The Successful One
My name is Michael Janflone and I am a recovered addict. At various times in life, I was a chef, salesman; whatever the job was, I seemed to be able to adapt. My chameleon-like qualities developed out of necessity, because before all these other jobs, I had a flourishing career as a pharmacist. I graduated Duquesne University in 1996, one of the nation’s leading pharmacy colleges, with a B.S. in pharmacy and quickly signed with a major drug store chain while still enrolled. That was the great thing about becoming a pharmacist, the companies came to all of us and recruited. There were no job searches, and the money isn’t bad either.
I was the first person in my family to go to college and get a degree. I even earned a scholarship. As soon as my licensing test results were in, I was made the pharmacy manager of a store in Arnold, Maryland, a relatively small community near Annapolis. My life was progressing beautifully, on a nice upward arc; and more importantly for me, everyone was proud of me. In the opening sentence I used the word addict. I didn’t go to college to become a drug addict; I only drank, very rarely, in high school and much of college. I added up 3 innocent enough events to begin my drug use – knee surgery, where I was prescribed Percocet, and my parents remarked, “We’ve never seen you smile so much.” My girlfriend wanted to “take a break” after we graduated, and lastly, I worked as an intern and knew a pharmacy has a small window it can be off in controlled substance inventory.
I don’t remember when two Percocets and two beers turned into first snorting heroin, then shooting it, but a degree on drugs, their mechanism of action, half-lives’, etc., didn’t make me bulletproof against the progression of the disease of addiction. A degree that took me 5 years to earn, was stripped from me in just 4 years by the PA Board of Pharmacy, and rightfully so. I was a mess. When “the successful one” went to federal prison for a year, many were surprised, including myself. Pharmacists do not go to jail, we’re better than common criminals. Trading pills repeatedly to get an ounce of heroin though is frowned upon, and earned me a felony distribution charge and one year in jail back in 2002.
Miraculously, I made it through three years of probation. My probation officer wanted to help me rather than remand me back to prison. So much happened just between 2003 and present day, I could write a book on it, which, through the grace of God is exactly what I did, a memoir titled “Shoestring Theories” through my own tiny indie publishing company, Mind Shrapnel. The progression of my addiction eventually caused me to become homeless, which trying to endure the sheer misery of, caused me to intentionally overdose on a speedball (heroin and cocaine in the same injection) on June 7th, 2014. And it still wasn’t over…
I turned 43 today, February 3rd, and am slowly dying from a chondrosarcoma that is inoperable and has spread to both lung and bone cancers. I’ve lived an incredible life and will continue to be grateful for the grace and gifts bestowed upon me from above. I am blessed to have so many friends in recovery and have the ability to write, the thing I love to do the most, until someone decides it is time to disconnect the keyboard, hide my journals and my beloved typewriter.
Recovery has taught me many things, one of which is that everything happens for a reason. I’m confident this terminal cancer is no different, something good will come out of it. My hindsight to see that reason is going to just be from a much different angle this time.