NDA Alum Jeff Gross Wants Others to Learn from His Story of Addiction


Cami Pakkala, Staff Writer, Journalism I

“I was more afraid of living than dying,” said Jeffrey Gross, a drug addict survivor who now works as a Christian counselor to other addicts.

Gross graduated from NDA in 2002 and spoke to the journalism class about the ups and downs of his life. 

After high school, his plans involved joining the Air Force to become an officer. 

When that didn’t work out, Gross joined the Army, where he suffered an injury, which changed his life forever. 

One morning at 3 a.m. he was on a nine-mile ruck. The trail was very slippery due to rain, and  Gross ended up slipping off a steep cliff, falling 15-20 feet. 

He dislocated his shoulder, which rotated multiple times.. The medical team that was working with Gross tried to fix his shoulder, but they did it incorrectly. To this day Gross still struggles with the pain, walks with a limp and has trouble sitting very long.

After all the medication Gross took to relieve the pain, he became addicted to it. Essentially he was addicted to any type of painkiller you could think of for 8-9 years. 

“They work but they tear up every aspect of your life,” said Gross when describing drugs.  

Gross explained that the whole purpose of drugs is to not feel how you are genuinely feeling. 

“It’s a lot more serious than people think,” he added. 

After a few short years of taking painkillers, Gross got hooked on heroin. He tried it for the first time when the doctors were increasing his amount of painkillers. 

“I woke up and if I didn’t have drugs, I would be sick,” stated Gross. 

Gross eventually was put into the Brown County Jail for committing armed robbery. He was hopping around different prisons for about two and a half years. 

“Jail is not like the movies,” he told the journalism class.

While Gross was serving his time in prison, he was a tutor for the inmates. “I made an entire 16 cents an hour,” he said. 

At the prison, a very spiritual and faithful lady inspired him to turn his life around, to develop a relationship with God. 

“I wanted to learn,” said Gross, “and God is what got me through jail and prison.”

After his release from prison, he has attended UW-GB and the Wisconsin School of Professional Psychology. He is now a clinical psychology doctoral student writing a 200-page thesis on “neurology and science in theology.” 

He expresses nothing but gratitude to his wife of 10 years who supported him throughout his prison time and recovery.   

“She knew my heart and struggle, and she always forgives me. She is amazing,” he said. The couple has a son who attends Notre Dame Elementary in DePere. 

Despite the pain he still suffers from the shoulder injury, Gross is trying to “be as close to Jesus as possible.” 

“The pain brings me closer to God and connects me more with my family.  My pain is a reminder on why I need to stay clean,” he said.

Gross told the class he wants people to read his story and learn from it. “The habits you do every day will help form who you are, so make good habits, not ones like my old ones.”

Gross currently works as a case manager/clinical supervisor with Bridges to Recovery in Marinette.

Ian Johnson contributed to this story.