Aaron Creamer wanted to quit his addiction to drugs.
He disappointed too many people and himself, and his friends in the crowd he used to run with were dying one by one as a result of their addictions. But it was difficult.
“It started in high school with alcohol and marijuana. It started as a recreational thing, and then, I started using pain pills and that escalated and continued to progress until it got worse and worse,” said Creamer, who then became addicted to cocaine and heroin. “Pretty much everything. That’s what I did for 10 years … pretty much all of them.
“I got to the point where I couldn’t function unless I was under the influence,” he said on Sunday afternoon reflecting on the transformation he’s made.
Creamer, 33, of Kenosha, got help and now has a new lease on life after completing the Kenosha County Treatment Court Program.
Creamer entered the program on Dec. 23, 2017, and graduated last month.
The treatment program offers nonviolent offenders with substance abuse problems an opportunity to avoid prison by going through an intensive, court-monitored treatment program that includes counseling, drug testing, oversight by a team of court officials and frequent check-ins in the courtroom.
But before he was considered for the program, he was at the end of his road, having been jailed in August 2017 for possession of cocaine. A year earlier, he said he also kept “getting into trouble.”
A week before the last time he was jailed, Creamer said he knew it was either “change or die.”
“I’m a spiritual person, so when I decided to give it up to the Lord, that’s when things started to shift for me,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many friends I’ve lost, and they’re still dying as we speak. There’s only a couple friends that I had from those days that are even alive. I think that was an awakening for me, especially when I went into custody.”
Creamer said a good friend of his, who had similar addictions as he did, died just one month before Creamer was jailed.
“All the signs were right there. God moved everything out of my way,” he said. “I couldn’t even imagine it could get to this point without just letting go and putting all my trust in him. He’s given me the strength and courage to overcome this. That’s what it boils down to.”
Those who run the treatment program acknowledge the hard work Creamer did to achieve his sobriety.
“He entered, knowing in his heart that he was powerless, and he needed help,” according to a statement from program coordinator Shelly Erickson. “He was unsure if this program would help him stay clean.”
Creamer entered the program’s Sober Day House, “which was humbling to him because this was the lowest point in his recovery journey. It was here that who he thought he was stripped away so he could be reborn,” Erickson said.
While advancing through the program, Creamer began working at the Porcaro Ford dealership in Racine, where he started selling cars for the first time.
According to Porcaro Finance and Insurance Manager May Kay Hoguin, Creamer was quiet and reserved when he began working there, but eventually opened up about his struggles, including losing his home and friends because of his addiction.
“I appreciated his candor and complete honesty,” Hoguin said in a letter. “He explained how he did hit rock bottom, how he realized that this is not where he wanted his life to be. ... He stated he had a choice to make, and that was either, ‘I stop’ or ‘I die.’ He chose the first. I cannot tell you the amount of strength and determination I see in him on a daily basis.”
Carmela Ruffolo, a longtime friend, said she, too, watched Creamer spiral out of control due to addiction.
”I watched as the fire in his eyes faded along with his beautiful, caring soul,” she said. “Finally, after many years of trying to help and stop it, I had to walk away because I was powerless to stop him from going down a self-destructive path.”
Ruffolo said Creamer was in and out of trouble with the law. Finally, after landing in custody again, Creamer entered the drug treatment program.
“Everything started to change,” she said. “With a lot of hard work on Aaron’s part, which he continues to do every day, and with the help of everyone involved in treatment court, Aaron has learned to trust himself again.
“He loves his life again; he is enjoying it, not just existing and getting from one day to the next. ... I am so very lucky that I have him in my life.”
Ruffolo and Creamer are now engaged to be married on Feb. 27 next year in Cancun.
“I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life with him as his wife,” she wrote.
While in the program Creamer got his driver’s license and paid his court obligations and supervision fees in full. Creamer never tested positive for alcohol or illicit substances while in the program, providing 63 negative urine samples.
Creamer said he relies on a strong network of support, including friends and family, to get through a day at a time.
”First thing, I stay in prayer throughout the day, I’m physically active at the gym, still involved in treatment (counseling) and meetings and over the years I built all these people I’d go to for advice. I can call all of them and express what’s going on,” he said.
He said he works to stay positive and is cautious about who he surrounds himself with and the situations he puts himself in.
“I’m mindful of how easy it is to fall right back into the old behaviors,” he said.
Creamer said he remembered sitting in jail one day and reading about a young man who had graduated from the drug treatment program.
“I told myself, ‘That’s going to be me,’ and, now, it is me,” he said, adding that he hoped his example will help others to get help. “I don’t believe in coincidences. I get these eye-openers all the time letting me know that I’m on the right path.
“And it’s a great life.”