Ken and his two sons were close when the boys were growing up. “We hunted, we fished, we camped,” recalls Ken, now 50. “We did everything together.”
So, it was especially painful for Ken when his older son wouldn’t let Ken see his first grandbaby. He told Ken, “I don’t want you around. You’re a drug addict, Dad.”
In truth, Ken had been addicted to opioids for two decades. It had started in his twenties, when Ken was working as a logger and got hit hard by a log. “I got smashed to the ground, and it messed up my knee and shoulder,” recalls Ken, who went on to have several surgeries.
He was prescribed opioids and immediately loved how the pills made him feel. “The first time, I was like, Wow. This is better than drinking a beer.”
For a while Ken got by on the pills he was prescribed, but then he started supplementing his prescription with pills off the street. When his prescription ran out completely, scoring pills became the focus of Ken’s life.
“It was nerve-wracking. I was always thinking, What’s going to happen if I get caught? It was always hanging over my head.”
At age 40, Ken divorced and fell deeper into addiction. “My friends changed, and I was out looking for pills all the time, calling different people.”
He battled withdrawal constantly, enduring severe aches and pains all over his body. “Some days it was hell,” he remembers.
Several times, he tried to quit cold turkey, but the withdrawal always made him too miserable. “I’d make it two weeks and then go right back to it,” he says.
For years he managed to function as a youth corrections officer, sneaking pills on the job. “I got up and went to work every day, even when I knew I was 100% addicted. I had a face I had to maintain.”
But eventually he lost his job after calling in sick too many times. At that point, he spiraled down further.
“I was numb. Pills were an escape. I just didn’t care anymore about my life.”
Ken began drinking more heavily, too, and spent a month in jail for assaulting a police officer.
Still, he was in deep denial about the extent of his addiction. It was his older son who prompted him to face facts.
“I told my son, ‘I’m not doing meth or heroin,’ and he said, ‘You’re still a drug addict, Dad.’
Being rejected by my kid made me feel like crap. It was enough that I said I needed to get some help. I had a grandbaby I probably was never going to see. I said, ‘It’s time.’”
Unsure where to get help, Ken was walking down the street one day and passed an Ideal Option clinic. “The sign said, ‘Accepting new patients,’ so I googled Ideal Option and realized it was just what I needed.”
He started on Suboxone and was amazed at how quickly the medication shut down his cravings.
Though he did slip up once — “I immediately said, ‘I’m an idiot’ and I turned myself in at Ideal Option” — he now has over two years in recovery from opioids and alcohol.
“I’ve had knee surgery and some of my teeth repaired, and I’ve done it without pain medication,” he says.
These days, Ken works as his mom’s caregiver and has regained her trust. “I’ve had awesome support from my mom. She’s been an active part of my recovery. Before, I stole from her to get drugs. Now she will actually give me her ATM card.”
Ken says his daily life has improved “tenfold, if not more.”
“My outlook on life is not gray and gloomy anymore. I look forward to getting out of bed and doing things with family and friends. I love to fish and hike. My day isn’t consumed chasing that dragon. It’s consumed with doing what I want to do.”
Ken says he feels “100% secure” in his recovery — so secure that he even got the number 2 tattooed on his hand to mark his recovery milestone.
“I’m done with all that,” he says. “I’m not going to do anything to mess up my life now. I’m happy.”
He has even chosen places on his forearm to tattoo future recovery milestones. Best of all, Ken has made amends with the son who wouldn’t let him see his grandchild.
“He wouldn’t call. He wouldn’t text. Then one day he showed up and said, ‘Two years is long enough. I’m going to give you another chance. You’re my dad.”