Wes Salvucci finds meaning in matching people in early recovery with dignified work
MaineWorks has been a big part of 23-year-old Wes Salvucci’s recovery story. And now, as Director of Operations, he’s in a position to help others in recovery find solid careers in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
“I’m in the construction field but also get to help people find a life like I did, with two career job offers at 10 months sober,” Wes says.
It’s an incredible turnaround for a young man who was discharged from the Army three years ago after failing several drug tests. And Wes doesn’t shy away from telling that story.
“When I was about 12 or 13, I started experimenting with things, mostly alcohol and marijuana,” he says. “I was keeping up appearances, still passing enough classes, still playing sports. But I was getting into pills and things were going downhill pretty quick.”
He was kicked off the basketball team first, then football and lacrosse. Without sports, he was failing to even show up to school. Then, at the beginning of his senior year, his parents sent him for 40 days of treatment at a mental health facility in Massachusetts.
“It was more focused on feelings than substance use,” Wes says. “I did it for my family, but I personally had no plans to stay sober. I got out of there and pretty much started drinking immediately but stayed away from drugs.”
He finished high school online— missing prom and graduation— then joined the Army. He got through Basic Training and to his first duty station in Fort Carson, Colorado, where he served as an infantry mortarman. He was part of a squad of four, each member carrying a piece of a small hand cannon that could be assembled to shoot small rockets.
“I was really good at my job,” Wes says. “But I was drinking a lot…
Then, slowly, I started doing drugs again. And then I started doing cocaine. I failed a lot of drug tests, did some stupid things and was chaptered out.”
His family hadn’t heard from him in so long that they called his unit and found out he was no longer in the military.
“My Dad set me up in a treatment center,” Wes says. “He flew me back from Colorado to Massachusetts, picked me up at Logan and told me right then and there, ‘You’re going to treatment or you’re not getting in my car.’ That’s when I decided, enough was enough.”
When Wes started his 45-day stay at a New Hampshire treatment center his recovery began in earnest.
“I knew I needed to do something,” he says. “The path I was on was death or jail, and it was coming quickly.”
Having been through treatment before, he knew he could make friends with people who didn’t really want to be there or he could make friends with people motivated by hope for a better life.
“Thankfully, I chose the right people,” he says.
There, 12-step recovery became part of his daily life for the long term. He wanted to take that back to his hometown in Massachusetts, but the treatment facility arranged for him to stay at a sober house in Portland, Maine. A luckily timed pandemic stimulus check paid for his first 30 days.
“I didn’t want to have to go make another new life for myself,” he says. “So I didn’t plan on staying more than a month.”
He arrived with just $12, a few cans of soup, a bag of clothes and a job interview set up at a Shaw’s grocery store. When he got to the sober house, though, someone told him about MaineWorks.
“And they started me the next day, working with general contractor Allied Cook,” he says. “We were building apartment units with a six-story 80-unit building. I worked on everything from laying the concrete pad to doing the framing.”
When Wes sprained an ankle badly enough that he needed to take 10 weeks off from construction, MaineWorks kept him employed— including driving workers to job sites in Brunswick and Waterville. He shadowed the operations manager in hiring and dispatch. Once his ankle healed, Allied Cook wanted Wes back to work with them. In fact, the company was considering offering him a full-time carpentry job once he had his own car.
Wes was 10 months sober when he bought a 2005 Honda Accord and in a matter of two days had two career job offers.
“I had a super-hard choice,” he says. “I could go with Allied Cook and have a career in construction. I was good at it, and I liked the company and the people. Or I could come to MaineWorks and have a construction-related job but with the recovery piece.”
He chose MaineWorks.
“I believe everything happens for a reason,” says Wes, who has been promoted a couple times now. “Everything I’ve done has put me here today with this opportunity to give others the options I was given.”
That’s his “day job,” but he also manages the men’s sober home that he initially thought would be a one-month detour in his life. He stayed 18 months, and though he no longer lives there, he manages group meetings and weekly goal check-ins at the house.
In both positions, he works with people in early recovery and connects them with resources— whether that’s basic essentials like food, finding a meeting or a sponsor, or finding immediate or long-term work.
“What better opportunity than to have a job that is about helping people?” he says.