armstrong was a child who was always told he had a lot of “potential” and spent most of his early years in school in gifted programs for genius kids. At 16 he discovered heroin and spent the next 9 years struggling with addiction, homelessness, and even served a little time in prison on drug charges. In 2005 he went to rehab and since has been the quintessential story of redemption and recovery.
Once Jay worked up the courage to follow his dreams of comedy he was hooked and comedy quickly became his new addiction. From observations of the world he has a general distaste for to accounts from his personal experiences there is a little something for everyone. Jay travels the country performing at comedy clubs, recovery events and even a prison here and there. In 2014 he recorded his first comedy album which can be heard on Pandora Internet Radio. Jay has had the honor of performing at some historic venues, working with some of his comedy idols, and has performed at various comedy and music festivals.
A six-figure salary, a beautiful home in the suburbs, a loving family – Tim Ryan had it all, then lost it all because of an addiction to heroin, cocaine, other drugs and alcohol.
For years, Tim had great success in business and in life, despite a habit that was forming around “drinking and drugging.” But when he added heroin to the mix, Tim’s balancing act spiraled out of control. Often spending nearly $500 a day to support his opiate habit, his career and relationships suffered setback after setback. His uncontrollable addiction to substances resulted in multiple overdoses, rehab stays, and even jail time.
Sentenced to seven years in the Sheridan Correctional Center for a number of drug-related convictions, Tim got clean and sober behind bars. However, “life on the outside” wasn’t working in his favor.
While there, his wife divorced him. And his son Nick, who he had introduced to heroin along with his teenage friends, continued to abuse the drug, caught in a seemingly hopeless trap. Tim was released from prison after just 14 months, yet his time there was enough to convince him to maintain a strong 12-step recovery program. At last, it seemed as though hope was returning to his life.
But six months later, the bottom fell out. His 20-year-old son Nick died tragically from a heroin overdose.
Attempting to get beyond the devastation and heartbreak, Tim used Nick’s death as the inspiration to spread a message of hope and recovery to others, believing that if even one family could be spared the horrors of the disease of addiction, he would be making a difference. Then one family led to two, which led to four, which led to eight and so on.
Today, in addition to running addiction recovery groups for addicts and families, Tim is the Chief Marketing Officer for Banyan Treatment Centers. He is a “sober coach” and frequently speaks to school groups, corporations and others who care to hear his message. And, most importantly, he is the founder of A Man in Recovery Foundation, whose vision is ambitious yet realistic.
Tim believes he is blessed with the gift of continued sobriety, and he has made it his personal mission to promote awareness of the life-threatening effects of opiate addiction, most especially heroin. He has left the business world behind, instead committing himself to educate people about the hard truths of addiction and the potential for a full and happy life in recovery.
Frank Greenagel, MPAP, LCSW, LCADC, ICADC, CASAC, ACSW, CJC, CCS, is a clinical social worker who specializes in addiction & recovery treatment. He is licensed in NJ, NY, and PA.
Frank is an adjunct professor at the Rutgers School of Social Work and an instructor at the Center of Alcohol Studies. He writes a blog at greenagel.com. He conducts trainings and delivers keynote speeches around the country. He completed a Master in Public Affairs and Politics in 2015.
Frank has run multi-family groups at various programs since 2005. He consults for the EAP for the NY State Troopers. He scribes a monthly newspaper column for the Home News Tribune and regularly writes for a number of journals and trade websites. He is co-chair of the Middlesex County unit of NASW-NJ and also sits on the Rutgers School of Social Work Alumni Council.
Frank worked as the Recovery Counselor at both Rutgers New Brunswick & Newark for five years, where he oversaw recovery housing and coordinated student & alumni activities. Rutgers is considered by many to have the strongest recovery college program in the world. Frank served in the United States Army while studying history and English at Rutgers. He studied Shakespeare at the University of Cambridge in England, and taught English in Japan in 2003. Frank graduated with his MSW from Rutgers in 2006. He spent three years teaching English at Elizabeth High School, and six years working as an outpatient counselor at Hunterdon Drug Awareness. He has served on the NJ Governor’s Council on Alcohol & Drug Abuse (GCADA) since 2011 and was the Chairman of the NJ Heroin & Other Opiates Task Force. He served on the Board of Directors for Hazelden-Betty Ford NYC from 2014 to 2017. In 2014, 10 years after he was granted an honorable discharge, Frank was directly commissioned into the Pennsylvania Army National Guard as a First Lieutenant. He helps soldiers that have experienced PTSD, substance abuse issues, and tries to point them all in a positive direction.
Frank is a passionate sports fan who follows the Minnesota Vikings. He is also an avid traveler, having been to 22 countries, 46 states and every major league baseball stadium (41 total). Frank has run two marathons. A true Anglophile, he’s played croquet since childhood. He has visited every major Civil War battlefield. In his free time, he likes to hike, garden, go to plays, read comics and review stuff on Amazon.
Jam Alker is a songwriter who spins his experiences into stories. These stories, told through music, often touch on life’s dark, gritty underbelly, without judgment or condemnation, but often with a message of hope.
