When I first met author Joe Putignano, he was two years sober and headlining in the touring production of Cirque du Soleil’s Totem. In the show, he was known as Crystal Man and, after he heard me share at a 12-step meeting, he walked up to me with a sweet, almost shy grin.
“You’re writing a book?” he asks, pulling back his hoodie and smiling. “I’m writing a book too,” he says.
At the time, I was finishing up work on my manuscript for Ghosts of Boston: Haunts of the Hub. I had no idea my life was about to change when the first in my History Press series came out in September 2012. I write historical-based ghost books and Putignano has a fascination with the paranormal.
We hit if off immediately.
In fact, he was the first to congratulate me when I turned in the manuscript for Ghosts of Boston. He sent the sweetest note of encouragement. I will never forget his kind gesture.
One year later, his autobiographical book about heroin addiction called Acrobaddict was released. It soared up the bestsellers list and people like Anderson Cooper applauded his brutal honesty and poetic intensity. I’m not surprised. Putignano put his soul into that memoir and reading about his horrific journey going from an Olympic gymnastics hopeful to a homeless heroin addict broke my heart.
He and I have both gone to hell and back. I write about ghosts. He writes about the living dead. We’ve both been to the abyss and have survived. Now, it’s our passion to help those who are trapped in the darkness of addiction to find a way into the light by sharing our experience, strength and hope. As writers, we are merely vessels for a power greater than ourselves.
During Putignano’s book tour for Acrobaddict, he singled me out while he was reading from the podium at Porter Square Books in Cambridge. His parents were in the crowd and I got emotional when his voice quivered while reading about his near-death experience from a heroin overdose. His strength to push through the nerves was inspiring. From experience, it’s such a surreal experience to read the words you’ve written out loud.
I hugged him after the reading and he left a note in the front of my signed copy. Since the signing, he has gone through a series of surgeries to repair his muscles. He’s done it sober and I’m proud of him.
The words of encouragement he etched on the first page of his book? “Never give up.” It’s a promise I plan to keep.