Taking the long road

Patrick Alle’s ’09 recovery from substance abuse leads to his business of helping others do the same

By John Walsh

One day in late March 2002, Patrick Alle ’09 came to a realization – he didn’t want to die. Having quit his job in institutional sales in the finance sector, the former John Carroll tennis standout sat on a street curb in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, pondering his life, which had become dominated by drugs and alcohol. It was a dark time.

“I was on a downward spiral I knew would lead to one place,” Alle says. “It was fatalistic. I was tired of living the way I was. I did a lot of bad things to my friends because of my habit. My family and friends had done all they could to reach me. Then something clicked. I realized I needed help.”

So Alle reached out to his parents, who had tried to help him before.

“When I committed to treatment, they gave me one shot at it because I screwed up so many times before,” he says.



Previously, Alle’s parents had sent him to Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Centre Antigua, his first chance at treatment, but he left after only five days. After he quit treatment, his parents fought about what to do for him. His dad had a tough-love mindset; his mom wanted to give him one more chance.

“I was on my own, and they took action to make sure I felt I was on my own by cutting me off and letting friends know I was on my own,” he says.

This time Alle spent 90 days in a treatment facility in Southern California. He didn’t have many options, so he remained in the area.

“By the time I got to treatment, I was beat down and ready to try something different,” he says. “I was totally on my own and sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

That was a turning point in Alle’s life, which began in the Golden State, where he was born. He grew up in Grosse Pointe in a comfortable, upper middle class family. By the time it came to look at colleges, he focused on schools where he could play tennis.

“When I first walked onto Carroll’s campus around 1992, I knew I wanted to go to there,” he says.

However, Alle wasn’t accepted to JCU right away. He was put on a wait list. After hearing this, his father told him a story about being wait-listed himself from law school. As a result, his father took matters into his own hands and wrote a personal letter to the law school and eventually was accepted. After hearing his father’s story, Alle did the same.

“I wrote a letter to admissions, saying they made a mistake and that JCU was the school for me,” he says. “After that, I was accepted conditionally.”

In the fall of 1993, when the 18-year-old Alle, the oldest of three children, arrived on the Carroll campus as a freshman, he was immature and naïve. Still, he was excited to get involved with everything, including Greek life and tennis.

“I enjoyed everything the school had to offer, but I also got into trouble a lot,” he says. “My priorities weren’t in line, and I struggled academically off and on.”

During his freshman year, Alle came to know the dean of students at the time, Joe Farrell, quite well. His relationship with Farrell played an important role for him at Carroll. For example, Alle didn’t go home for the Thanksgiving holiday his sophomore year. Instead, he spent it with the Farrell family.

“Dean Farrell was a mentor and father figure to me,” he says, adding that Farrell cared for all students like his own.

At times, Alle overdid it with his drinking at Carroll, but he remained within what he calls the realm of socially appropriate drinking. Despite his drinking, Alle remained adamant about not taking drugs. Suddenly, during his junior year (1995-96), he received bad news – he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. As a result, he took the spring semester off and taught tennis on Long Island that summer.

“This was pre-Lance Armstrong, and the education and knowledge about testicular cancer wasn’t as great as what we know now,” he says. “The doctors wanted me to take the upcoming fall semester off, but I was determined to go back to school.”

Farrell visited Alle in the hospital in Michigan during his recovery from surgery and helped him get through his cancer treatments at the Cleveland Clinic.

“The teachers, faculty, and administration were all so accommodating,” Alle says. “They helped me get through a difficult time.”

That fall, around the end of November 1996, Farrell shared his own cancer diagnosis with Alle. But Farrell soon passed away in March of 1997. Alle gave the eulogy for Farrell at Carroll’s service the day of his death in Saint Francis Chapel.

“His death hit me very hard,” Alle says.

As a fifth-year senior during the 1997-1998 academic year, Alle felt embarrassed not to have graduated in four years, so he left school and took a finance job in New York. He bounced between the Big Apple and his hometown in Michigan, living a fast-paced lifestyle. He began to have trouble controlling his drinking. To add to his problems, he began taking drugs in 2001.

On the court
In high school, Patrick Alle knew he wanted to play tennis at the college level, so he focused on applying to those schools where he thought he could play. Ultimately deciding to attend John Carroll, Alle was a standout Blue Streak. Here are some highlights of his college tennis career.
• He ended his career as the program’s all-time leader in victories (112).
• He missed the 1994-95 season with cancer and came back in 1996 to earn All-OAC honors in singles and doubles.
• He earned All-OAC honors six times, four years as a doubles player and a three-time OAC doubles champion.
• The teams he played on won OAC titles in 1994 and 1997 and were runners-up in 1996 and 1998.

New lease on life
Alle finally got sober on April 6, 2002. After the aforementioned treatment in Southern California, he took a job managing a halfway house and later worked in a treatment center.

“When I first went into treatment, I thought I’d return to finance, but it became clear I didn’t have the passion for it anymore,” he says. “I love the markets, but I knew I couldn’t do that and stay sober.”

After being sober for a year and a half, Alle was hired by PBI International, a company that manages tennis programs at luxury hotels and clubs throughout the world. Alle played and coached professionally, traveling for 6.5 years, all while remaining sober. But he developed back problems and questioned what he was going to do for the rest of his life.

“I made a promise to Dean Farrell that I’d graduate, so I looked to go back to JCU,” he says.

After wading through the logistics of moving and receiving financial aid, Alle returned to the Carroll campus in May 2009 at age 34 and took summer classes.

“I left with only a few credits to go, but after 15 years, that changes,” he says. “I still had to complete a full semester.”

Alle rented a room in a house on Shaker Square, bought a car, and became a student again. The difference this time was that everyone had cellphones and was on Facebook.

“I was worried about returning to Carroll, but many faculty and administrators welcomed me back,” he says. “They couldn’t have been more welcoming. I was older and sober. School is a lot easier when you actually go to class. It was very rewarding to earn my degree. My major was supposed to be in finance, but it ended up being in psychology.”

Alle’s family attended his graduation, which was moving for him.

“Mary Lavin ’87 [director if alumni relations at the time], approached me and gave me a big hug and said, ‘You are special, and you are loved,’” he says. “It was a very cathartic experience to come back and finish what I left undone. She whispered those words when I walked off the stage because that was a phrase Dean Farrell said to many of the students he worked with. It was his famous line.”

Although Alle earned his undergraduate degree, he didn’t know what to do professionally. So he packed up and drove to Southern California in January 2010. One reason why he headed west was because his aunt lived there. A mentor to Alle who worked in the treatment field, she helped him facilitate his recovery. He moved in with her and worked for a company that provides one-on-one companionship with those trying to remain sober. It was a 24/7 job that required living with the person trying to recover.

“You mentor them and help them develop a routine – it’s intense,” he says.

Alle did this for a year, then took a case in San Francisco. While working on that case, he decided to start his own company, Recovery Mentor, providing interventions and case management work. He ran his company for three years. Then he partnered with Shirley Wantland, a recovery specialist, and started Recovery Consultants (recovery-consultants.com). Presently, his work takes him throughout the country.

“It has been rewarding helping families get better,” he says. “Someone pointed out that I had a lot of experiences and I could help a lot of people. Even though it might sound hokey, my life and work has become more about helping others than helping myself.” JCU

1 Comment

  1. Patrick, I know your Mom and think I probably met you as a kid. How wonderful and brave of you to share your story of recovery and now mentoring career. You should be very proud of your accomplishments. I’m sure your Mom is. Congratulations.

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