Steven Lancione, 61, speaks passion and sincerity. To look at him, you would never suspect he once had a secret life working for the mob and a drug addiction that controlled him for decades.
Born to a hard-partying mother and absentee father, Lancione grew up lonely and neglected. Left largely to his own devices, by age 15 he discovered drugs. It was that same year that his mother started using him as a drug mule.
He started off smoking marijuana and then graduated to mescaline and LSD. In his 20s, his drug of choice was cocaine. By the time he reached his 30s, he had moved on to opioids and heroin.
“At the beginning, it was a little exciting. But it grew into the most painful, lonely, and dark experience of my life,” he said.
While he was still a teenager, Lancione’s mother started dating an ex-convict recently released from prison after 25 years on a murder charge. Together, the couple planned robberies and started smuggling marijuana from Jamaica. They knew the prison sentence would be harsh if they got caught, so they decided to send Lancione since a minor would face reduced charges.
It worked—for a while.
“I had pantyhose on under my pants stuffed with marijuana, and I got arrested at Miami airport and put in jail until trial. They eventually sentenced me, and from that point on I had a record,” says Lancione.
By his early 20s, Lancione was doing jobs for the top echelons of Boston’s organized crime syndicate, where he was eventually making $5,000 to $10,000 per day. Working for the mob also meant a non-stop supply of drugs—especially oxycodone. Without them, he could barely get out of bed.
One night, Lancione was partying at a nightclub, where he met a pretty blonde nurse named Roberta. The two became inseparable, and soon Lancione proposed marriage. Roberta knew he dabbled in drugs, but not the extent of his addiction or his ties to the mob. They were married and had a son and daughter.
When the FBI arrested some of Lancione’s top bosses, and their underlings scattered to avoid prosecution, Lancione grabbed the chance to get out. His drug addiction, however, continued.
He went into real estate and the money came fast. It was more than enough to support his thousands-of-dollars-a-month drug habit. He would try to quit, and even went to a rehab center, but could never stay sober on his own for more than a week.
“Our family life was very unstable,” said Roberta. “I spent most of my days trying to keep things in control, trying to keep outward appearances going, making sure everything was done and trying to raise the children and cover up Steven’s drug abuse.”
A registered nurse and addictions counselor, Roberta knew that her husband’s addictions were driven by a deep void and unresolved emotional pain. Even though she learned all the methods of curing addiction, she knew they wouldn’t work for Lancione.
“I would pray daily to God and say ‘please just give him something to fill the void he’s feeling that’s making him use [drugs],’” she said.
A Glimmer of Hope
Roberta found the answer to her own prayers in the local newspaper when she came across an article about a seminar at the library that taught people Falun Gong, a traditional Chinese meditation practice.
She clipped the article out and gave it to Lancione, encouraging him to go.
“The little bit that I knew about Falun Gong sounded like just what Steven needed,” she said.
Lancione went and met two Falun Gong practitioners—a soft-spoken doctor and his wife. They told him to come to Boston Common the next day to learn the Falun Gong exercises and meditation.
The next day as Lancione walked toward the group of meditators, he was overcome with emotion by the look of tranquility and peace on their faces.
“I just intuitively in my soul knew that that was true strength. And I just knew this was it,” he recalls.
“I just knew by looking at them sitting there that that was the answer.”
He started practicing and read about the principles of Falun Gong in the main text of the practice, “Zhuan Falun.” He found himself drawn to its tenets of self-cultivation, the refinement of body and mind with gentle exercises, meditation, and upgrading of one’s character by following the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance in daily life.
After being groomed to be a criminal and drug smuggler by his mother, Lancione found solace in the guidance of simple upright principles. As he tried to follow them more and more, he found a sense of peace.
“My understanding is that if you truly practice the principles the way they are supposed to be practiced, it unlocks something deep in your soul and spirit which is very powerful,” he said.
But Lancione also found that following truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance wasn’t always easy, especially controlling anger.
“I never understood forbearance at all. As an American man, it wasn’t even considered. If something happened to you, you would always try and fight back, or figure out a way to gain revenge over someone,” he said. “Since practicing Falun Dafa, I now understand forbearance. If you can truly practice forbearance it gives you strength.”
A Life Transformed
As Lancione focused on upgrading his character and enjoyed a new calm stability in life, he lost the urge to use drugs, almost without noticing. He stopped for a week that turned into a month, then a year.
Roberta noticed the changes in him immediately. His went from moody and sullen to light and upbeat. He became dependable and started helping around the house more. Normally shifty and secretive, he was now honest. They could talk about family problems calmly, without fighting.
“Before practicing Falun Gong, Steven always had a good heart and wanted to do what was right but never knew how to achieve that. He would constantly veer off and disappoint the family. We couldn’t trust him,” Roberta said.
“Since practicing Falun Gong, his spirit is so light, he’s fun to be around. I feel safe when he’s with the children. He’s truthful, he’s predictable, he’s responsible. Our life just goes very smoothly. It’s like a dream come true.”
His parenting style went from short-tempered to patient. Before, when he was watching his son, Steven Jr., play sports, Lancione would scream at his son for making mistakes or not giving it 100 percent. Now, he has apologized to his son for his past anger and vowed to never treat him that way again.
In his teens, Steven Jr. had started down the same path as his father—dabbling in drugs, gangs, and crime. To Lancione and Roberta’s delight, their son also took up the practice. It became a regular sight to see father and son sitting in meditation together in the living room or reading “Zhuan Falun” and discussing their understandings and experiences.
“His behavior was transformed. Not only has he stopped taking drugs, but drinking, swearing, smoking, lying, cheating—he’s given them all up. Truly a remarkable change. Everyone who’s known both of us is truly astonished,” said Lancione.
Roberta was floored by the changes. After seeing how powerful it was in her husband and son’s life, she began to recommend the practice to her clients at the drug rehab center.
“In the emergency room where I work now, I see young boys coming in who remind me of where my son was. So I tell them his story. I give them pamphlets about Falun Gong. Although I’m not a practitioner myself, I know what a beautiful practice it is and what a gift it is,” she said.
It’s been over 15 years since Lancione last used drugs. As he talks about how his life has changed, he chokes back tears.
“It gave me the comfort and stability I needed my whole life,” he said.
“I feel that my family deserves the rest of my life to remain solid, clean from drugs, calm, and peaceful. I now have another chance with new wisdom, understanding, and life lessons.”