A Texas native, Joe Hartwell was born in Houston. Following a troubled home life and his parents divorced when he was 12, Joe left home at age 14 and hitchhiked to California. He spent the next two years following the Grateful Dead as they toured across the US and began experimenting with drugs an alcohol. He quickly developed a taste for marijuana, LSD, and Mad Dog 20/20.
Joe eventually returned to Houston to live with his father at the age of 17 and returned to school. He earned his GED and began attending the local community college. However, when he got a summer job with a beer and wine distribution company, he decided to chase money rather than continue with his college education. It was during this time that Joe discovered cocaine and addiction truly began to take a hold of his life. Quickly realizing that cocaine was getting to be a problem Joe “took it easy” by drinking alcohol and “taking other things” as he worked his way up through the ranks of the company, eventually becoming the GM for the entire state of Texas.
In 1995, Joe decided to take an extended “vacation” and left the company amidst stress, resentments, and burnout. During this period he was introduced to Heroin, the drug that would eventually bring him to his knees. Five years later, Joe found himself entering a substance abuse treatment center for the first time. Over the next four years, Joe found himself back in treatment eight times but continued to relapse shortly after completing each program.
In 2004 Joe’s actions led to his family giving him an ultimatum and cutting all ties with him. He found himself in Kerrville, TX with a trash bag full of clothes begging for a place to stay. Eventually a local sober house owner took a chance on Joe and gave him a place to stay. At this point, Joe threw himself into the 12-steps and his life turned around in amazing ways. He began working at a treatment center and eventually became the manager and then owner of the very same sober home that he had lived in on his first day sober. In 2004 got an ultimatum from family and cut all ties with him
Addiction is an insidious disease and through a process of complacency and “talking the talk but not walking the walk,” Joe relapsed in 2012. A powerful show of support from the many lives that Joe had touched caused the local recovery to rally around him in support. He was given the opportunity to return to treatment and rediscover the 12-step principles that he had drifted away from previously. After a brief time in South Texas “getting well” Joe returned to his recovery roots in Kerrville and has been helping alcoholics and addicts both personally and professionally ever since.
Today, Joe is free from the bondage of self and gets his greatest joy from being “able to be a part of something and be of service.” During downtime he is an avid sportsman and enjoys hunting, fishing, and hiking. “All the things that addiction stole for a very long time.” Joe is looking forward to traveling to Spain later this year and getting the opportunity to be of service within AA during that time.