‘This drug can and will bring you to your knees’

I interviewed a Scottsdale resident many months ago about his new book release that shares insight about methamphetamine addiction.

‘Paranoia’ Almost Destroys Scottsdale Man

Published in the Ranch Report May 15, 2014 issue

The highly addictive drug methamphetamine brought one Scottsdale resident to his knees after losing everything and everyone in his life. But he found sobriety, and, using a penname, has released a self-help book about his experience.

“Paranoia: A Meth Memoir” is a gritty, tell-all book that exposes the cycle of “Stephen Mucci’s” addiction. It is available in bookstores nationwide and on Amazon.

“The book is very unblinking, a very graphic look at what life becomes like when people get involved in meth,” he said. “If this book makes one person say ‘I will never touch that drug,’ it was totally worth it.”

A Pennsylvania native, Mucci has lived in Scottsdale for the past five years after moving to the valley in 2001. He worked for state government offices for mental health and substance abuse services after earning his masters degree in social work at Florida State University.

After 25 years in the profession, he decided to make a career change and attended culinary school.

Mucci was not exposed to drugs until he attended culinary school, which changed his life forever. At the age of 48 he decided to try methamphetamine, thinking “I would just try it. No big deal.”

“I was Mr. Clean and then I went to culinary school,” he said. “Eighty-five percent of the people I went to culinary school with were alcoholics, addicts and dealers.”

What started off as a weekend binge, turned into an everyday addiction when he decided to do meth one Monday morning instead of going to work. The addiction lasted for three years.

He was able to support his habit through a divorce settlement and his 401K.

“I had at least a quarter of a million dollars and became an addict,” Mucci said. “I doesn’t matter who you are. This drug can and will bring you to your knees.”

The first time he was arrested for possession he went to drug court and was told if he attends treatment and stays clean for a year all charges would be dropped.

“They gave me a nice chance to do the right thing,” Mucci said. “But I didn’t. I went back to the drug and forgot about it. I ignored the court and I got caught again.”

He was given a nine-month sentence in jail and three years of probation. Soon, he was caught with the drug for a third time and sent to prison for three years. After a few days in prison, he decided to do something positive. The result is “Paranoia: A Meth Memoir.”

Mucci said his story is told in three parts – the addictive qualities of meth, how destructive it can be and that the addiction can be beat.

He has been clean for five years.

“I feel wonderful,” he said. “I have never been happier and healthier in my life. I feel like I am doing something good with a good purpose.”





‘You Always Have a Partner’

The Jonesborough Police Department recently purchased its second K-9, an 18-month Chocolate Lab. The dog is beautiful and full of life. I always find it interesting to interview K-9 officers and see what the dog is capable of doing. The amount of training that goes into preparing a dog for its certification is pretty intense. With that said, I enjoyed writing this article for the Herald & Tribune.

Article published in the Dec. 10, 2013 Herald & Tribune issue

New K-9 joins police department

Loki, an 18-month Chocolate Lab, reported to his first 12-hour shift with the Jonesborough Police Department  on Dec. 6.

“He’s full of life, energetic and always ready to work,” said K-9 Officer Jamie Aistrop, Loki’s handler. “For praise, affection and a toy, they will do anything.”

K-9 Officer Jamie Aistrop and Loki.  Photo credit Charlie Mauk.

K-9 Officer Jamie Aistrop and Loki.
Photo credit Charlie Mauk.

The new partners began working together in the middle of October after the department purchased Loki from Shiloh K-9 in Stoneville, N.C.Police Chief Matthew Hawkins said the K-9 program is completely funded with seized funds and asset forfeitures. Loki, who was a part of the budget process in April and May, was about $7,800 to purchase for the police department. Hawkins said the benefits the K-9 brings to the department outweighs the cost.

“We have a good history here with the K-9 program,” he said, adding that the handlers have to have a real passion for working with the dogs.

Aistrop, who knew he wanted to become a police officer when he was 5-years-old, began working with the department full-time in March 2012 after being a reserve officer eight years prior. He became a K-9 officer in October when he began working with Loki.

