Aftermath is a memoir from first-time author Anthony S. Giarratano that captured my attention from the moment I read his story, and I knew it needed to be at the top of my to be read list.
“There are so many petty rules that we have to follow every single day in here, all day, that I often feel like I’m a child. We get treated like children but are expected to return to society as mature, ready-to-contribute adults.”Anthony S. Giarratano, Aftermath
This post contains affiliate links
Have you read Aftermath? Come on in and let me tell you about it!
“It’s a courageous story of a typical teenager who was confronted with a near death childhood battle with cancer that led to opioid addiction that led to incarceration. It is heart wrenching, at times funny and overall, inspirational.”
During an early visit with my dad, while I was struggling to adapt to the new environment, he said that robbing the pharmacy probably saved my life, and even though I was incarcerated, he was actually grateful for it.
And over the following years as I slowly navigated the prison system, I was blessed to encounter many strangers who graciously extended themselves to support me. Whether in serious discomfort or desperate need, I was often saved by their help, or guided by their advice.
I was alive. But at what cost?
Thoughts on Aftermath
“I don’t know if most of the people here are experts in denial or what, but so many of them really act and seem as though there’s nothing wrong with us or our current situation. Cooking food, working out, and watching tv. That’s it. No thought or mention of how our lives are and why we’re here. We are living in an adult summer camp and they’re having a blast.”Anthony S. Giarratano, Aftermath
Aftermath is a novel that will invoke a lot of emotions. I related when he talked about chemotherapy and a girl there losing her hair. I cried because it is an experience I can relate to, and one of the reasons I don’t cut my hair. I find it very difficult after watching someone lose their hair.
I also appreciate the fact that Aftermath gave me a lot of insight into life in prison. Oftentimes I’ve thought it is easy, or a picnic for the people inside, and just a forced vacation, that I (and every other productive citizen) as a taxpayer, foot the bill for.
But Aftermath isn’t just about changing preconceived notions on how certain things work. It is about resilience, overcoming obstacles life has thrown at Anthony, that could have easily broken him. It is inspiring to read, to say the least.
Aftermath is also a story that reminds me to support the people in my life that are struggling, or that have had a curveball thrown at them, and they need people exactly like the ones that Anthony had, to make it through everything and stand strong. I am inspired to really strive to be the best support for the people close to me that I can possibly be.
Final Thoughts on Aftermath
I admire Anthony’s brutal honesty about his struggles, life in prison, and life being clean since that he details here in Aftermath.
Aftermath is a book that I highly recommend to everyone, but especially anyone going through similar struggles, or their families. It is definitely an insightful read.
Aftermath is a memoir that will certainly make you think, ask questions, and spark conversations about addiction, crime, punishment, and so much more. These are all things I think we need to discuss more often, and learn more about.
Have you read Aftermath from author Anthony S. Giarratano? Do you know someone who would benefit from a story like this? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
About the Author
Anthony grew up in the small town of Monmouth Junction, New Jersey.
After committing armed robbery at a local Walgreens pharmacy during his addiction, he was later sentenced to five years in New Jersey State Prison. Told through the private journals he kept while incarcerated, Aftermath is his debut book.
A graduate of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, he now has 11 years clean and has spent the last few years traveling throughout Southeast Asia.
If you are interested in buying the paperback version of Aftermath, click here.
Click here for the Kindle version of Aftermath.
Click here for my favorite Kindle I currently own.
I had a chance to chat with Anthony Giarratano about Aftermath. Because I found myself wanting to learn more about prison, addiction, and all the struggles associated with it.
When you went to rehab, did you ever have setbacks and start using again?
No. I have been clean since I robbed the pharmacy on May 7, 2011.
What has kept you clean for the last eleven years? Anything specific?
It started with shame for what I had done, and then a desire to not go back to who I was during my addiction. And from that, I kept moving forward, slowly getting further and further away from who I used to be.
Have you had either the opportunity or desire to reach out to the pharmacist and apologize, make amends, or talk about the crime?
Yes. When I was in prison, with the help from an interventionist, I made amends to the pharmacist. The interventionist had been involved with my family during the early parts of my addiction, through the robbery and subsequent rehab, and throughout the two years I was on bail fighting my case, as well as the five years I was in custody.
Early on in my incarceration, the interventionist reached out to the pharmacist, got his OK, and prearranged a time for me to call her from prison, where she then three-wayed him in on the call and we all spoke for about 10 to 15 minutes.
Up until that point, I didn’t know if I ruined this man’s life, if he retired, had PTSD, or anything. I really had no idea. But when we got on the phone, he informed us that he knew something was “off” with me that day, that he wasn’t afraid for his life, and that he went to work the next day and was still working in the same pharmacy.
