From Crisis to Career: Adam Kennard

Adam Kenard.jpg

With more than 450 employees, and over half of them in recovery, Addiction Recovery Care, Inc., based in Louisa, Ky., may be the largest second-chance employer in Kentucky.  Statistically speaking, you would be hard pressed to find any other medium-sized business that puts so many people in recovery to work.  Even more unique: the company has taken more than a third of its employees through its own recovery centers and to a job.  They call it “From Crisis to Career,”, and when they say crisis, they mean it.  “Nearly 150 of our great team-members came here first as clients.  Many of them were delivered to our front doors in police cruisers or by a court order”, says Matt Brown, ARC’s Chief of Staff.  “Quite a few of them came when they were at a point where their families were ready to abandon them if they didn’t finally get help.  I know.  I’m one of them.”

Who better to help clients in active-addiction find their way to reliable recovery than people who’ve walked that road themselves?  That’s a principle ARC holds dearly, and one that’s working.  A wonderful side-effect of that policy is that more than 150 men and women now have careers they can leverage to rebuild their lives.  But now the company is facing up to a new challenge: its growth in treatment programs exceeds its demand for workers in the addiction recovery space.  Further, ARC recognizes that not everyone in recovery wants to work in a rehab setting.  This means the company is challenged with finding new ways to take clients “From Crisis to Career.”

Enter Adam Kennard and ARC’s Phase 3 programs.  Adam knows a thing or two about careers; sadly, he can tell you about crisis too.  In his 41 years on this planet, Adam has spent quite a bit of time in both.  Adam spent nearly 20 years in addiction.  Growing up with a sense of incompleteness and insecurity, Adam found a way to cope early on.  At 14, he started experimenting with alcohol and marijuana.  By 17, he’d found nerve pills and pain meds.  By 19, he was a full-blown needle junkie. 

For those who work in the addiction-recovery space, crisis is a relative term.  Seeing someone in active-addiction is like watching someone caught in a whirlpool.  They go down, down, down, then, occasionally, pop back up.  The motions can seem endless.  When and where it will stop can be hard to gauge.  Adam’s “bottom” – this time- was homelessness at age 21.  That crisis precipitated the treatment he needed, and after a residential stint at a recovery center in Portsmouth, Adam was clean, sober and ready for a career.

Armed with the principles of 12 steps and whip-smart, Adam was ready to conquer the world.  Over the years, he accumulated two college degrees including one in psychology.  He became a Union card-carrying Millwright.  He even became a Respiratory Therapist.  From all appearances, Adam was in a season of abundant-recovery.   

Nearly a decade of sobriety went by, and then came a new low point.  Life threw him a curve ball and Adam wasn’t ready.  Feeling severe pain from Strep Throat and a kidney stone, he decided to reach for the comfort of an easy fix: Percocet, a pain medicine made from Oxycodone.  What would make someone who had been clean and sober for over 10 years think he could simply self-medicate with such a powerful drug? 

Adam blames the lack of God in his life.  While the 12 steps were helpful, they teach that ultimate surrender is to a higher power.  The problem is that the higher power isn’t very well-defined.  It’s easy to get relative on things.  When you’re a smart guy like Adam, in the middle of a great career, you can convince yourself that YOU are that higher power.

In short order, Adam learned that he was not in fact the higher power.  In a little over 2 months, Adam was totally off the wagon.  He was using intravenously again and taking large amounts of illicit prescription medicine.  He soon progressed to heroin on a daily basis.  His habit cost him a divorce. He lost his job as a Respiratory Therapist.  When his mother died, his drug abuse prevented him from being emotionally and mentally present.

Adam was using, but he wasn’t happy.  He knew he needed help, but he wasn’t ready for total surrender.  He tried to find a happy medium.  “When my pride and fear prevented me from reaching for cold turkey abstinence, I went to a suboxone clinic.”  In Kentucky, when you’re on suboxone, you’re supposed to get concurrent counseling.  This requirement led Adam to Addiction Recovery Care, Outpatient, and he met Ted Ralston, a counselor for ARC. 

As with so much of life and life in addiction, the miracle didn’t happen instantly.  As Tim Robinson, CEO and founder of Addiction Recovery Care likes to say, “sometimes, the key is to get folks in addiction to stick around long enough for the miracle to take place.”  Adam’s time with ARC and Ted was invaluable.  It kept him “sticking around” the recovery long enough to give a miracle a chance. 

“Instead of treating me like a lost and hopeless junkie, Ted and his team treated me like a hurting or broken child of God.”  He was still getting high, but the miracle was on the way.  The next step on Adam’s road to recovery took him to Belle Grove Springs, a residential recovery center in Fleming County. 