Aistrop said of one of the reasons he wanted to become a K-9 officer was “you always have a partner with you.”

Before Aistrop took a four-week handler course for narcotics detection, training and tracking at the facility with Loki, another trainer worked with the dog for about a month.

“It was intense,” Aistrop said of the 10 to 12 hours spent training, which took place daily for a month.

The partners also had in-house training in Jonesborough.

Once the training was completed, Loki earned his Police and Professional Dog Association certification, as well as a national certification from the North American Police Work Dog Association. Loki will be recertified once a year.

“He flips a switch when it’s time to work,” Aistrop said. “He definitely knows the difference between work and play.”

Jonesborough Police Department K-9 Loki. Photo credit Charlie Mauk.

Jonesborough Police Department K-9 Loki.
Photo credit Charlie Mauk.

Throughout Loki’s training, Aistrop said, the dog worked for a toy as his reward. He was trained with such real narcotics as cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, heroine and ecstasy. Aistrop said the training first began by putting all five narcotics in a box before they were separated.Keeping narcotics off the streets has always been an interest of Aistrop’s and Loki’s hunt and prey drive is through the roof, he explained.

“That’s what you need in a narcotics dog,” Aistrop said. Loki is also trained in tracking through scent.

“If we need him to track, he can be used for children and elderly people that have wandered off,” Aistrop said, adding that Loki is trained not to bite once the individual is located.

Aistrop is required to spend a minimum of 16 hours a month training Loki, which includes narcotic training at the department, since he is trained with real narcotics. Now that the training is completed, Aistrop has begun working on obedience with Loki at his home.

“The obedience comes in now after training and certification is done,” he said.

They are together 24 hours a day seven days a week. Loki stays with Aistrop, his wife and two children, who are ages 5 and 3.

“They love him,” he said of his family. Loki is also fond of his family as well.

Aistrop said he and Loki will provide demonstrations for those who are interested. The community is also welcome to meet Loki by calling and setting up a time with the police department.

Loki is the second K-9 for the Jonesborough Police Department.

He joins Gregor, a Czech Shepherd, and his handler K-9 Officer Michael McPeak. Gregor specializes in narcotics and tracking.

Hawkins said the K-9’s service life spans from seven to 10 years. The police K-9’s trained in apprehension have a shorter service life span due to the intense training.

More opportunities have surfaced

This morning I drug myself out of bed a little before 7 a.m., so I could get a workout in early, rather than going later this afternoon. It was a great way to jump-start my day, especially since there was only me and two other’s working out that early in the morning.

That’s the nice thing about a 24-hour gym, whenever you get that urge to workout, all you have to do is swipe your key and walk in the door of opportunities.
imageI was a little skeptical at first that a staff member would not be present during the hours the gym was opened, but I now love that feature. That was the downfall about working out at the last apartment complex we lived at, I could only workout during the hours of the clubhouse, which was limiting at times.

I spent about an hour at the gym doing my typical run, some miles on the elliptical and some weights. I’m starting to feel those leg exercises I did, especially walking up and down those darn stairs 🙂

Once I got back in my car, I thought to myself, today is going to be a fabulous day. How could it not when I did something for me first this morning – working out?

So after getting ready, I drove to Jonesborough to meet with my editor and the publisher of the Herald & Tribune. It turned out to be a fantastic meeting, one that only lead to more incredible opportunities for me.

Kristen and Lynn offered me more work, which I gladly accepted. I am now covering the town hall meetings for Jonesborough, the school district, as well as submitting feature articles. I am beyond thrilled! I will now be submitting weekly articles instead of a few a month! My portfolio will be growing once again.

I really enjoy working for this publication. The remarks I received from both Lynn and Kristen about my writing were wonderful to hear. It’s safe to say that I am cloud nine once again.

