'Carpet guy' talks about sobriety, setbacks and how he is Still Standing

Image 1 of 6

It is not easy to talk about mistakes we make, but Joe Zago thinks it is important.

He doesn't blame anyone but himself, but he's worked hard to turn his life around - and he is still standing.

Most of us know Joe Zago from all the TV commercials for "The Carpet Guys" - the company he started from his bedroom in 2009. But Joe's path to success has been a rocky one. As a teenager he was always getting into trouble, starting fights, shoplifting, being chased by police. He ended up in the Macomb County Youth Home then a boarding school in Massachusetts. 

Joe got a job selling vacuum cleaners, then carpeting, and found out he was really good at it. He ended up being one of the company's top salesmen, and he was only in his 20s.  He even bought a house with a swimming pool.

He then took a second job, as a nightclub promoter.

"I used to be able to get free drinks, I didn't have to pay a cover charge at any place and I met a lot of pretty girls," Joe said. "And I got a lot of attention." 

Joe started drinking a lot and then his life spiraled out of control. He was convicted of drunk driving and lost his license, his job and his home.

He moved into a friend's basement, but they were squatters and there was no heat. One night he took someone's car keys without asking.

"If I had got pulled over I would have been busted with a car that wasn't mine, I was driving on a tether for drunk driving, wasted off my butt, completely annihilated," he said. "I probably would have gone to state prison for probably two to five years. I could have killed somebody."

That night was a wake-up call for Joe.

He put himself in what he called "mental jail." He quit smoking and stopped drinking. He also stopped hanging around with the wrong people and focused on starting a business.

Joe began to listen to motivational speakers and made a vision board. He started writing down his goals every day - his daily goals, monthly goals and lifelong goals. Now he makes everyone who works for him, do the same. 

Today Joe's business is booming. He has a huge facility in Troy with 120 full- and part-time employees. He services 15,000 customers a year. 

He also is giving back in a big way. He supports several local charities, and works with groups like The Salvation Army and the Red Cross. Earlier this year he helped support an effort to donate thousands of smoke alarms to people who need them. 

But every day is still a struggle. After years of sobriety, Joe slipped about five years ago. He was so ashamed he thought about suicide on the 15th floor of a Miami hotel. 

"I got really drunk and I drove again that night - I didn't get caught," said Zago. "But I hated myself for making those choices and risking so much that I just wanted to jump. I didn't want anyone to go through the pain that I was about to cause."

That was when Joe joined Alcoholics Anonymous. He attends meetings and works at his sobriety every day. He does not take anything for granted. He wants to continue giving back. And he wants to be a good role model for his son, Giovanni. 

The people who work for him say, he is a tremendous role model for them. 

| More Still Standing:
Not expected to live past high school, woman runs to conquer cystic fibrosis
Sherry Margolis: Still Standing 7 years after husband's sudden death

Joe said that he is grateful to the many people who have helped him along the way - and that motivates him to give back to others.

If you have a story to tell, we'd love to hear it. Email wjbkwebteam@foxtv.com and tell us what keeps you Still Standing.