At ARC, clients get a “holistic focus” on their recovery.  The team treats clients for four dimensions the company deems critical for a client’s long-term recovery: clinically, medically, occupationally, and spiritually. Treatment at ARC is primarily covered by insurance.  Fortunately, insurance options have greatly expanded in recent years.  Medical and clinical (such as counseling for substance abuse) are covered.  Spiritual consulting is, understandably, not covered; however, ARC’s leadership believes so deeply in this treatment aspect that it simply pays for it. 

There’s a full-time Chaplain at each of ARC’s residential centers.  This person helped change Adam’s life.  “While at Belle Grove, I worked with the Chaplain there who helped me take away the shame and condemnation of organized religion and walk in the love of God.”  “While there, I formed bonds by being treated with respect.”

Today, ARC has several phases.  Phase 1 is traditional substance use disorder counseling.  It traditionally lasts 30 days.  After Adam finished up Phase 1, he simply left.  He wasn’t quite ready.  Within a week, he relapsed.  This time, he overdosed, and when the officers found him passed out in a parking lot, they realized he had outstanding warrants.  Despite all that he had gone through- the career losses, the family pain, the addiction- Adam hadn’t quite found his bottom: but God had planted seeds in his life, and in the wreckage of his hopelessness they were just waiting to sprout.

Adam found his low point locked in a jail cell.  “I’m 6 months sober, locked in a correction center… I’m professing faith in Christ, but the overwhelming nature of the consequences of my addiction had me planning suicide.”  This time for reflection on his actions gave Adam the opening for the spiritual awakening he needed.  He reflected back on the fact that one of the first people he met during his most recent stay in jail was a mutual acquaintance of his Pastoral Consultant.  He didn’t consider that a coincidence.  He resolved this time that his higher power was going to be Jesus Christ.  He started studying the Bible.  “I focused on reading his word and getting to know Him.” 

In December 2016, Adam got out.   The first person he ran into was Randall Craft.  Craft was on his way to the first day of his job at Belle Grove Springs.  “I felt like it was a God thing.”  Randall invited Adam to join him in the ReWired Addiction Ministry in Grayson, which helps people in addiction find treatment. 

Now, Adam was at a crossroads.  He had received clinical and medical help.  His commitment to the state was nearly over, and he’d had a spiritual awakening that reoriented him not just to a higher power, but to Jesus Christ his Savior.  Now he just needed a career to support himself.   

Adam recalls that time with irony.  He had 2 college degrees, a union millwright card, and was working for Little Caesar’s making pizzas.   He had God in his life, but he still needed the means to support himself.  “Five times I made decision that I was going back to my millwright position to get back on financial stability and all 5 times someone called me asking me to get back to helping others with treatment.”  He’s certain these calls were a “God thing.”  Finally, on the fifth call, Adam bit. 

“In April of 2017, Randall Craft called me and said they were starting this new thing and ARC wanted to interview him.  Adam took that as his confirmation.  Although a millwright could be expected to make upwards of $50 an hour, Adam felt he couldn’t turn his back on what God was calling him to do.  In a few weeks, he started his tenure with ARC as a Residential Admission Specialist, doing entry paperwork for men coming into treatment.  Within a week, he was offered job of office manager.  He eventually progressed to Case Manager. 

By 2018, he was ready for a new phase of his ARC Career: helping men in recovery find their way through to the career side of the equation.  Adam was selected to become Assistant Director of the Transitional Learning Center.  In this capacity, Adam and his team try to develop the client’s ability to go to work in a wide variety of skills.  Their focus is on things like soft skills, such as being on time, respect, and proper attitude.  They’re also preparing clients for those curve balls that Adam knows only too well will come.   This is the Phase 3 and Phase 4 side of ARC.  He’s helping men get their GED’s, drivers license back, and doing specific jobs training in partnership with organizations like EKCEP.  It’s all about helping prepare clients to live out the second half of that “crisis to career” continuum. 

Adam looks back on his time with ARC with reverence.  “I’ve seen miracle after miracle of men who came in angry with God being radically transformed into warriors for Christ.  I’ve seen God allow people to have successes that are not earned; that are simply his loving nature and empowerment.  I’ve seen guys come in as Atheists who get Baptized two weeks later.  I’ve seen families that were thought to be beyond hope who were restored.”

He continues: “God has restored me financially, and most importantly in my emotional and spiritual sense of being.  I’ve gone from being someone my probation officer wouldn’t feel safe leaving a bottle of water on her desk when her back was turned to me to someone she now calls when somebody needs help…”  He quickly interjects, with pride: “My ex probation officer, that is.”  “God has seen fit to take me from a bottom of the barrel needle junkie to a minister.”  He’s also seen fit to allow Adam to help walk others through the delicate final steps of that journey from crisis to career.