I absolutely love what I do, and yes, I know I have said that a time or two. But really, never in my wildest dreams did I think my career would go in the direction it has! I am supporting myself doing freelance work, this is incredible! I am so fortunate to have found a career I am so completely passionate about. I am excited to see what other opportunities are waiting for me.

It just goes to show that it is important to follow your dreams!

Dreams do come true

Today was simply amazing, there is no other word to describe the day as a whole.

After walking out of the Bristol Herald Courier I could not help but smile. As soon as I sat down in my car I instantly sent Jason and mom the same text because they are my biggest supporters.

Wow, I’m beyond excited to join another paper as a reporter.

I spent about an hour and a half at the paper for my orientation this morning. I was introduced to countless people who were incredibly nice. One woman said she has been with the paper for 44 years, which to me only speaks volumes of the company. Everyone offered a helping hand if and when I needed assistance. They all made me feel incredibly welcomed and all shared what seemed like a genuine excitement about me joining the team.

The best part was saying “see you tomorrow” when I was leaving.

I have to admit I was reluctant at first to the idea of moving to Tennessee away from everything and everyone I know. The more Jason and I talked, two years to be precise, the more I eventually jumped on board. Jason believed in us, he believed our dream of making a home would be fulfilled in Tennessee.

My emotions were sky high once I returned home, I was bursting at the seams of what I have accomplished. I had to share my excitement, which was sent through text since Jason was working a double. I shared how much I love him and how grateful I am that we took that leap of faith. Our dream of finding a new place to live, a place we can call home, is no longer a dream, it’s a reality. This area is us … all because the outdoor adventures are endless.

It brings tears to my eyes to think of the struggles we had once we arrived and how far we have come since. We believed in ourselves and each other. We fought for the reason we decided to move more than 800 miles away from family – making a life and home for ourselves in an area that is absolutely breathtaking – our own outdoor playground so to speak.

Since arriving in Tennessee I have found a way to write for five publications in Florida, four in Arizona and now one in Virginia. That’s pretty exciting to think about!

Now that we both found really good jobs we are beginning to talk about our next home, a house somewhere beautiful between where we both work. A home, not an apartment, a home!

I have grown leaps and bounds since arriving, which is empowering and exciting. I have a man who believes in me, pushes me and supports me, by my side … which makes anything possible.

My love for this man runs incredibly deep. I hope he knows just how much he means to me. He has taken the time to get to know me, really get to know me, which has made our transition easier here in Tennessee.

Dreams do come true …you just have to grab a hold of the vision and take the steps to make it happen no matter how scary it may seem.

Thank you for everything babe. I could not imagine taking this journey with anyone else.

A few words

Although it was an 11 hour day, it ended with a bang.

Tonight as I covered and attended the Greater Pine Island Civic Association monthly meeting, I was called to the front of the room before the presentations began. As the president of the club announced that I had given my resignation, while handing me a letter of recommendation, all at once the entire room let out an “AH” in disappointment. I think I might have blushed at the response the crowd had given, which led me to say a few words of why I was leaving.

Once it was reveled that the destination was NE Tennessee, they all replied oh she will be back, which was instantly followed by, they will be lucky to have you.

Questions were asked once the meeting concluded of who was going to replace me and if they were going to work as much as I did.

When I first started in 2011, everyone shared with me that I had rather large shoes to fill following the previous editor, who unfortunately passed away rather quickly. As I dedicated countless hours and poured my heart into this weekly newspaper, the tune had changed, as individual’s shared how I will be hard to replace. What an accomplishment, if I do say so myself.

When I think I cannot be touched any deeper, another day at work happens and further impacts me. The smiles, which often leave my face hurting, are constantly taking over me, as individuals leave me speechless with their touching comments.

I look forward to continuing my journey at another newspaper, where I will hopefully impact just as many people if not more. It was a ton of fun turning this weekly newspaper into my own, providing information that I too would be interested in reading.

I have definitely chosen the right career; writing is my passion and will always be my passion. How can it not be with a response like this?

The countdown continues to my last day of being the editor of the Pine Island Eagle . . .