Breaking the Cycle: Thomas Pantze's Journey to Recovery and Redemption

My name is Thomas Pantze and this is a brief description of my recovery.

My grandparents were alcoholics, great grandparent was a heroin addict after the Vietnam war, and both my parents were alcoholics and addicts. I started with the weed at 8 years old, my friends and mother smoked. I began drinking at 10 years old and by the time I was 13 years old my mother was smoking weed with me and bringing me alcohol. At age 15 I started selling cocaine and meth. Those didn't mix well with alcohol so at age 15 I was an alcoholic and pothead. 

At age 17-18, I started into narcotics. I had a pill mill doctor who would prescribe 30mg oxys 120 a month. When they cut the doctors off in 2014-2015, I tried getting sober. I had a lot of friends die and a companion die from alcohol. So 25 years old after my best friend died from narcotics and my girlfriend died from alcohol that same year, I tried getting sober with methadone. I went to Standing Rock in 2016 and came back and I was cut off the methadone program at 175 mg. Standing Rock connected me to my culture. So I went back to treatment. This time on suboxone at White Earth treatment center.

I was doing good from 2015-2017 until I found out I couldn't Sundance or do fasting ceremonies while on suboxone. I fast-tapered off it against what the doctors said to do and that made me fall back into the drug/street life. In 2018 I had a kid. I wanted to get clean for my child but my daughter's mother held her back from me after leaving her for using drugs while pregnant. So that made me really bad on the meth and heroin to numb my feelings. I sold drugs all my life.

I wanted to grow up to be a dope dealer, so I set out to do that at age 8 years old. I was raised by criminal parents. My grandfather and great-grandfather on my mom's side were criminals in the liquor business. My mom was a dope dealer, my father was a thief, my aunt on my mother's side was a dope dealer. My grandfather on my mother's side died before 40 years old to gun violence, his wife died from alcohol a year later. My aunt on my mother's side died of gun violence at 34, then my mother died of a drug overdose in 2021.

I thought her death would sober me up but I was used to using drugs to numb the pain. I overdosed 3 times and almost died. First time at my daughter's birth while she was coming into the world, 2nd time after my mother died. The second time I overdosed I was around my daughter and her mother. I remember telling my daughter's mother that if I don't make it thru grieving my mother's death I'm sorry. My 3rd overdose was behind the wheel. Someone found me slumped, dying and called the police and I had 1st-degree assault warrants so I went to prison on 3-17-22.

That is my sober date. I prayed and was fed up with the life that was killing my family and friends. Now with 2 daughters, luckily I was in my oldest daughter's life for 2 years prior to going to prison because without that experience of joy raising my daughter I wouldn't have got sober. Came out of prison September 2023. I came out with 1 goal- stay sober and build a sober life for myself for my children and children yet to come. I went into Juel Fairbanks treatment with 18 months sober under my belt and took it very serious. Got involved with my culture, which I believe is key for Natives to get into recovery and stay in recovery. I got my Indian name at Juel Fairbanks, I finished my inpatient and outpatient program.

Exercise is also very helpful in recovery and gratitude. Today I'm 26 months sober. I'm involved in my culture, going to GED school and completed the Native American Peer Recovery classes. I would like to continue building my life and helping others get to recovery and stay in recovery. My culture helps me stay connected to my friends and family that have passed away. My brother finally has a relationship with me, I'm still in the process of getting some type of parenting time with my kids. I have public housing in the works.

I stay at Juel Fairbanks sober housing on their grounds while I'm doing these things in my recovery because everyone tells me I'm an inspiration to them here and have good leadership skills. So I'm using my recovery today to help others in their recovery. I've taken 9 months here at Juel Fairbanks to rewire my brain to form healthy habits and get out of the street mentality and prison mentality I had all my life. I work on the emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental aspects that the Wellbriety book talks about, and today I'm balanced in those areas.