Lesha Cuttaia is better known on social media as Mama Dukes. She graduated from high school at the age of 16 and pursued a degree in Marketing. However, then she had no idea what her future would hold, as well as the many trials she would endure. Her story here includes information not only about herself, but also of her son Frankie and her working relationship with Steve Wrona, who is also with the Fuck Heroin Foundation (FHF).
There is a reason people devote themselves to a cause. There is a reason why many of us are fueled by our compassion. This is the story of how Fuck Heroin Foundation began…
Life Experience Leads to FHF
Lesha is from Port Clinton, Ohio. Having dealt with complications personally with Frankie’s addiction, this woman has fought to be where she is today. Learning first hand how devastating addiction is while a loved one suffers, Lesha has made great changes for those in need.
Lesha and her son, Frankie, are both open about how their journey began in recovery and within the recovery community. It was in the winter of 2003-2004 when Lesha remembers the first phone call from her son about a problem with drugs. He was staying with a girlfriend near Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. As Lesha had never dealt with addiction first hand, she wasn’t aware of the manipulation and lies that accompanied active addiction. As Frankie promised this time, and again many times after, he had his problem under control.
This was the beginning of Frankie’s sixteen-year stint with heroin. During this time he was living carefree as he hitchhiked from one venue to the next following the music band, Phish, as they toured the country. It was also during this time that Lesha chose to leave her career as manager of a car dealership. The more she learned about her son and his addiction, the more she felt the pull to help others like him as well as parents like her. This began her work in the social service field.
The more Frankie stayed on the road, the more he knew he wasn’t ready to stop using. He hated heroin and his addiction. But even in knowing he was not ready to quit, he also knew other people may be ready to change and need someone to listen and help them. As he worsened with time, he began using graffiti as an outlet for self-expression. He began leaving “Fuck Heroin” on the surfaces he passed by, along with his Mom’s cell phone number. If he couldn’t help himself, he knew he could lead others that wanted it to his Mom. He knew she would find the help they needed. Lesha was committed to finding resources for others even though she also knew Frankie himself was not ready.
It wasn’t until 2008 that Frankie met a man who would change his life. As an affiliate with the televised production of “Intervention,” this man had the experience to be able to help push Frankie forward into his recovery. Frankie soon began his new start at A New Day in Florida. Over the next eight months of traveling between Ohio and Florida, before choosing Florida as her state of residence, Lesha became an active advocate for those involved with gang relations, addiction, and human trafficking. The night of his one year anniversary, as the two reflected on the past year, Frankie decided to begin a Facebook page – he called it ‘Fuck Heroin.’ It was a testament to the path both had taken thus far.
Immediately, the online world was receptive to this cause that mother and son were devoted to. While the page was unpublished just a few minutes after it’s introduction to social media, it came back, with a vengeance. Those suffering from every corner were contacting the page, needing help, needing hope, and looking for inspiration. Since FHF officially began in 2013, Lesha has thrown herself into her advocacy. She even helped to initiate the push for the first Ohio county to start carrying Narcan, also in 2013. Without a doubt, the two have made FHF what it has become today.
While Frankie has suffered relapses over the years, he has always remained completely open about each time this has happened – even once having broadcasted a live video feed of himself as he entered a detox program. Frankie is aware that perfection is non-existent but he refuses to stay down by stigma and opinions. Each time he has come back to his recovery, he has continued speaking out and sharing his story to help others in need. While the journey hasn’t been easy, Lesha knows that her son is fulfilling his purpose by using himself as an example. Frankie is responsive and receptive to others and has helped many with their own fight for living.
A Push for the Cause
Over the years, most addicts wanting and needing help have been unable to find it. Many still remain in active addiction unable to have the opportunity to even begin their own recoveries. Where insurance can and does provide coverage for treatment, often it is not enough to cover adequate or necessary treatment without out-of-pocket expenses – some cases are more extreme and require more time for the appropriate care. Those that don’t have insurance, well, they don’t seem to stand a chance.
A lot of people run into the same problems. When contacted, treatment facilities will answer their phones, and oblige in conversation regarding what the current needs of an individual are. But when it comes down to the all important question of, “What health care provider do you currently carry?” the connection can be suddenly lost when discovering medical coverage does not suffice.
After feeling depeleted in her own life and for the lives of those around her, Lesha often found herself saying, “fuck heroin.” In turn, this also became Lesha’s battle cry, simultaneously with her son’s. Little did either know that this would change their lives forever. Lesha had no idea she would make the impact that she has today.
Like so many living in active addiction, Lesha knows too well that not being able to find support or help leaves one with the feeling of being stuck and hopeless. It seems like everywhere anyone looks there are obstacles. Lesha also felt hopeless while trying to help her son as well as she observed what was going on around her. It was always the same hurdle no matter where anyone turned, and it is still a struggle today. Lesha was fueled then with the motivation for change and realized that the problems existed in the health care system itself and not entirely on ‘bad choices.’ And so, through her own consistency in advocacy, Lesha has helped to bring changes in the lives of many.
From Then to Now
At present, Lesha has multiple projects at any given time. On Wednesday nights, she hosts ‘Shattering the Stigma’ from her own page. She devotes her free time to supporting families that have suffered from the struggles and loss that addiction brings. Lesha travels often to public events speaking about addiction to many. She works with local and national task forces to ensure that facilities are not preying on those suffering.
As of June of 2017, she is also published in the novel, Dare to be Sober, in which she shares her personal experiences and knowledge with addiction and recovery along with other authors. Coming in October as well, Lesha has just signed with a major television network to air a reality mini series.
Also, along with his Mother, Frankie is a powerful voice that shows addicts who he is and what he’s endured. He is real and honest about his experiences and others can easily relate to his story when he speaks. While he’s spending time now working on himself, he is still also working with the foundation outside of public view.
In addition to Lesha and Frankie, Steve Wrona is the other half of FHF. He has been with the foundation for the last three years. Steve’s sincerity and his passion for spreading hope and healing by being a pillar of strength, has extended and overflowed into the recovery community.
Steve spends countless hours of his time devoted to promoting truth about addiction and recovery and has become a well-known voice. With his live streaming show, ‘After Dark,’ he broadcasts every night between the hours of 11:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m., that began in December of 2016, he provides an online familial fellowship, allowing for audience members to contact him directly to voice concerns and ask questions. He is an honest breath among those that have failed to remain focused in their own messages. Along with this, he has maintained all administration and graphics for FHF’s social media side of operations.
For those unaware, Steve has recently celebrated 19 years of sobriety from alcohol, heroin, and opiate pills. He has spent large amounts of his time attending both AA/NA meetings over the years. He has found that regardless of the chosen path one takes in recovery, the program utilized, and the amount of scars one carries, reiterating the mistakes someone has made in not beneficial for healing. As Steve sponsors up to two recovering addicts at a time, he is adamant on teaching others to not look a what’s gone wrong, but to determine what can be done to be better and to do better.
In addition to learning through his own life experiences, his knowledge in the addiction and recovery field extends farther than many. Steve spent five years employed at Her Majesty’s Young Offender Institute (HMYOI) in Warren Hill, England. While working within this youth prison system, he also wrote for consultative panels and developed laws nationally.
FHF is proof that hard work and diligence comes from putting in countless hours every day. It takes an overwhelming sense of compassion to work in this field. It takes a selflessness that not everyone has. As many know, living in long-term recovery and sobriety, takes will and determination but everyone deserves the chance to change their lives. With the right guidance, anyone can.
If you or a loved one need help, please reach out at 417-971-KICK.