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Local mothers' words of caution
There are a number of programs offered to help addicts but a group of mothers have come together to help families find and best utilize those resources.
‘Family Recoveries at Work’ is still in its infancy. The website is under construction, the monthly meetings have yet to be scheduled but already, 15 mothers in Monroe County have signed up.
“I would never wish this on anybody, addiction is very powerful.” AnnMarie Zagari said outside of a Monroe County courtroom Wednesday. “As far as my son, he’s my son until the day I die; he’s not going to be a criminal in my eyes.”
From star athlete to a convicted felon, Vincenzo Zagari, 22, pled guilty to menacing a police officer and two counts attempted robbery. Part of a plea deal, Zagari agreed to a 12-year prison sentence in court Wednesday.
His mother said, “We were not allowed to influence him because I wanted him to take that step from boy, to addicted young man, to a man.”
By most standards, Zagari was the all-American kid.
From a tightknit family, the honor student and standout athlete at Spencerport High School grew up in suburbia. His mom said, “When you are raising kids you keep them in sports to keep them out of trouble.”
But after a sports-related injury, Zagari took prescription painkillers, his mom said that’s what led to a heroin addiction.
“It started with a pill…when that happens you don't know what to do as a parent, not knowing what the addiction is and how fast it takes your child down.”
It’s a crisis many parents have found themselves in, like Dawn Nudo.
“You don't know where to go, you don't know what to do, I remember when it happened to me,” said Nudo.
Her son is from the same place as Zagari. The two teens wrestled at Spencerport together and became close friends. Together, they both got suck down the dark path of addiction and began to use heroin.
“I was totally naive when my son was wrestling, I had no idea how rampant the drug use was,” said Nudo. “All you got to do is walk down the hall of the school and you can get any drug you want, I had no idea.”
When Nudo realized her son was an addict, she reached out for help but it wasn’t easy to get.
“Recovery centers are full, half way houses are full, the treatment centers that detoxes are full, the jails are all full.”
It was in jail where her son earned his GED and got clean—three years later he’s just been accepted into pharmaceutical school.
Nudo said it took a lot of support and guidance from other mothers to help her figure out how to help her son. “Once we start saying no that we will be able to help them hit the bottom faster, so maybe they won't have to go to jail.” Nudo said.
With a long prison sentence ahead of him, Zagari has already started on a new path.
“I do believe he survived because he will be making changes in the world and helping other kids.”
Behind bars, the 22-year-old has spoken with kids about the dangers of drugs in an effort to help others.
“I don't look at my son as a criminal he's my son and when I see my kids suffer whether they're good or bad you always support your kids.”
Now, Zagari’s mother plans to help and guide other families.
Teaming up with Nudo and a handful of other local mothers, she is putting together a group that will offer parents a place to find support and information to help save their kids from addiction.