After growing up attending church every Sunday and holding strong anti-drug beliefs, Richard K. developed an addiction to painkillers in his twenties. He spent years on heroin, in and out of jail, and completely lost his faith. Now at the age of 44, Richard has been clean and sober since May 17, 2017. He reconnected with God through the Faith in Recovery program at Banyan Treatment Center in Pompano Beach, Florida. He now works in the Banyan call center, helping guide those who are seeking treatment. This is his story…
I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I grew up going to church and my mom has always been very spiritual. I believe that planted the seed in me to come back to my faith later in life when I was struggling. I was a pretty normal teenager. I started drinking alcohol socially in high school, but I was very against drugs—even pot. I was an athlete, into fitness and lifting weights, so that was my main focus during those years. I pushed my body pretty hard and ended up injured. When I was 24, I had knee surgery and the doctor prescribed Vicodin. That’s where my addiction started.
I had a series of surgeries over the course of the next eight years. Looking back now, I realize I was on painkillers for pretty much all of my twenties. I justified it because I really was in physical pain. Aside from that, I was living a relatively good life. My drug use started with medicine prescribed by a doctor, so it was easy for me to convince myself it wasn’t a problem. I didn’t even feel high. The pills just gave me energy and a feeling of being able to function normally. I had a great wife, three kids and lived a nice life. Except for the fact I was on drugs.
Eventually, I was using heavier medications and more pills than the doctors would prescribe. I went from Vicodin to Percocet, then eventually Oxycontin and Methadone. I was getting them however I could. One day, a guy I bought pills from told me I could save a lot of money by doing heroin instead. At that point, I was already physically addicted and it didn’t take long before I was a full-blown heroin addict. So I spent my twenties on pills and my thirties dope sick. The consequences of my addiction began catching up and I started getting arrested. I was in and out of jail, never able to stay out of trouble for very long because I couldn’t stop using. My family was devastated; eventually they didn’t want anything to do with me. I know my mom always prayed for me, but nobody could trust me anymore. I tried going to treatment three times and I never stayed clean.
In 2016, I had a wake up call. I had just been released from jail—again. I went home to see my family really quick then my plan was to visit the dope man. My daughter asked me for a ride to get her hair done, so I dropped her off on my way to score. When I met up with the dealer, he had some different kind of heroin. He told me it was the raw stuff. I was excited since I’d never seen anything like it and I’d been locked up for awhile. I got high and then got back in my car.
As I was driving away, I overdosed behind the wheel—I stopped breathing. Another driver noticed that my car was weaving erratically and slowing down, she ran up and saw me slumped over the wheel. That lady called 911 and gave me chest compressions until the paramedics came. They revived me and took me to the hospital. The first responders told me that the woman who saved my life saw my daughter’s picture pop up on my cell phone while giving me CPR. My daughter was blowing up my phone because she was done with her hair appointment and calling me for a ride home. The lady said knowing somebody loved me made her fight hard to get me back.
After my overdose, I felt lucky to be alive. I knew I needed help, but I didn’t want a typical rehab; I had tried those. I felt like my life had been saved by a miracle and I thought maybe developing a deeper connection with God would make the difference this time. I found the Faith in Recovery program at Banyan Treatment Center, which is designed specifically for those who want to rebuild or find a relationship with God while addressing their addiction.
It’s a really unique program and one of only a few programs of its kind in the country. It’s non-denominational Christianity, and welcomes those of other faiths and also those who have no background in religion. But it’s not all God; it offers top-notch clinical care and dual diagnosis support while maintaining the focus on Christian principles. They make sure you are physically, mentally and spiritually stable. They’re not going to tell somebody with mental health issues or physical ailments that they can just pray instead of taking meds—they have clinical staff to address those issues.
I’m not gonna lie—the location was also a huge selling point for Banyan. The detox center in Stuart, Florida, is in a very tranquil location close to the Intracoastal Waterway. It was really relaxing to be able to sit near the water in those first few days when I was going through withdrawal. For me, water invites reflection and brings peace and tranquility. The staff at Banyan is also amazing. It’s the only rehab I’ve ever been to where pretty much everybody is in recovery. They understand what the clients are going through and they make it hard to get away with anything, because they’ve been there. When I moved from detox to primary care, I met a tech that I really clicked with. He shared with me about his own experience with addiction and recovery and his faith. He had what I wanted and inspired me.
Keeping the Faith
Like may addicts, relapse is part of my story. I didn’t stay clean after my first stay at Banyan. I was in a hurry to get home to Ohio and I didn’t listen to my therapist. I went home and started using again after a couple months. But, once again, the seed was planted. I learned a lot during that first stay and I loved the connection I started to build again with God. I also kept in touch via email with people I met at Banyan, including the tech, who I became close with. He’s a big part of the reason I came back. The final straw with my family happened in May of 2017, right before my daughter’s high school graduation. My 21-year-old son caught me stealing money from him. I looked at my kid, who knew I was taking his money for drugs, and I have never felt that low. I left the next day to return to Banyan. As much as I wanted to be there for my daughter’s graduation, I needed to get help. My family understood and supported my decision.
When I came back to Banyan, I committed 100%. The Faith in Recovery program is much more than waking up every day to pray and study the Bible. They don’t cram Christianity down your throat, but the program is designed for people who are serious about staying sober and working on their relationship with God. There is a staff Chaplain and we had daily devotionals, prayers and weekly off-site church services. They incorporate faith and Biblical teachings in a way that compliments therapy and feels natural. They use music, movies and 12-step to emphasize a connection with God.
After completing the program, I stayed in Florida and moved into a sober living home. My house is a men’s discipleship program with a level system and requires meetings, steps and sponsorship. I have more freedom than treatment, but still have to maintain a high level of accountability, which is good. About two months after completing treatment, I was walking near the house. I noticed the car in front of me was slowing down then it lurched to a stop at the curb. When I got up next to it, I saw the driver—a woman—slumped over the wheel. I immediately called 911. While I was holding her head, waiting for the paramedics, I could see her phone was ringing and what looked like her son’s picture on the screen. It was a powerful moment for me. It felt like confirmation from God that I was on the right track. I don’t know what happened to her, but I did my part to help.
After I completed treatment at Banyan, I got involved in the alumni program. Through that community and my passion for recovery, the opportunity to work for Banyan in the call center came my way. The fact that they believed in me enough to hire me was a huge compliment and I take the responsibility seriously. In my job, I speak with those who are struggling with the disease of addiction and their family members. These conversations are deep for me because I relate. They’re a huge part of my daily program. I appreciate my clean date and I will always remember it, but for me recovery is not about glorifying not being on drugs—that’s just the way it should have been all along. Instead, it’s really about helping others who are struggling with addiction every single day. Whether it’s in my house, in meetings or in my job.
Several times, I have actually had the privilege to meet people I’ve spoken with on the phone after they get to Banyan. It’s an amazing feeling to know that I helped them get here. Obviously, I talk to a lot of people who I can’t help for whatever reason, but that makes it really special when I can actually reach that one person. The best piece of advice I can offer someone who is struggling with addiction is to start today. Tomorrow isn’t promised to anybody; take advantage of the time God has given you. When you look back after 60 days, you will be so glad you did it.