Voting for Sobriety – 

Dec. 20, 2020 – To get to this point, he first faced a grim reality. “For me, alcohol is going to lead me to one of two places: dead or in jail,” Velis said he realized. “Simple as that.”  

Velis chose a third path: recovery. He last had a drink on February 19, 2017. In a lengthy interview with CommonWealth, conducted via Zoom due to the pandemic, Velis told his story publicly for the first time. For nearly an hour and a half, Velis talked candidly about his struggles with alcoholism, the importance of mentors like Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and the factors that led to his recovery. 

Until now, he has told his story more quietly, when it is important: To some of his colleagues in the Legislature and to those suffering with addiction who he is now trying to help. Going public is a step Velis took nervously, after considering it for more than a year, but one he hopes will let him be a resource for others struggling with the same issues he has confronted. “If it weren’t for any number of people in my life who took the time to meet me for a cup of coffee, took the time to hear me on the phone, to just fill in the blanks, I wouldn’t be sitting here today on this Zoom as a sober man,” Velis said. 

Velis, who is 40, had his first drink as a high school student in 1997, at a house party in Springfield. He loved the feeling alcohol gave him. “I was kind of a shy kid. The next thing you know at that same house party I’m the center of attention, talking to all the young ladies I was too afraid to talk to sober,” Velis said. 

For the next two decades, once he started drinking, Velis said, “I could count on two hands the number of times that I didn’t black out.” 

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