PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - Maine’s opioid crisis has been well documented in the news the past few years.
Drug overdoses are claiming lives at an alarming rate. But there are also success stories.
Five years ago Andrew Kiezulas found himself in a very dark place. Now he’s getting ready for one of the biggest days of his life.
Tomorrow when the University of Southern Maine class of 2017 graduates, Keizulas will be one of the 900 grads to go on stage and collect a diploma. It’s a place he never thought he’d find himself.
“Not only did I not think I’d be here, I thought it completely impossible and improbable and I gave up on it ever being a real experience I would have”, he said.
Kiezulas was prescribed opiates after hurting his back. He got hooked. He knew he had to kick his addiction after nearly taking his own life.
“I came to a place where the only reasonable relief was suicide and attempted suicide”, he said.
He eventually got clean and decided to go back to school. But the party atmosphere in college caused him to relapse. He desperately wanted to further his education, but he needed to find a place without temptation. That led him and USM officials to open up the ROCC, Recovery Oriented Campus Center.
“We’ve had, the last three years, fatal overdoses of students. A couple friends of ours. That’s one of the reasons we were so deliberate in saying we need this on campus”, Kiezulas said.
Open for just two semesters so far, 120 students have come here to share their stories with others in recovery, talk with counselors or just relax in an atmosphere away from drug and alcohol.
The center has helped Kiezulas stay focused on sobriety and his goal of getting a college degree. He realizes not everyone in recovery is going to come out on the other side doing well, but he says his story proves there is hope.
“The point is we can. That it’s possible and we’re capable", he said.
There’s still that little voice inside him that says you’re going to screw this up, but these days he listens more to the other voice that says, you’re doing great.