“We are two people from completely different sides of the world who probably would’ve never met in any other circumstances. It’s so strange how love works, but we deserve the love we found in each other. We were both on our own journey to recovery from addiction and we caught each other’s eye on a recovery-based social media group. We became friends on Facebook almost a year before we ever even had a conversation.
Kyra is from Essex, England, a nice area located just east of London where social drinking is a huge part of the community. I am from West Virginia where heroin and meth have absolutely destroyed whole generations. It’s safe to say that we come from two completely different lifestyles. We come from completely different upbringings. However, even with those major differences, there are huge similarities.
For the majority of our lives, what we had most in common was addiction. Like all other addicts, our lives selfishly revolved around one thing: the need and obsession to use drugs in one form or another. Ultimately, the drug that Kyra favored the most was alcohol. My primary drugs of choice were heroin and meth. With that being said, it’s not about the substances we use, it’s about the feelings associated with using. Regardless of where you’re from or what substance you’re addicted to, the feelings are all the same. Hopelessness, fear, depression, shame, guilt…those feelings can either push you deeper into addiction or they can push you to seek recovery.
Our addictions may have been where our similarities stem from, but that’s not what brought us together. Recovery is what bridged the gap between the United States and England. It’s not uncommon for people from around the world to become connected through various recovery groups. There are huge recovery conventions that are held all over the world for people to connect and share their own personal journey to recovery. It’s a beautiful thing to have a partner that completely understands and accepts you because they are in recovery themselves. Same goes for friendships as well. Recovery is all about finding and building relationships with people who understand you on a deeper level. They don’t judge you based on the choices you made in active addiction.
What’s great about our relationship is that we can work together as a team to help guide people into recovery. We have two different upbringings which makes people relate to each of us in different ways. As I said before, Kyra is from a beautiful area located just East of London. She was born in Colchester, England. She moved around many times at a young age. At 7, she was put into foster care in Hadleigh, Suffolk. She remained there until she was adopted by her mom Marie Dawson at the age of 10. Marie gave her a life she never had before.
Kyra started drinking at the age of 15. At first, it was more social drinking than anything. An innocent act that would cause a lot of damage later in her life. Not much time passed before she had a fake ID and was getting into clubs. At 16, she was already being asked to leave these clubs because of how drunk she would get. It got to the point where she started missing school, leaving classrooms, and not doing homework. This led to her getting expelled from secondary school many times. Trauma and abandonment issues were the fuel that fed the fire of addiction in Kyra’s life. Even though she had an amazing mom that adopted her, she still felt unwanted. Alcohol was her solution. Like all other addicts, substances were just a temporary band aid for a much bigger wound.
Addiction is a progressive illness. It always gets worse before it gets better. At 18, things really started on a downhill spiral for Kyra. She would go missing for hours, sometimes even days, without her mom and friends being able to find her. Her life was a blur for years. Even as we sit here typing this together, there are things that Kyra just can’t remember. At about 21, she really stopped taking care of her health because drinking had completely taken over her mind and body. A mixture of sugar in the alcohol, depression, and eating 3 to 5 takeout meals a day made her gain a huge amount of weight. From 18 to 25, Kyra only managed to put together a few months of sobriety with the love and support of her mom.
Marie was Kyra’s rock. She loved her from the second she saw her at 10-years-old all the way through all of her addiction. The love and support never changed. Marie found out she had cancer. Kyra spent a lot of time going back and forth from the hospital to their flat to support her mom in every way she could. Marie was allowed home but had to be medicated which Kyra was trained to do by the nurses. This was a huge strain on Kyra as she slowly saw her mom deteriorate. Marie would start to look well again, then quickly go downhill. This was very upsetting for Marie and Kyra both.
Kyra returned back to the hospital on the 11th of July 2018 and found her mom acting slightly off. Shortly after Kyra’s auntie arrived, Marie’s breathing started becoming heavy. The nurses put an oxygen mask on her. Four doctors came into the room to explain what was happening. Then, out of nowhere, Marie stopped breathing. Tragically, Marie passed away when Kyra was 25-year-old due to multiple infections as a result of chemotherapy. Marie had her daughter, sister, and best friend with her as she passed.