It really was a relief to hear that he was OK because it was something I festered on for years prior but I was repeatedly told by my lawyers at the time not to reach out to him at all. The pharmacist had no clue, as there’s no reason he would have ever known, that my addiction started with a battle with leukemia at 18 years old and subsequent heart failure from the chemotherapy. This was my first exposure to opioids, and an addiction followed. The pharmacist also wished me success in my efforts to turn my life around.
If you had any advice for someone struggling with addiction, what would it be?
It all depends on where someone is in their addiction. People deep in its grasps are oftentimes unreachable. They aren’t the ones attending meetings or looking for help. The people who teeter between using and clean time, sometimes they have a brief window where you can reach them. Sometimes.
But for me, it was about envisioning the kind of man I wanted to be in the future and then figuring out how to get there. But not rushing it. Listening to people who had been there and have done it before. Listening to several of those people. Listening to your family and friends that you hurt. Listening to how happy they are that you are alive, and how scared they were that they almost lost you. I mean, really listening. Allowing it to affect you.
You don’t just live your life for you, lots of other people care about you. I really allowed the hurt I caused my parents and family to affect me in such a way that it propelled me forward. I just never want to go back to being a person who did the things I did to them, and almost died numerous times during my addiction. I don’t want them to have to bury me, not yet. There are too many innocent bystanders when someone is addicted, and they love you. For me, that really speaks to me, enough so that it kills any ideas I would ever have about using ever again.
Do you think the Department Of Corrections is set up for offenders to fail and keep reoffending or just never get out for their original crime?
I think that prison is easy to get in but hard to get out. I think for a lot of offenders, the lifestyles that got them into prison in the first place, are still out there waiting for them upon release. I know many people who left prison after several years and got high in the parking lot right outside, minutes after release. Part of the problem with doing several years in prison is that you run the risk of getting left behind in the job world, the career world.
So when you get out after doing 10 years, and you have to work in a fast food restaurant making minimum wage, then your former boys message you saying they have some heroin or something else to move (sell) or some guns to sell or whatever, and you can make thousands of dollars within a few hours, I imagine that is a super challenging situation to resist.
So many people cave at that point. I can’t even remember how many people I spent time with in prison who had gotten out after several years, and had been arrested doing something entirely new, fought and lost their case, and were then resentenced on a new prison bid and right back in with the rest of us again.
It really can be a revolving door. But I don’t think this is necessarily the DOC’s fault. I think if you start offending at an early age, you have a higher chance of being a repeat offender, and then slowly the cards get stacked against you to the point where it’s really hard to turn it all around.
It can be done, but it’s very hard. You would need to move away from where you are from, new friends, new support network, a whole new start…but that can be near impossible if you have a sentence that requires you do parole after. You could end up right back in the same neighborhood, with the same friends and the same people as when you had committed your crime in the first place. It’s a really tough situation.
What did your pardon by the governor mean to you?
At first, we weren’t thrilled, actually. But it was only because we didn’t know what it meant. It didn’t come with a list of reasons why or any details about why it was granted. I was sentenced in August 2013, and in September 2015, I filed an application from prison for a Commutation of Sentence, not a Pardon. I never asked to be forgiven. It was really just a project to keep me busy that took me about 7 or 8 months to finish.
I started in January or February of 2015 by writing letters to various places: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where I was treated for cancer, my alma mater Rutgers University, rehab, former therapists, to name a few. I then waited for them to mail me a release, which I’d then sign and mail back, and then wait again for whatever document(s) I was after.
All in all, it took about 7 or 8 months of doing that to gather everything I thought represented my entire life, no stone unturned. The clemency application is 12 pages long, and with all of my documents, my entire submission ended up being 91 pages. I sent it in September 2015, and I honestly never expected to hear back. I then went on with my sentence.
I was released from custody in November 2017, and then two months later, I was contacted by my former lawyer saying that Chris Christie’s lawyers contacted him asking if I would come in and meet with them. So at that point, it really came out of the blue. My family and I didn’t know what to think. I had already done my prison time. I didn’t get out early. And since it didn’t come with an explanation of any kind, it was confusing.
I was diagnosed with cancer and heart failure at 18, fell into an opioid addiction, robbed a pharmacy, went to rehab, turned my life around, and then I was sentenced to prison for five years.
So when I was pardoned after being released from prison, we didn’t know what it truly meant or what the reasons were for why it was granted. As part of my 5 year prison sentence, I also had to do 5 years of mandatory parole supervision afterwards. So the pardon did eliminate the mandatory supervision portion of my sentence, which then allowed me to travel earlier than I had planned. And with that, I bought a one-way ticket to Southeast Asia, where I have been living and traveling ever since, and where I wrote my book.
The Reading Wife is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, at no added cost to you.