Nick Santonastasso Talks to AAC About Addiction
American Addiction Centers (AAC) recently launched a new Facebook Live series Addiction Talk. The show involves interviews with celebrities and industry figures who have struggled with or have a loved one who has struggled with addiction. Nick Santonastasso, a bodybuilder born with Hanhart Syndrome, took time to talk to AAC about his experiences with his brother’s addiction. While Santonastasso’s brother passed away due to an overdose, Nick hopes his story will be able to help those whose loved ones are struggling with addiction.
Nick Santonastasso’s Journey
Nick Santonastasso was born with Hanhart Syndrome, a rare defect that causes infants to be born with underdeveloped limbs. Santonastasso was born without legs, an undeveloped left arm, and an underdeveloped right hand. At the time of his birth, Santonastasso was one of 12 infants born with the condition; eight of those infants passed away. However, it was apparent from a young age that Santonastasso wasn’t the sort of person to let a disability hold him back.
An avid wrestler throughout high school, Santonastasso rose to prominence on the defunct social media platform Vine. After garnering an Internet following with his prank videos, Santonastasso moved into professional bodybuilding and motivational speaking.
Nick Santonastasso’s Experience with Addiction
Nick Santonastasso’s experience with addiction happened after he’d moved to Los Angeles. He received a call from his brother one day, asking him to come home. “I said, ‘Why?’ And he (Santonastasso’s brother) said, ‘well, no one knows, but I’m addicted…to heroin and I can’t get off of it,” Santonastasso said to AAC’s Joy Sutton on the first episode of Addiction Talk.
“One of the things I could do for my brother was just be there,” Santonastasso said, “Whether that was in the form of presence, whether that was the form of conversation, whether that was the form advice, whatever it may be, I wanted to be there.” However, Santonastasso quickly learned that helping a loved one struggling with addiction can be more difficult than it seems. Oftentimes the line between helping a loved one struggling with addiction and enabling a loved one struggling with addiction is thin.
Santonastasso initially tried supporting his brother financially. “It started with, ‘hey, like I just need, I just need this amount of money, so I can go do this,’” he said, recounting his brother’s struggles with addiction, “What I’ve noticed was that every time that I gave money, it wasn’t spent on what I thought it was going to be spent on. And I also realized that…his intent wasn’t good.”
After a while, Santonastasso made the choice to stop enabling his brother’s addiction. Santonastasso sat down with his brother and explained, “I know it’s not you. I know it’s not you in there. But I cannot help you in this way.” While it was undoubtedly a tough decision, Santonastasso believes he, “Created healthy boundaries, which I thought that was the best way to do it.”
Helping a Loved One Struggling with Addiction
Sadly, Nick Santonastasso recently lost his brother to an overdose, but hopes his brother’s story will be able to help those who have loved ones struggling with addiction A lot of times, the line between helping and enabling can be blurry. Many people have loved ones struggling with addiction, and many may not know how to set healthy boundaries. However, there is hope out there. Nick Santonastasso spent his life overcoming seemingly impossible challenges. He discovered that healthy boundaries were essential when dealing with an addicted loved one.
If your loved one is struggling with addiction, there is help out there. American Addiction Centers stands ready to help you and your loved one overcome addiction and find lasting recovery.
All quotes included in this article were initially recorded as part of American Addiction Center’s Addiction Talk. To listen to the full episode, click here.