This was a huge turning point in Kyra’s life and addiction. She was heartbroken and lost. Kyra began drinking after her mom’s funeral and things quickly escalated from there. Kyra started to drink in excessive amounts daily. She was alone in the flat she lived in with her mom for many years. She would self harm and attempted suicide multiple times. Eventually, all of this pain and suffering lead Kyra to find freedom through recovery.
My story began in Parkersburg, West Virginia. I grew up in a small town across the river called Little Hocking, Ohio which is known as the opiate-overdose capital of the United States. Gratefully, I had an amazing upbringing. I have a family that loved me and made sure I experienced more than most kids growing up. Being from a small area, there isn’t much to do, so they made sure I was well traveled. I had an amazing childhood.
Even though I had an amazing family and a great childhood, I started to hate my life. I was different than most kids my age. I was overweight, my teeth were terrible, and to say the least, I was awkward. I started to show signs of mental health issues at about 12. I was angry and violent. I started to smoke weed and drink as a social lubricant. It made me feel like I fit in with the people around me. Shortly after my childhood best friend passed away from drunk driving, a mixture of anger and drugs landed me in jail for the first time at 12-years-old. I was angry at the world and started to spiral downward quickly.
It wasn’t long before I started to experiment with different drugs. Between 14 to 16, I tried pills, psychedelics, and eventually even heroin. Just like earlier in my story, a mixture of drugs and anger led me to be incarcerated many times as a juvenile. I spent years of my life locked up, on probation and parole. The places I was locked up ranged from a few days held in the local detention center all the way to the worst juvenile correctional facility in Ohio. This was an ongoing cycle during my whole juvenile life. At 19, I was released from the Ohio Department of Youth Services on parole.
This is where my journey through addiction as an adult started. I started by smoking a synthetic drug known as K2 or spice because, at the time, I could pass a drug test on it. Don’t get any ideas because they can test for it now. It destroyed my mind and body quickly, but when it became illegal it was harder to find. I moved onto other drugs. Heroin and meth were my primary drugs of choice. I began selling any drugs I could get my hands on to support my habit. It got to the point where I was robbing people or selling fake drugs because I used all the drugs instead of selling them.
My daughter was born on September 10th, 2013. I was still so stuck in the grips of my addiction that it blinded any love that I had for anyone. Even the love I had for my daughter. I even got high in the parking lot shortly after my daughter was born. I couldn’t wait for us to leave the hospital. I was an empty shell of a man and the only thing that could fill the emptiness was the drugs I was using. It never got better, and my emptiness was never satisfied. It was a never-ending hunger for drugs that eventually brought me to my knees. I was broken but being broken is exactly what I needed to find myself.
Over the course of multiple years, I went through a cycle of jails, addiction, rehab, clean time, and relapse. I wanted so badly to be clean, but I just couldn’t figure it out. I would get clean and I would be so happy about life. I would become active in my daughter’s life. I would get into a relationship and have a great job, but it still wasn’t enough. I would always end up relapsing. It all came to an end eventually. The NEED to stay clean outweighed everything including the WANT to stay clean. I had relapsed after 5 months of clean time. Within 3 weeks, I lost 45 pounds. I hadn’t eaten or slept except for a few times, and I was covered in meth sores. I was very much sick from my addiction. I was weak. Then, an old acquaintance poisoned the drugs I was doing with another drug called flakka. For the next 3 days, I was in psychosis. My parents took care of me. They saved my life. When I came out of it, they put me on a plane to go to rehab. I have been clean ever since.
The moral of our story can be concluded in one word: HOPE. We want to be a symbol of hope for those who are still sick and suffering from addiction. No matter where you live or what you have been through, there is always hope for a better future. At one point we were just two lost and hopeless addicts. Today we have hope. Today we have a beautiful life. Today we are happily engaged and expecting a baby. This could’ve never happened if we didn’t overcome our fears and jump into recovery. In recovery, we find our strength in connection. If you feel alone today find someone healthy to connect with. Find someone you can reach out to. If there is hope for Kyra and I, then THERE IS HOPE FOR YOU.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Hunter Shepard. You can follow Hunter’s journey here and here, and Kyra’s journey here. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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