Paul Wise credits his employer, Electripak Inc. in Miamisburg, with giving him the chance that kept him in long-term recovery.
Wise, 29, has a long history of drug use, beginning in middle school when, “I was using and selling drugs out of medicine cabinets.”
His mom went to prison when he was a boy. He was adopted, and then he drifted. He described his adolescence as: “Years of homelessness. Years of full-blown drug addiction. Years of criminal activity. Years of being a derelict. Years of untreated pain, untreated loss, because no one really knew what to do with me.”
A week after his 21st birthday, Wise said he was intoxicated and passed out in a drug house when the police entered and tried to rouse him. He woke up swinging and was charged with a felony: assault on a police officer.
A felony charge is a major red flag for an employer. But in this case, it was that incident that led him to assess what had become of his life and to get clean.
Wise was living in a sober living home in 2010 when Electipak took him on as a temporary production worker at its 2064 Byers Road plant.
Electripak President Robert Wright said the company believes in second-chance hiring and he feels he’s been rewarded with employees like Wise, who has advanced through the ranks and is now a program and sales manager.
“Never was it a question of my record, my criminal history, or my addiction,” Wise said. “I think that’s because they paid close attention to me, and when they gave me challenges and I succeeded it became out of sight and out of mind… I really got an opportunity to shine.”
His fellow employees also embraced him, helping him out after he graduated from the shelter and was on his own with very few possessions.
“My coworkers knew my story,” he said.
“Within a week, (they) literally furnished my entire apartment. All the little details that I didn’t think of because I’d never had anything before. Curtains. I’d always put sheets on windows before. I’d never put a curtain up.”
Wise knows that he’s the exception to the rule. Most people in recovery — especially those with felony records — are relegated to low-paying, entry-level jobs.
Why should a company take a chance on someone like him?
“There’s something about a guy that ate out of trash cans,” Wise said. “Makes for a whole lot of motivation.”