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Staying the Course

Catching up with Nick Rivelli

There was nothing fun about spending his 16th birthday in a wilderness program in Utah, and nothing easy about spending his senior year of high school in a therapeutic boarding school in Texas. Yet perhaps the hardest challenge Nick Rivelli has faced was his return home.

He was clean, he was sober, and he was keenly aware that both had been hard-fought and hard-won in a highly controlled environment, far away from the place he began the downward spiral that continued until the day his parents had him removed from their home in Monterey.

And now he was back in the same town with the same kids, the same temptations, and the same boredom, but with a whole new set of rules. No one knew for sure if he could make it. But he quickly realized that while very little had changed back home, he had.

"It was scary," says Rivelli, "to leave a secluded environment and return to the real world where there was no staff telling me what to do. I've settled in. I realize that a lot of people are still drinking and doing drugs, but it's not something I want to do. I'm used to it now, and it's nice to be living a normal life and not doing anything crazy."

Now completing his third semester at Monterey Peninsula College, Rivelli has maintained a B average and a passion for black-and-white photography. While he enjoys both abstract and figurative work, he has recently turned his attention to landscape photography and the possibility of a career in photojournalism.

"I'm focusing on photography and on my family and a few friends," he says. "A lot of the stuff I did was because I didn't feel wanted or worth it to anybody. So I got a false sense of being wanted by being the life of the party. I finally realized that friends will come and go, but your family is going to be there, unless you turn your back on them. I no longer need a million friends, just a couple who will be there for me. It's what's kept me sober."

Editor's note: Nick Rivelli first shared his story of going to the brink and back again in an article in Pulse in 2006. More than 11/2 years later, he's happy to report that he continues on his road to recovery.