For Miami resident Jeff Sekinger, his six-years-long descent into addiction hell culminated with a $1,200-a-day fentanyl habit. About $82,000 in debt and after having raided his father’s safe for $5,000, Sekinger gave up and finally told his family he needed help.
He found his way to Blount County’s Cornerstone of Recovery for 31 days of intensive inpatient treatment. Next month will be three years sober for the 27-year-old Ohio native, who now runs two multimillion-dollar financial services firms from Florida.
“When it came crashing down, I knew I could do way more with my life. I knew I had a huge potential,” Sekinger said in a telephone interview last week. “I had the issue for six years but actively had been trying to quit for four years and failing. So I finally said I honestly can’t do this and I hate this. I came to the realization I had to let go of my ego and let the professionals do this because I couldn’t do this myself.
“You have to at least give it a shot and take it seriously. The sad thing is a lot of people don’t want to change. You will only change when the pain of staying the same — living in my dad’s basement and watching half a dozen guys around me dying — is worse than the pain of change,” he said.
Sekinger’s first shove into the addiction abyss came after a high school football injury. The Dublin Jerome High outside safety and corner was glued to his team’s best receiver one practice when their legs entangled and they came crashing down.
Sekinger tore all his rib muscles and got hooked on Percocet and muscle relaxers.
He became a functional addict who faked his way through a career at the financial services firm J.P. Morgan while smoking fentanyl every two hours, sometimes in the parking lot and company restroom. Ultimately he lost 20 pounds on a small frame and took on a ghostly pallor.
“I was a zombie,” Sekinger said.
Fentanyl is a supercharged synthetic opioid analgesic that is similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times more powerful. It’s the same drug that killed music superstar Prince in 2016.
Sekinger first went to Cornerstone’s outpatient facility near where he lived in Columbus, Ohio. Staff there immediately recognized he was too far gone for outpatient therapy, so they referred him to intensive inpatient rehabilitation.
His mother located Cornerstone’s facility in Louisville and his father made sure he made the flight to Knoxville.
Cornerstone young adult counselor Christopher Russell said Sekinger was eager to learn and take back his life. Russell’s motto is that everyone has a hero inside them; they just have to find it.
“I think Jeff had enough foresight to see the direction he was headed,” Russell said. “He was about to lose everything and possibly his life. He had this aspiration of being an entrepreneur. He was not going to be able to do all that he wanted. Our mission is to empower them to find the hero inside of themselves. Jeff did that.”
Sekinger said he now channels all of his energy into business. After graduating from the University of Kentucky in 2016, he began a 9-5-workaday existence. And he hated it because of the corporate shackles.
“I measure success now by helping other people, hiring more employees, being happy and healthy,” he said.
He is the founder and CEO of Zero Percent, a financial consulting company with 29 employees and a half-million dollars a month in business, and Orca Capital, an eight-figure cryptocurrency hedge fund with clients worldwide.
“Everything I did for myself (to get out of his financial morass) I teach other people to do. I do consolidation loans. Credit repair. What’s really cool about my story is the financial issues I’ve had I’ve turned into a thriving business that helps others who want to get into business and want to thrive.”
Sekinger’s father, Ron, said his son was so skillful at hiding his addiction that he only noticed small, peculiar things — partly because Ron, who was retired from natural gas marketing, was traveling back and forth between homes in Columbus and Tampa, Florida.
“He was really good at hiding things,” Ron Sekinger said. “But because he was living with me I noticed some strange things. For example, we’d be talking in the family room and he would just nod off.
“It never occurred to me until we hit bottom. I knew things were missing in the house, there was a safe he had broken into, there was an awful lot of money stolen from me. He had these high-interest payday loans. He had access to my credit card, which had an alert when a charge hit $150. So he was doing $147 and $148.
Thinking back on his son’s multiple wrecked cars, Ron Sekinger said he has no doubt what ultimately would have happened to Jeff without his surrender to addiction.
“Jeff had a cousin that died. After going through five to six treatment facilities, nothing seemed to work for him. I’m awfully proud of Jeff.”