June 10, 2021

Paul Vautrinot’s Comeback Story - Escaping Life In The Tunnels of Las Vegas

Paul Vautrinot’s Comeback Story - Escaping Life In The Tunnels of Las Vegas

Paul Vautrinot tells his incredible story of living as a drug addict in the flood tunnels below Las Vegas and how a “conversation with a cricket” became the turning point in his life. Learn about how Paul now helps other addicts escape and get...


Paul Vautrinot tells his incredible story of living as a drug addict in the flood tunnels below Las Vegas and how a “conversation with a cricket” became the turning point in his life. Learn about how Paul now helps other addicts escape and get their lives on the path to recovery like he did. 

  • Paul’s childhood was volatile to say the least. His mother was a prostitute who was addicted to both crack cocaine and alcohol. He moved a lot until he was 8 years old when his grandparents put him with a different family. Despite those hardships, Paul believes that he was generally a happy kid.
  • One of the defining moments in Paul’s life was, after a rollercoaster period of his mother getting sober and relapsing repeatedly, he realized that he didn’t have to pour his emotion into things he couldn’t control.
  • He came to the understanding that nothing would affect him for the rest of his life. As bad as those emotional highs and lows were, Paul knew that he could just ride out the wave.
  • The downside to that is that he has trouble connecting with people. The trauma he experienced as a child put him perpetually on guard, to the point where he has difficulty creating relationships.
  • Early on, Paul spent a year with a foster family that showed him what life could look like. This gave him a whole picture perspective and not just his side of the story.
  • Every bottom is a trapdoor. Paul’s bottom happened at the age of 24 when he found himself homeless on the streets after everyone in his life refused to take him in. He literally had nowhere to go, but that was just the beginning.
  • Eventually, Paul made his way to the flood channels of Las Vegas where he lived for two years and bought into the lifestyle of a committed drug addict. The whole time he had the thought at the back of his head that he was not meant for that kind of life.
  • One day, he heard a voice that said that Paul was going to die with a needle in his arm if he continued with this lifestyle. He retells the story of how he was going to escape that starts with his girlfriend swinging a piece of wood at his head and having a conversation with a black cricket and ends with him being arrested by the police.
  • Part of what was holding him back was a fear that he wouldn’t be able to live a normal life. Despite how hard his life was, it was easier to keep doing what he knew.
  • Paul’s recovery started with Alcoholics Anonymous, where he sat listening to other people describe their stories, and he realized that he had no evidence that AA was not going to help, and plenty of evidence that it worked for other people.
  • Freedom House came into Paul’s life during his recovery and he decided to invest himself and do his best. He started off at the lowest level and within two and a half years, he was promoted all the way to Program Director of the organization. It was at that time that the founder of Freedom House told Paul about Crossroads and brought him on to help build that up.
  • Many of the social services available to people have a 2-year wait list. Paul believes that there is no reason that we can’t provide instant placement and social help for people that are ready to enter the program, and that’s where Shine a Light comes in.
  • Paul is most grateful for his family, which was something that he would never have. His family has shown him the gift of flowing instead of forcing things. His experience has given him the ability to face life on its own terms.
  • One of the greatest lessons that he’s learned is that he gets to choose his own level of distraction. If you want something to be important, you can choose for it to be important. If you don’t think it’s important, let it go.
  • At first glance you may think you’re powerless, but the very next step gives you your power back. The power to respond with love instead of reacting with fear.
  • If Paul could send a message back to his younger self, it would be “it will all be worth it.” If it had not been for experiences, Paul would not have what he has today.
  • The advice that Paul gives to people who don’t know if they are capable of escaping their older life is usually the same: There is a better life to live and you have nothing to lose. Your current life is still going to be here so you might as well try to be better.

Paul Vautrinot

Program Director for Freedom Behavioral Health

Paul Vautrinot was born and raised in Las Vegas. He attended Las Vegas Academy of the Arts and graduated in 2005. Paul has been a person in long term recovery since 2014 after having been addicted to Heroin and Methamphetamines for nearly a decade. He is a graduate of the ABC Drug Court program based in Henderson Nevada, and currently sits on the Alumni groups board as Vice President.