From heroin-fueled bank robber to family man -- a story of recovery

Story highlights

  • Strung out on heroin, Anthony Sideri robbed a bank
  • He had to go through withdrawal in a jail cell
  • Overcoming addiction is possible, he says, as he's building a new life as a family man

This story previously ran in June 2015. Watch "Prescription Addiction: Made in the USA," an "Anderson Cooper 360" town hall special hosted by Anderson Cooper and CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, at 9 p.m. ET Wednesday, May 11.

(CNN)Anthony Sideri hit rock bottom while wrapped in a dirty blanket on the floor of a jail infirmary bathroom in Middleton, Massachusetts. He was 25, shivering, sweating, throwing up and going through the full withdrawals of heroin.

He had just robbed a bank after shooting up heroin all day. That was July 22, 2007, the day his life changed forever. It was the last time he used drugs, the first and only time he was arrested, and the first and only time to fully withdrawal from heroin.
    "I knew that my whole world was over, and I thought I was going to die because I never had been so sick," Sideri said. "I had nothing to my name, and I didn't know if anyone else in the world even knew I was there."
      Nearly eight years later, Sideri looks back on his drug-using days like it was another person's life.

      Getting on drugs

      Sideri was your average student in high school playing on the hockey team, occasionally drinking and smoking weed until he began using drugs on a daily basis. He can't pinpoint exactly when it started or how or why, but it got to the point where he was smoking marijuana before, during and after school, and experimenting with mushrooms and acid. "Anything else that I saw, I would have tried," he says now.
      His grades dropped, he lost his eligibility to play sports, but when he was drunk or high, none of that mattered.
      "I didn't have to worry about what anyone thought, I could just go to a fantasy land and not have worries," Sideri said.
      After graduating from high school in 2000, Sideri began abusing Percocet and OxyContin, opium-containing painkillers. As his tolerance to the pills built up, he began snorting the drugs to feel the effects faster. Then he moved on to snorting heroin.
      "I wasn't getting the strong effects of OxyContin anymore, and I was already sniffing something else, so it didn't seem like a leap," he said. "It didn't seem like the heroin I grew up knowing about."
      By 2005, he had been snorting heroin daily for two years. Even as he was doing more and more drugs, he was in denial about his addiction since he had a job with his family's wholesale snack supply business and a second job as a nightclub bouncer, worked out at the gym and had his own car and a place to live.
      "On the outside, I had it all," Sideri said.
      That all changed the day he stuck out his arm and had someone put in a needle.

      The spiral toward crime

      Once Sideri started shooting up heroin, his life spiraled downward in only four months. He was hiding from his loved ones and his drug problem was obvious to everyone around him. He still thought he could control his drug use and quit on his own.
      "I really thought I could stop the next day, but I always had an excuse," Sideri said. "I was closed off from the rest of the world. ... I wasn't even a part of it anymore."
      By July 2007, he had no more money to fuel his addiction. Out of "pure desperation," he robbed a bank in Danvers, Massachusetts, with another addict.
      "Robbing a bank seemed like a way to get a lot of money fast, which equaled a lot of heroin," said Sideri. "That would hold me over for a long time ... I thought."
      As Sideri describes it, his partner entered the bank and handed the teller a cell phone. Sideri was on the other end, claiming to have a hostage. The men left with the money and were caught after a brief chase.
      "Getting caught never even crossed my mind," he said. "I was instead planning what I was going to do after: Get drugs."