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From Substance Abuse Rehab to the Stage

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Substance abuse can lay waste to the human body. From rapid aging, to hair loss, to extreme weight loss, drugs physically weaken the body, not to mention the mind. Substance abuse rehab can reverse this decay. It is the beginning of gaining control over the body, and working towards a healthier physical and mental life.

In a recent article on CNN.com, Joe Putignano talks about his success as a young gymnast, and how this was all taken away by his abuse of various substances, and his eventual addiction to heroin. He started using drugs at 17, and didn’t stop until he was 29. So, when Putignano fought back against his substance abuse, and the two overdoses that nearly took his life, and worked his way to a career as a performer with Cirque du Soleil’s show “Totem,” his fight was not just physical, but it was also a mental and spiritual climb.

“I loved gymnastics more than anything I had ever known and it had become my church,” Putignano tells CNN.com. “I couldn’t believe I used to have such a powerful dedication to the sport, which now seemed inconceivable because now my dedication turned into darkness. Instead of using my body to its full potential, my new purpose became to eradicate all pain and shame.”

He talks in detail about the thoughts that ring through his head every time he goes onstage to perform; they are thoughts that first formed during his time in drug addiction treatment.

“I take a deep breath for the current man I am, who is fighting to change, who still struggles against his progressive and fatal disease of addiction. And I stretch my bones to the four corners of the circus tent to honor the human who still suffers, those who are silently screaming in their own minds, trying to change, but can’t.”

Coincidentally, in “Totem,” Putignano’s character is the Crystal Man. He wears a costume made entirely of Swarovski crystals, and he is meant to appear as a symbol of hope, light, and clarity—all of which he was able to find in substance abuse rehab.

“I became the victim of my own making, and I was forever trapped in a prison made of syringes,” Putignano tells CNN.com. “But like the powerful emanation bursting off my costume, my soul wouldn’t allow me to quit trying, and I continued to crawl through hell.”

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