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Giving Addicts A Voice

But he saw something special in her. “Calm down,” he’d say. “Just write.”

So she wrote. And wrote. And wrote. Nichole didn’t like everything she wrote. Sometimes she thought it was stupid or cheesy — so she tried to write without thinking too much, hoping maybe, she’d like it when it was done. Then she wrote “Pieces.”

“It’s about going through my depression,” Nichole says. “I wrote everything I ever felt, every thought I had. I think the most therapeutic line that I ever wrote was the very first line of the chorus: ‘Instead of putting skin to a razor, I’ll put pen to paper.’”

Nichole has been putting pen to paper ever since.

TO HELL AND BACK

The first time Joe Nester picked up the guitar, he was 11 years old. By the time he was 19, he had traded his guitar strap for a tourniquet. When he had thoughts of robbing his grandparents — the people who raised him — he decided he’d rather be homeless than continue to hurt the people he loved.

Nester spent the next 10 years either in jail or on the streets. “I thought I was going to die in the streets with a needle in my arm or serving time in prison,” he says. “The sad thing was, I was OK with that. I was so broke and hopeless.”

But then, in a bizarre twist of fate, the person who introduced Nester to drugs also introduced him to recovery. “He had gotten clean, and when I was at my lowest, he got my phone number and gave me a call,” Nester recalls. “‘Listen, man,’ he said, ‘there is another way. If you’re willing, I’ll do everything in my power to help.’”

Even though Nester had accepted his fate, it was December in Wilmington, Delaware, and a treatment center — in south Florida, no less — with leather couches where he could have his own room and an allowance for groceries didn’t sound that bad.

After 45 days at an in-patient treatment facility, Nester moved to a halfway house. He not only saw a group of guys the same age as him having fun, but he also picked up a guitar for the first time in years. “I started pouring out my heart and soul on a piece of paper,” Nester says. “Everything I was going through. That was my therapy. That was my meditation.”

When Nester heard about a new independent label that was signing artists in recovery, he knew he had to send them something. The next day, Heinzelmann offered Nester a contract. By the end of the month, he had written his first EP, To Hell and Back.

“There are a lot of people who felt like I felt: hopeless, broken, too far gone, like they don’t have a chance,” Nester says. “That’s what my music is for — to get to that person. I’m here to let them know it doesn’t matter how far gone you are. You can be homeless for 10 years, have no teeth and multiple felonies. But you can not only recover, but you can also have a life beyond your wildest dreams.”

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