[Part II in a 3-Part Series] The Hero In You: A Story of Recovery, Overcoming Adversity and Hope
“Hard times don’t create heroes. It is during the hard times when the ‘hero’ within us is revealed.” ~ Bob Riley
Today we venture into Part II in a Three-Part Series on the journey of one man’s recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. I hope you will continue this journey with me as I tell the story of Todd Rossiter, a man who is proudly in recovery, who has faced overwhelming obstacles, and near death, and is thankfully beating the odds. I hope his story inspires you that there is hope for those caught in the grips of addiction, and that despite our circumstances, there is a hero in all of us.
[Be sure to check out Part I of Todd’s recovery story if you missed it here.]
Our story picks up as Todd Rossiter ends his stay at a local treatment center.
Todd left the treatment facility in January of 2015. He decided to completely change everything he had done before. He didn’t go home this time. Instead, he went to a sober living facility. And this time, he didn’t run out immediately to get a job. He wanted to continue to solely focus on his recovery efforts. So, he attended meetings every day. He worked a program. And thanks to the judge that sentenced him to treatment, he even began speaking at events about his own recovery. He spoke at an event in Cuyahoga Falls in the spring, where he saw the three seniors from Lake High School again. And he was still wearing his red and black wristband they had given him back in November. Todd found that speaking was actually helping him.
Todd continued his path of recovery. He set short and long term goals. He worked the 12-step program and completed it. He applied it to his everyday life. In 2016, Todd was asked again to speak at an awareness walk called Steps of Change in Cuyahoga Falls. While speaking, he told the crowd about his experience of listening to the three girls from Lake High School and how it changed his perception of his addiction and how he realized it was affecting more than just himself. After he was done, a woman named Karen May approached him and asked if the story was true. She told him she was involved with a new non-profit organization that had been started by the parents of one of the girls from Lake High School. She asked to get a picture with Todd, immediately texting it to Taylor Bornstein and letting her know the impact she made on this man in recovery.
Very soon after this day, Todd would meet Travis Bornstein, the co-founder of Hope United, (and father to Taylor who Todd had heard speak at the Lake High School presentation), at an event at Lake Anna. Travis had heard Todd’s story from his family, and the first time Travis met Todd, he snatched him up in the biggest bear hug, holding so tightly that Todd felt like “his eyeballs would squeeze out of his head”. Little did these two men know, an inspiring relationship would soon form between Todd Rossiter and the Bornstein’s……
Through his journey of recovery, one of Todd’s long-term goals was to go back to working at his trade as an iron worker. He finally did so after being sober for over a year’s time. He was a little scared going back to same guys, who were doing the same things as before. He moved forward though with the job, successfully maintaining his sobriety.
On Saturday, October 1, 2016, Todd was doing some contract maintenance in the steel mill. He was standing on the 2nd step of a ladder that was next to a concrete pit where metal shavings were dispersed. The ladder slipped out from underneath him, and Todd slid off, falling 40 feet face down into the concrete pit that thankfully had just been emptied of the metal shavings the day before. As rescue workers were attempting to pull Todd out of the pit, he kept yelling, “I’m in recovery! I’m in recovery!”.
Todd arrived at the hospital, nearly bleeding to death, and in shock so badly that he didn’t feel anything for 9 days. When he first awoke after the accident - and nine major surgeries later - one of his first questions he asked was, “Where are my bracelets?!?!”, referring to the “Drug Use Is Life Abuse” wristbands he was given almost two years ago at the Lake High School presentation. He learned that the doctors had to cut them from his wrist during one of his surgeries and threw them away. He immediately asked if they could find them. Surprisingly, the hospital was able to recover them, and he still has those wristbands that were cut in half to this day. Todd now wears a replacement bracelet that Shelly Bornstein brought to him after she learned that his were cut off during surgery.
Todd endured an unbelievable amount of injuries from his fall. He had dislocated and broken both elbows, had 3 compound fractures in his left arm, had a compound fracture in his right arm, had broken both wrists and both hands, had a bilateral fracture all the way across the front of his face, his femur was broken in half along with having a compound fracture, he had cut his femoral artery, the top of his femur was broken off and he had broken his hip. Todd endured countless surgeries and spent 6 weeks in the ICU – laying in his hospital bed in unbearable amounts of pain. The nurses would apply bags of ice to his wounds and would provide him with non-narcotic pain medications, but because of Todd’s insistence – the doctors avoided administering any form of narcotic pain medication unless his blood pressure went well over 200. Todd did not want to run the risk of relapsing. He was at a point in his recovery where he didn’t want the pills - he wasn’t obsessing about them anymore.
Todd’s recovery was mentally and physically taxing, and while there were plenty of extremely difficult days, he also recognizes that many good things happened because of his accident. He knows that he didn’t do this all by himself. Todd credits his recovery from his accident to his friends and family. He thankfully found a renewed relationship with his mother, who never left his bedside. His recovery friends would bring the meetings to his hospital room in Cleveland, placing chairs around his bed and holding the meetings right there in his room. It was a very long road to recovery. By no means does he want anyone to think this was easy for him. He had his share of very bad days. But he kept fighting. After his long stay at the hospital, Todd moved to a nursing home for a year, and he began to help others. He would sit with the 80 and 90 year old patients that were dying from their alcoholism, and he would talk with them or read them a book – spending time with them and encouraging them.
Todd has had a total of 23 surgeries in all. The doctors had considered cutting off his left leg. They told him he would never walk again. He proved them wrong. He endured speech therapy to keep his face from sagging when he spoke and underwent lots of physical therapy – learning how to walk, not only once, but twice. His body is filled with an unbelievable amount of rods, titanium plates, pins, and bolts. So much so, he could be nicknamed “Ironman”. And the most astonishing thing of all, after almost losing his life, undergoing countless surgeries, and fighting to regain his physical health through an excruciating amount of pain, Todd has been able to maintain his recovery from drugs and alcohol.
Be sure to read Part III of this 3-part series to see how Todd has used his recovery to grow as a person, and to appreciate the little things in life. He shares his best advice and what has worked for him through this journey.