Veteran recovers from addiction, spends 40+ years helping others

HAMILTON, New Jersey (WPVI) -- "I had a lot of support, a lot of love, a lot of opportunity," said Joe Pritchard. "But once I picked up a chemical, it transformed me."

Pritchard, 66, says both addiction and recovery were recurring themes in his family. But no matter how hard they worked or how well-educated they became, the illness did not discriminate.

"Going in and out of treatment, on the streets, I was at a point where I was going to kill myself," he said. "And I thought, let me try to do something that will totally disrupt how I live. So, I decided to go into the military."

Pritchard served with the U.S. Navy from 1973 to 1976. Although he overcame his struggles enough to survive bootcamp, addiction still knocked on his door.

"When other sailors won't drink with you because you're a little too rowdy, that's kind of a tough message," he said.

However, like many other success stories, Pritchard emerged victorious with the help of his friends.

"There was a number of my military brothers that were in recovery that saw the progression of my illness and intervened and I was able to get into recovery," he said.

Since then, Pritchard has been working in addiction recovery circles. Eventually, he was tapped as the CEO of Pinnacle Treatment Centers to develop programs for a wide range of individuals.

"It provides a full-care continuum from residential care of the highest acuity to residential or sober housing for supportive living," he said. "We're fully integrated with medication assisted treatment, which is the most effective form of care for opioid use disorder in this country."

Pinnacle's service centers are caring for more than 34,000 people in eight states with more than 130 programs. Many of those individuals are veterans who have developed an opioid addiction after first using drugs to quell post-traumatic stress disorder or physical pain.

"I'm a firm believer that we help those who help us," said Pritchard. "And when a veteran has put their life on the line every day to defend our country and our freedoms, one of those freedoms should be freedom from addiction."

Still, Pinnacle Treatment Centers strive to help all walks of life.

"The counselors here have really helped in ways that are just above and beyond," said Kaitlin, a patient at the Hamilton Treatment Services branch.

She encourages anyone struggling with addiction to simply make the decision to get help and the rest will come easily. She credits medical assisted treatment for her near-immediate success.

"Of course, there's moments that I didn't want to seek recovery," she said. "You know, I'll never get those years back. But what matters is that I'm back to the life that I had before and back to what's important for me, and that's what I'm thankful for."

She and Pritchard both hope that Pinnacle Treatment Centers continues to grow over the years.

"If I can affect one person today, help get themselves into a treatment program or help someone else get into a treatment program, I'm a happy man," said Pritchard.

To learn more or find a location near you, visit their website.

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