Story of Recovery – Frank Pruce
December 20, 2017
Frank Pruce had abused drugs and alcohol for nearly 25 years. When he was arrested for his second DUI on Feb. 16, 1996, it also became his sobriety date.
Why then? Because when his wife picked him up from jail, she asked him if he was going to do anything about his addiction, which had accelerated in the previous two years.
“Like what,” he replied.
“Like go to Fairbanks,” she answered.
Pruce didn’t know what Fairbanks was. His wife told him it was a stress center. At that point in Pruce’s life, that sounded good to him. He thought he’d get prescriptions to help him relax.
“If she had said it was an addiction treatment center, I don’t think I would’ve gone,” Pruce said. “Alcohol and drugs weren’t the problem in my opinion. They were the solution.”
Upon arriving at Fairbanks the day after his arrest, Pruce’s mindset was that he didn’t care whether he lived or died. Life had no meaning.
“I made a commitment to myself that I was going to do everything the people at Fairbanks told me I should do,” he said. “I wanted to hold myself accountable. I figured, if it didn’t work I could come back and tell these people why it didn’t work. Absolutely fooled me!”
Indeed, 21 years after his treatment, Pruce has never relapsed. He credits staying active in his recovery as a big reason why. Volunteering is a major component. Pruce has been a constant presence at Fairbanks in all that time, serving as a group leader here once a week for 20 years. But there’s more to it than that.
“There hasn’t yet been a time that I’ve come here and not felt like I was carrying a lighter load when I left,” he said.
In fact, since beginning his sobriety, Pruce has volunteered at Fairbanks every Thanksgiving and Christmas to conduct group sessions. He admits it started because he was afraid he’d relapse on those holidays, so he wanted to keep busy. What about his family, he’s asked. They’re proud of him.
“My wife used to get upset that I would leave on those holidays to volunteer, but when she noticed the change in me, she grew to understand how important it was to volunteer and give of yourself to others,” Pruce said. “My family likes that I volunteer. For something they thought they were going to be ashamed of, it’s now something they bring up in conversations about me.”
He’s also brought many people to Fairbanks once they admit they’re ready for help. He’s sponsored even more, so many he’s lost count. His volunteerism isn’t just at Fairbanks either. Pruce also wanted to help adolescents who were heading down the wrong path. He knew the chief at Hamilton County’s juvenile detention center and started a group therapy session there. Then he created another one for teens just released from detention called “Never Too Young.”
Some say he saves lives. Pruce doesn’t see it that way.
“What’s been handed down to me, I try to use to help others,” he said.
It hasn’t always been easy since Pruce got sober. He’s survived a heart attack and ulcerative colitis, the latter almost killing him. He’s been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and recently spent nearly a month in the hospital after fracturing his ankle. Pruce has also endured the anguish of losing a son and helping a son-in-law navigate his own journey from addiction to recovery.
Despite all that, he’s grateful. Pruce says he wouldn’t even have a life If not for his own recovery.
“I don’t know where I’d be. Probably dead. I certainly wouldn’t have the life I have today,” he said.
“This stuff here – the better I do it, the better my life is.”