Darryl Virostko on FleaHab. Hint: it isn't for dogs. Photo by Chip Scheuer.
Darryl “Flea” Virostko needs a house, preferably near the waves, hopefully with sports equipment. Not for himself, but for the greater good.
The big wave surf legend behind FleaHab, a support program for recovering addicts, says he’s reached the point where he realizes he could help more people if FleaHab had four walls, a roof and a few beds.
“I get people coming to me every couple days, saying, ‘I need to get my brother in FleaHab,’ you know, all the time, and I can’t do anything about it,” he says. “That’s what’s hard. It’s hard to start from nothing and rent a house, but we’re at the point where we’re just going to raise enough money to get a small house and start from there.”
That’s a long way from where Virostko was three and a half years ago, when he drove himself, high on crystal meth and saturated with a half gallon of vodka, to rehab. At the time he was 37 and not even sure he’d be able to get himself clean, let alone help others shake free of the jaws of addiction.
But that’s exactly when FleaHab, was born. The program reminds addicts how to get high the healthy way: on rushes of blood, oxygen and endorphins. It’s a high Virostko says people lose touch with when they’re addicted, and one he’s hell bent on reintroducing them to, whatever it takes.
“Like this one kid did FleaHab and I brought him surfing a couple times and he wasn’t that into it,” said Flea, his brown eyes darting towards some storm clouds hanging over the Westside on a morning way too rainy and cold even for self-proclaimed surf addicts to shimmy into a wetsuit.
“I go, ‘What did you used to like to do?’ and he said, ‘Well, I used to play tennis,’ and then he was smokin’ me, every game he was just kicking my ass, but it was fun to see that come out of him again, he’d serve the ball and ace me and be all psyched. That’s what I love to do,” says Virostko.
Still just a blueprint in his mind, FleaHab’s sober living environment has a “positive and healthy influence on everyone” and rests on the firm foundation of his own sobriety, which he thanks for the ability to live every day to its fullest potential, without the ups and downs caused by addiction—an inspiring notion for anybody who has ever fought the “I’ll never waste another day being hung over again” battle.
FleaHab’s house, which he would like to see materialize close to the Westside swells, also comes with a full arsenal of community-donated sports equipment, from bikes to tennis raquets to, of course, surfboards.
“It’s [surfing] is the first thing I like to do with someone just because it’s out of the ordinary for them,” he says, “and just getting in the ocean is nice. And then you’re away from all this, and all of a sudden four dolphins pop up and just swim by, or a whale blows, people aren’t used to that. Or an otter comes up with a big crab and starts eating a crab right in front of these people who have never seen that. As surfers we just take it for granted because we see it every single day, but for someone who’s coming from Fresno or something like that, it’s really cool for them,” he says.
Later that day, I blow the dust off my running shoes, take a deep breath and hit the rain-covered pavement.
To learn more about FleaHab’s Zumba dance party fundraiser planned for May, visit FleaHab.org.