Our 61st spotlight in the FACES OF HOPE: WE DO RECOVER series will focus on Adam Kennard’s story, Love Conquers All.
I was raised by two parents that showed me an amazing amount of love. They weren’t wealthy, but my needs were met and I wanted for very little. They were hard-working and intelligent blue-collar folks. I was encouraged and told how important I was to them on a regular basis. Mom and dad fought a lot though and that’s what I remember of their marriage, no good times. They divorced when I was ten years old and my world fell apart. It was an ugly divorce, and my vision of these parents as perfect people was destroyed. Dysfunction was my norm.
There was no drug abuse in my home. My parents occasionally drank a beer, but I can’t recall ever seeing either of them drunk. I remember once around age 12, I tried a sip of my mom’s beer. I did not get drunk or even slightly intoxicated. Just a sip. But even at that age I recall asking my mother why anyone would drink less than it takes to get drunk.
One day, I decided that I should try my dad’s prescription pain meds. I have no idea why. I can’t make sense of it. He had them only for rare instances for a condition he had that flared up on occasion. They were small. I had heard the name of them and that they would make me feel good. I decided that because they were small, I’d better take two. I got wasted. I was sick, vomiting, sweating, and laying in the floor with my head on the cool toilet. I loved it, and immediately began planning the next time I would take more.
I started smoking pot and drinking with some friends. I went from an A/B student to doing just enough to get by. Drug use became my new identity. My new life. It did “it” for me. I had always felt just slightly different, as if I never fit in with anyone fully. When I used, that feeling was gone.
My mom had taken us to church off and on my entire life. But attending church is a far cry from knowing Jesus. Mom got saved eventually in my early teens. I resisted her attempts to lead me to the Lord, and got worse.
I was always a pretty good student. Talented and gifted classes, accolades, trophies, and certificates were not able to satisfy me. I got a full ride scholarship to a very good college due to my ACT score. But I began using more substances as I ended high school and entered college. Cocaine and pills of most types were added to my toolbox that I used to avoid feelings. I lost that scholarship in the first year.
I was using when Oxycontin came out. Nobody knew what they were, and they were cheap. This was before the tamper-resistant versions were introduced. I started IV drug use and hit bottom fast.
I went to detox, bombed out of IOP. Used IV for a couple of years. Methamphetamine, cocaine, opioids – anything that could be dissolved and injected was on the menu. Then went to a residential treatment center in Portsmouth, Ohio. A place I still respect and love to this day. I got sober for the first time at age 21. I worked the 12-step programs and was a staple in the recovery community in that town. I spoke all over the region. I began working at that treatment center after a year sober. I worked my way up the ranks, eventually becoming a clinical counselor. I earned my bachelor’s degree in psychology while working there. I prayed the sinner’s prayer during an emotional experience and thought I was saved. I thought I was on top of the world. But I wasn’t. I never opened my Bible to truly read it and get to know God. I never followed in discipleship. I never picked up my cross. I was justifying and compartmentalizing dishonesty in some areas of my life. So I lost that job. I also stopped working a recovery program due to my pride. The clock was ticking.
At six years sober, I married a wonderful woman who was nothing like me. Had very different views of life. And honestly was way too different from the person I was. I had no business dragging her into my chaos. I went back to college and got my degree in respiratory therapy. After 5 years of marriage, with ten years sober, I relapsed. My justification was that I had a kidney stone. Looking back, it was the smallest kidney stone I could get, and was nothing more than an excuse to escape. My mother had been diagnosed with cancer, and I was angry with God. So I went to the comfort that never made me feel inadequate.
After a few months, my wife caught on to my use. I refused treatment. Then agreed to medically assisted treatment. Not because I thought it was better. Because I was full of pride and didn’t want to accept that I was “that bad”. I still wanted drugs. I successfully tapered off after a year, and we had our only child. But that wasn’t enough. I relapsed while she was pregnant. So back on the subs! I became a slave to this now.
My mom died of cancer in 2014. I had been going to church for over ten years despite my drug use. This just made me angrier with God. I had seen so many people healed, I turned away from Him with a vengeance. I selfishly used her memory and the thought that God hadn’t healed her as an excuse to use. She was a saved Christian. She IS healed! But I didn’t see that.
During my time in the Suboxone clinics, I had to attend treatment. My clinic sent me to get my required counseling place at some place called “ARC” in Ashland. So I followed along, although I’d never heard of them. After some time going off and on, my wife filed for divorce. This was it. I had a three year old son and was losing my family. I went to that outpatient office and tried to do outpatient counseling. But I couldn’t comply. So I asked for residential treatment. I wasn’t one who wanted nothing to do with God. I knew I needed Jesus. I was excited to go to a faith-based program.