In his formative years on Chicago’s music scene, Jam played virtually every stage in the city, then toured the country. Though he loved music, he lost his way. In the depths of misery and addiction, on the verge of losing everything, he reached out for help.
He checked into treatment with a duffel bag and his guitar and he began to write again. It was music that helped him kick drug addiction—and it’s music that continues to keep him on his path. “Music is my therapy. Putting my experiences, both deadly and life saving, into song have helped me to heal. I owe a great deal of my recovery to my music,” he says.
His path is one of redemption. He carries this message at treatment centers, conventions, recovery music festivals, high schools and on recovery radio.
“Sharing my music with others who were fighting the same demons has not just helped me heal. As I’ve played my songs for those in recovery and those who are still struggling in active addiction, profound connections have been made. We share the same stories; we share the same fight… We see that we are not alone.”
These connections have deeply impacted the trajectory of Jam’s life. Currently, he is recording his first full length solo album, titled Sophrosyne and slated for release July 2017. He is also in production for a documentary about how he uses music to positively impact the lives of those still struggling in active addiction, as well as those seeking connection and inspiration in their recovery.
Jam is also currently working towards his certification as a Recovery Specialist in Illinois. He continues to speak with others who have struggled with addiction issues and provides music experiential groups at treatment centers in Chicago. He also speaks at high schools to share his stories with one of the most vulnerable populations–students–displaying an affinity for reaching them with his musical background and raw, honest storytelling.
“I have been leading acoustic recovery music groups for the past few years at various detox and treatment centers and know first-hand about the powerful healing power of music. I see it in the patients’ faces and read it in the message they send me when they’ve left treatment.”
Whether to help mend a broken heart or reach deep down into the soul of the still sick and suffering addict and alcoholic, music can be the spark plug that is needed to begin the journey into recovery.
These are songs written for addicts by a recovering addict. The bottom line is… unless they are ready to stop using, deep down in their very soul, nothing in this world will stop them. “I believe recovery based music, used as a healing tool, is one more important key to a locked door that needs to be opened.”
Once that door is opened, the addict/alcoholic has a chance to walk through it and be free. The subject matter and lyrics of my recovery-based tunes are specifically aimed at letting the addict know two important facts: They are NOT unique, and they are NOT alone.
Matt Butler is a folk artist, a rock’n roller, and most importantly – a storyteller. Matt has found his artistic voice in sobriety and is a powerful testament to the creative power of recovery.
Butler found recovery over 3 years ago, and his debut solo album, Reckless Son, is a chronicle of his experience during and leading up to early sobriety. The songs are insightful and at times heart wrenching, but always translate a positive message of hope and redemption. Rich and masterful storytelling makes a listen through the record a journey of its own.
Reckless Son was released on September 9th, 2016. Since then, Butler has been asked to be a testimonial speaker and performer at numerous events including the The Caron Foundation’s annual gala and Change Begins Within for The David Lynch Foundation. Butler is committed to service, and speaks and performs at all types of functions from recovery walks and treatment centers to songwriting workshops and forums on creativity. He is eager to share his passion for both recovery and artistry.
In the summer of 2016, Butler was tapped by The Anonymous People creator Greg Williams to compose an original song for his new feature length documentary Generation Found. The result was ‘Just One,’ an anthem encapsulating the revolutionary contribution an individual can make to their community by simply helping the next person. ‘Just One’ has become a call – to – action across the country for people in recovery and affected by the disease of addiction, as well as all those who simply wish to make a positive difference in the world.
During his relatively short professional career, Butler signed a development deal with Mercury Records (Island Def Jam), toured the United Kingdom (including main stage appearance at the Brighton Beachdown Festival), was a featured performer for TEDx San Francisco, recorded a single with Jeff Saltzman (The Killers), appeared in The LA Times, Nylon, Vanity Fair, Spin Magazine, and New York Times, as well as being the face of John Varvatos STAR USA ad campaign with Converse. As a solo artist, he has shared bills with the likes of Neil Young, Norah Jones, and Willie Nile.
A gifted singer/songwriter on the rise, he has co-writes with Angelo Petraglia (Kings Of Leon), Bobby Huff (Shinedown), Ted Hutt (Gaslight Anthem, Flogging Molly), Mike Viola (Candy Butchers) and Raine Maida (Our Lady Peace). Songs of Butler’s have been licensed to numerous films and television shows including American Pickers (Main theme song), NBC’s The Voice, A&E’s Biography of Bruce Springsteen, Pawn Stars, NY Ink, STARZ Network series Crash, Ax Men and Burn Notice.
Brandon Novak was 16 and a professional skateboarder on the Powell Peralta Team, but lost his spot due to what he says was a long bout with “psychoactive substance abuse.” Brandon is most well-known for his starring roles in the “Jackass Series” and his relationship and appearances with Bam Margera from the same series. Brandon Novak raises awareness and brings hope to those struggling with addiction and the epidemic of addiction across the country.