My name is Luke Kjolsing, and I am a co-founder of Recovree. I am someone who lives with SUD (Substance Use Disorder). SUD has been a huge part of my life since I was 15 years old, and I would like to talk about how this disease has evolved through my life.
I have always been a shy and anxious individual, and at a young age I discovered that I was able to self medicate with a variety of substances to take away these uncomfortable feelings. My self medicating increased through the years, and the consequences began to pile up. These consequences never had a strong enough pull to make me consider stopping the self medicating. The feelings of living in my own skin far out weighed the inconveniences that these consequences produced. The only thing these consequences did for me was create a feeling of hopelessness and worthlessness. I felt like a burden to the earth and that I had no place in it.
Through the 15 years of my use I picked up a variety of charges from the law ranging from possession charges to multiple DUIs, I failed out of 3 colleges, received 2 articles 15's in the United States Air Force, had non-existent relationships with family and friends, and experienced a nearly fatal car accident. Not once did I consider truly reaching out for help to figure out what was wrong with me. My moment of change hit me hard when I woke up in a detox that I had just been in a few weeks prior. When I woke up I immediately began to think of how I was a failure to my family, my friends, and most of all myself. I began to develop a plan that I could not fail at; I was debating which one of my firearms to use on myself. This moment is when a familiar face walked into the room and said in calm voice "Are you ready for help yet?" A social worker that had just given me an assessment a few weeks prior was standing there. He took me into his office and that was the moment where my life started to make a drastic change.
From here I went to an inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, and sober housing. I found a recovery program that worked for me, and I committed myself to a lifestyle of recovery. I was incredibly lucky to have friends and family that supported me through these early days, even after all the pain I had caused them. I was fortunate to be surrounded by many amazing individuals to show me how recovery is possible. I believe that it was the clinical system that got me sober, and that my community has helped me find recovery.
I have been one of the lucky ones. I constantly see individuals who have not been as fortunate as me, and are still stuck in the misery and darkness of SUD. Millions are trapped and feel there is no way out. It falls on our shoulders as the individuals that have found recovery to help out our fellows. To show them that there is hope. The communities across this country are full of an untapped resource. This resource is people in recovery that have the capacity to help others to their feet and get them back on the path of life. Peer Recovery Specialist have a variety of names such as recovery coaches, mentors, etc. I whole heartedly believe that given the proper training and tools these individuals can make a huge impact in our communities to help shed some light in this dark place.
Recovree was founded to support these individuals known as Peer Recovery Specialists. If you are someone who wishes to give back to your community and make a difference, I encourage you to search out Peer Specialist training in your area. This is a growing service, and has the ability to provide these individuals with a living wage for their service. If you are on the other side of this and stuck in the darkness, I encourage you to search for a specialist in your area to walk beside you in the difficult times of early recovery. This person can serve as guide through the murky waters and barriers that we encounter.
My perspective of SUD has changed drastically through my journey. At first I felt self pity and that I was broken. I now know that SUD has been the biggest gift I have ever received. It has changed my outlook on life. I no longer take the precious gift of life for granted. I love my family and friends more than I could ever have imagined. I live my life for the present moment. I have learned a new found compassion and empathy for humanity and the the planet we reside on. Almost everyone searches for recovery from something in their life, and I want to be a person that can do my part to aid in that journey. I know now that regardless of the struggles I encounter in life, there is going to be someone there that reaches out their hand and helps me back to my feet. Be proud of your recovery whether it is 1 day or 25 years. I hope everyone has a wonderful national recovery month, and I hope that we all can provide some hope for those still struggling in our communities.