After Generation Addicted: At 25, Bo Garfield Beats Cancer & Escapes Heroin

Bo Garfield starts classes to become a certified recovery specialist soon. At 25, he's beat both cancer and heroin addiction. Morgan Zalot | NBC10

Wednesday, Aug. 31, marked International Overdose Awareness Day. As part of our continuing coverage after Generation Addicted, our special report exploring the heroin and opioid epidemic, we're checking in with people first introduced in the program.

At 25, Bo Garfield hasn't just beat cancer. He's conquered his heroin addiction, too.

NBC10 first met Bo in January at Brotherly Love House, a recovery house in Philadelphia's East Germantown neighborhood where he lived at the time. He had just gotten out of jail and shared his story of learning he had thyroid lymphoma and would need surgery in February.

In the weeks leading up to the surgery, Bo said on Thursday, he faltered.

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"Right before my surgery, I kind of went crazy," said Bo, a mild-mannered young man with a deep voice. "I didn't know what was gonna happen."

Bo survived the nine-hour surgery and the weeks of radiation that followed. He decided in that time that he'd kick his heroin habit for good, too, and went straight into treatment, he said.

"I said, 'I'm done,'" Bo, who grew up in Delaware County, said. "Last time I did heroin was mid-February."

- WATCH Bo's first interview with NBC10 in February:

Bo Garfield (Published Monday, March 21, 2016)

Bo, who described smoking crack cocaine in Kensington stash houses at the height of his addiction, swears off all substances now, including alcohol.

He still has pain in his neck from the surgery, but takes non-narcotic medications to help ease it.

"Everybody's in pain," Bo said. "You just gotta deal with it."

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Bo is working now at an Old City restaurant where he just landed a promotion to a manager position. He's staying with a friend in Center City while he continues to get back on his feet, and plans to move to a different recovery house in the city, where he'll have a support system of other people who know the same daily struggles that come with leaving behind heroin addiction.

Like most people addicted to heroin, Bo has been in and out of treatment. This time, he said, he's determined. "I've had that ambition and that motivation," he said.

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He's getting ready to start school in two weeks to obtain his certified recovery specialist license so he can help others escape heroin's grips like he did. He's lost nearly a dozen friends to overdoses over the past few years and watched too many close friends, along with his own brother, grapple with addiction.

But Bo gets what they're going through. He knows it's not easy to walk away from the needle.

"I'm not gonna say some bull---- like 'There is hope,'" he said.

"I had to have a spiritual moment. The s--- just clicked. Your family doesn't have to lie at your funeral ... there is another way."

Welcome to the NBC10 Digital Exclusive investigation into the tragic world of heroin and opioid addiction in the Philadelphia region and beyond. (Published Friday, April 8, 2016)