Recovery Oriented Campus Center

Andrew Kiezulas' Story

My name is Andrew Kiezulas and I am a person in long term recovery. To begin describing what this means to me is nearly impossible; my words bare but the outline of the emotions that conjure them. I have continued to experience the power of possibility and it inspires me in so many incredible ways.

Since 5/3/2012, I have had the honor and privilege of being of service to those affected by/in active addiction, helping those seeking recovery, and giving back to so many of my fellows in recovery that continue to help me. Consequently, I have yet to need a drink or a drug. I continue to learn and grow and see the power of possibility that rests within myself and within all of us. I stand in perpetual awe of its ability to heal and reunite. I have seen lives rebuilt, families brought back together, and the many recoveries become one.

My own recovery journey began as many unfortunately do, after a long road through almost two decades of active Substance Use Disorder (SUD); numerous injuries/scars, hospitalizations, and surgeries; interventions, broken relationships, countless deaths and suicides; severe cocaine, heroin, and prescription drug dependency; detoxes, severe depression, attempted overdoses, and I could go on. As I sit writing this, 2.5+ years sober, I can recall reaching out to a Suboxone clinic for help, as I had finally reached out for professional help while having no idea where to start. A few opiate positive drug tests later, I was discharged from the entire program with the stroke of a pen, “You aren’t ready for recovery, Andrew,” the doctor said as he dismissed me from his office. I have continued to reflect on when I really entered into recovery, and all signs point directly to the moment I became willing, and only willing, to change. NOT ready for recovery? I was already on my journey, but didn’t know it and was told I wasn’t! I still had a lot of work to do and long road to total abstinence, but the seed had taken its root! I am strongly convicted in my belief that a willingness to change is all that is necessary to be ‘in recovery’. People are entitled to their own opinions, and I can empathize with many of them. Unfortunately, I continue to see so many of my fellows marginalized and stigmatized, as I was and frequently still am. Too often I see those who suffer from SUD being forced into the shadows and told that they can’t. Too often I see families made to lose loved ones.

I myself found my roommate victim to a fatal overdose March 2, 2013. He had almost 6 months of sobriety and was about a month out of sober living. He was a son, a brother, and a friend. He loved and was loved, and remains so in the countless hearts he touched. The day before he went, I returned home to my laundry, all neatly folded from the dryer, waiting patiently for me on the couch. Thanking him via text, he invited me down to Buffalo Wild Wings for his employee discount. We laughed as he served me dinner. I remember our conversation on the phone the next evening, looking forward to the meditation group we were to attend the following morning. And yet, Brennan was suffering in silence. Not even an hour later I found him, on a blanket face down on the floor and in child pose. Thinking he was deep in meditation, I apologized for disturbing him and off I went to bed. The next morning my alarm went off, 2.5 hours earlier than I had set it. I capitulated and begrudgingly stood up saying, ‘Fine, if I’m supposed to get up, I’m supposed to get up…’ His light was still on and his door still open. The 911 operator requested I turn him over to see if he was still breathing; I can still vividly see his face; I can still feel the cold and stiffness of the rigor mortis. The pain in his mother’s voice, moments after calling 911, still resonates deeply. She already knew. I couldn’t help myself but to check his phone, his last call was to her. I remember the disparaging look in the eyes of our neighbors the following weeks, unsure what to say. I can still feel the weight of his father in my arms; his knees buckling, hugging him when he came with the family to collect Brennan’s things. I relive it, daily. I pray for his family. I weep, still.

The profound impact of this experience is again, something I could only begin to put into words. What I can describe is the promise I made to myself that day. I would go to any length, and do whatever it may take, to help anyone that still lives with SUD, directly or indirectly. I would stand up for those that are forced to live in silence and shame. I would keep one friend from having to make that phone call, and one mother from receiving it. Abruptly and with a great vengeance, fell away years of the prejudice I had clung so tightly to. Suddenly became real the merit and possibility that rest within all forms of treatment, recovery engagement, and harm reduction/prevention programs. I promised, deep within myself, to put to task these experiences in a positive and productive way. I would use them as the motivation I would surely need moving forward; no longer would I suffer in silence.

This marked a fundamental shift in my own personal recovery and my life. I now gladly put my own personal politics and bias aside, and set out in great determination with hope. We can spare just one person this experience, and then one more. I stand humbled and inspired by the unending faith that so many have put in me. I seek to give others the chance I was given, time and time again, the chance that helped me to realize the power of possibility that is contained within. I am living proof of that potential.

I am but one of so many incredible stories.

My name is Andrew Kiezulas, I am a person in long term recovery, and this is why I am not anonymous.

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