They sent me to Belle Grove Springs (BGS). While at Belle Grove Springs, I thought I knew it all. I had been a counselor. I didn’t realize that I didn’t need knowledge. I needed a change of heart. About two weeks in, I talked with a guy who was the pastoral counselor, Pastor Kyle Burchett. He saw the pain and guilt I had in me. We talked about the difference between “knowing about Jesus” and actually “knowing Jesus.” He helped me pray from an open heart of giving and accepting love and my entire viewpoint changed.
I completed the first phase and went home. Within two days, my wife informed me that it would take time to fix our relationship. I got angry. I got high. Within a week I was in jail for a second DUI after an overdose in a parked car. That was my last use. I went to jail April 27, 2016 and spent four months in jail, followed by four months in a treatment center in a department of corrections facility. During the time in jail, I only got four visitors. My wife, my sister, and two I didn’t expect. Pastor Kyle and Brandon Leslie (then director of BGS). What? I relapsed but you guys are still there for me and love me anyway?
While locked up, the lessons from treatment stuck out to me. I not only read my Bible, I studied it. I practiced discipleship. I had a change of heart. I realized that I now had an opportunity to get into the Word, so that I could get to know the Lord.
I fought hard after my release, completing a diversion program that kept me from having a felony record. I immediately contacted the people I knew from recovery and church. I became active in an addiction ministry called REwired. These people showed me what it’s like to follow Christ and what it means to boldly proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They loved me when I thought I was unlovable. And now I get the opportunity to be a part of that ministry in my daily walk.
My aha moment:
When I finally sat behind bars, having lost everything in my life and turned my back on the people who loved me, contemplating suicide upon my pending release. I realized that HE’S GOD! He restores, and His grace is sufficient in ALL my circumstances. I could recover and my life could continue. I could have life, and have a more abundant life than before.
Feelings and emotions of active addiction:
I was so full of shame that I felt I could never live a full life. I thought my failures would forever define me. I was the most negative person I had ever met. I couldn’t see the good side of a $100 bill.
The driving force that keeps me going when times get tough:
The fact that I’m worthy. That I am not a failure. That I am a called child of the King of Kings. I am loved by the Lord of Lords. And even greater, that He had called me to be His ambassador, to be the one who represents His love to those who don’t yet know Him.
Advice for the addict still struggling:
Early recovery isn’t always fun. It’ll be tough. You’ll want to give up. It’s not easy, but it’s worth every single second of discomfort you’re going to feel. It’s worth every obstacle you’ll face, when you are walking hand-in-hand with the one who moves mountains from our lives. There’s hope. You’re loved by God, and He is going to show you that through His people. All you have to do is realize that it’s worth selling-out for Jesus.
What obstacles or roadblocks have you faced in your recovery?
Feeling overwhelmed by the wreckage of my past. Guilt and despair can attempt to creep in. When that happens, I recall what Pastor Kyle told me that changed my life: “Satan knows your name and calls you by your sin. But Jesus knows your sin and calls you by your name.”
What is something you want people who never struggled with addiction to know?
Addiction is a very complex issue. Using logic and rationale will only frustrate you. Spending your time on searching for why people use drugs is nice, but it is much more effective to focus on the solution. You’re not going to shame people out of using. As an addict, we were exposed to this daily, and it just drove my addiction that much more. When I became tied to people who focused on loving me to sobriety, I got hope. From hope, I got faith. And from that faith, I became a conqueror.
What advice do you have for family members of a person in addiction?
I’m sorry that there’s no way to help you understand. I can’t explain. Logic and rationale do not apply to addiction, because the first things it changes is one’s ability to use logic and rationale as it relates to substance use. So be loving. If that’s tough love, soft love, whatever the situation calls for. Love conquers all.
Showing love to those of us who felt unlovable is the greatest gift we can receive. Nothing made me want to change until I was shown that love. I have read 1 Corinthians 13 weekly for over a year, and it has changed my life. When I keep in mind that God loves me more than that, I am able to show that love to those I come into contact with today. I am blessed to share my past difficulties so that I can relate to people who are hurting and broken and they can relate to me. This opens a door, and I can then share my present and my future through the love of Christ. Life is more amazing than I had ever dreamed, and it’s only getting better.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please call Addiction Recovery Care at 606.638.0938 or visit them on the web at www.arccenters.com.
There is hope. There is help.