As an orphan, Kevan had always been seeking a feeling of comfort and belonging. You see, he was abandoned at birth in a hospital in Moscow, Russia. After spending nine months there and then nine months in an orphanage, he was adopted by an American woman named Susan. As a single woman, adoption was a no-brainer for her. There were so many children that need help, she told me.
Growing up, it was just Susan and Kevan. They did everything together. Susan tells me that she thinks he didn’t like to be alone because of his time in the orphanage.
“Kevan slept with me for a long time. He and I tried to keep him in his room and his bed. Once he figured out that he could crawl out of the crib, he would come into mine, and I think that’s related to where he was in the orphanage. There were about fifteen cribs in each room, just stacked back to back. So there were always people – well, kids – in the room with him. I don’t think he liked being alone so; he was always with me.”
As a child, he was very social. He joined boy scouts and played sports like football, soccer, and baseball.
“He was very bright and curious. Always smiling a lot and asking a thousand questions. You couldn’t word in edgewise; his mouth was like a thousand times a second.”
Kevans energy and excitement were later diagnosed as attention deficit disorder which had lead to difficulties in school. In the first grade, he was put on medication for ADD, which seemed to help for a little while. But as the years went on Kevan struggled to fit in.
The first time Susan realized that Kevan was experimenting with drugs, Kevan was on a Boy Scouts camping trip. He hadn’t wanted to go, she recalls, but she had pressed the issue. When he was gone, she was cleaning his room and found marijuana under his bed, hidden inside of a sock.
“He started cutting school. Those kinds of things. [That’s when] I realized it was probably a little more than just a little box of marijuana that I found in his room. Then it was just downhill from there.”
Like a lot of teenagers, Kevan was drawn to drinking all in good fun. After he was injured playing baseball, he couldn’t play anymore. Then his social circle changed, and Kevan fell in with the wrong crowd. Alcohol gave him what he had – in one way or another – always been looking for. It was a social glue that allowed him to feel like he belonged somewhere. Like he’d found his people.
“The feelings that I got from being under the influence as well as the rewards from it – like always having people to hang out with and feeling connected – I feel like I got addicted to those things more than I did the actual substance.”
First, it was all about having a good time. And it was fun until all of these rewards started turning into consequences. After a while, he stopped needing the people, and he leaned more heavily into the drinking. As the social aspect melted away, Kevan found himself wanting to drink and use more and more. Before he knew it, Kevan was drinking a lot. And of course, with the alcohol and the partying came other enticing drugs like cocaine and marijuana.
Today, Kevan has just about 15 months clean and sober, but his journey wasn’t without its hurdles. He was 16 the first time he was institutionalized. Between rehab, group homes, juvenile detention, jail, and eventually prison, Kevan had spent almost eight years in and out of various institutions across the country.
When he did have stints of sobriety, it was usually a result of trying to keep his probation officer off his back.
He’d drink or use, get into trouble, do time (either in rehab or jail), then get released only to start the whole process all over again. For someone who was already disconnected from a healthy and positive social life, being institutionalized from such a young age and for so long only served to push Kevan further into isolation.
It was particularly hard on Susan to see her only son living this way. Because Kevan was adopted, they didn’t have any information on his background. Which made it hard for Susan to figure out why this was all happening.
“We talked about using alcohol and drugs, and that happened because of the medication that he was on. I always talk to him about that since he was very little probably seven years old. As a nurse honestly I was trying to do a lot to try to keep him safe and tell him that so that he would realize that he couldn’t do it. But I didn’t have much success in that area.”
Like most parents of addicted persons, she was equal parts anger, frustration, and disappointment – not to mention the overwhelming worry.
“I was more concerned that he was going to do something to hurt himself and, selfishly, that it would affect me even worse,” she shared when I asked her about how she felt during his addiction at it’s worst. “Angry is probably the best word. Disappointed is another one.”
Kevan tells me what he remembers about the last day of his addiction. He woke up in his mom’s apartment, just like every other day, he walked to a nearby shop to pick up a few cans of Four Loko and headed back home. He called his dealer, who then stopped by. Kevan spent the better part of the day drunk and high, alone in a dark room.
What made this day different from all the other days? It was on this day that Kevan was waiting for an important phone call. The day before, he had been waiting to find out if he was going to be able to go to a rehab center in California. He didn’t know if they were going to be able to take him. Even in such a state, Kevan knew deep down he wanted out.
He wanted to be able to see a future for himself. He wanted happiness. He wanted to one day have a family. And he knew that if he kept going down this road that it would never happen. The only way was to find a different way to live.
When his phone finally rings, they tell him that if he’s going to come it has to be now. It was on this day, after nearly a decade spent in and out of rehab – years of relapsing, stealing, lying, and hurting himself and the people around him – for the last time, Kevan chose recovery.
After everything, Kevan and Susan’s relationship is far from perfect. They talk almost every day. As a nurse and a parent, Susan is grateful for the addiction education that she has been offered by the recovery community. As for Kevan? He’s working on his recovery every single day. He credits his healthy and robust support system.
Everyone has their own experience with addiction and recovery looks different for different people. You have to find what works for you and work it. But the most common theme among all the various journey’s is that you have to work at it daily. Even though Kevan has been sober for over a year, he’s still working his program every single day.
Everyone, in one way or another, is affected by the drug epidemic. Therefore, we all have a story to tell. We want to know – in what ways has addiction left a mark on your life? Whether you’ve witnessed a loved one, a friend, a colleague, or even if you have struggled with addiction – we’d like to have you on the show to share your story with the thousands upon thousands of people who are currently struggling. If you would like to share your story on the podcast, head over to tdhvoice.com/share-your-story.