I stand for all the people out there who aren’t ready to stand for themselves yet because I believe that they someday will.

My name is Tyler Hurst.  I thought that I was a normal kid from a normal family (whatever normal means these days) in the Midwest.  I grew up around Milwaukee Wisconsin.  I never thought that I really fit in anywhere.  I was really short and really skinny and got picked on a lot.  I remember growing up my parents used to tell my big sister to protect me because I would get beat up so much.  Having a girl protect you in the Midwest just makes you get picked on more.  I developed a sense of self-loathing, a lack of respect and belief in myself because people would beat me up just because I was an easy target.  I believed that I was worthless and the first time I contemplated suicide I was 9 years old.  My parents never beat me and gave me all the emotional love that a child could ask for though, and that helped greatly, but my rebellion in my teenage years unfortunately made me lose sight of who I was.

I started using when I was 12, like most kids drinking and smoking marijuana turned into cocaine and other things.  By the time I was 16 I had tried almost all the drugs there are.  At the time I felt pride in telling people that I had used things that a 16 year old kid shouldn’t, and doing all the drugs I did helped me alleviate my own depression.  I was always looking for ways not to feel.  I practiced martial arts, was in wrestling, and joined the army in hopes of finding a way to make my problems go away, and never really wanted to work on myself and address the things that made me depressed, made me want to use. My way of running away was to become dependent on something that I believed was greater than myself.  I joined the Army because having a brotherhood of men that not only wanted to fight at my side, but would die for me made me feel complete.  Unfortunately by that point I was addicted to numerous substances, but cocaine and heroin were my main vices.  I knew how to pass the piss tests and knew when they were coming so I would just stay clean for those.  I thought I knew what love was, but as a person who was unable to love myself I did not know how to properly love another person.  One month before I was supposed to get on a plane going to Iraq I was pulled over with my wife at the time, (whom I had married because I was going overseas) and told the police that all the drugs in our possession were mine to stop her from becoming a habitual offender as it was my first arrest.  After failing a specialty court program, being incarcerated for over a year, becoming a convicted felon, and losing my wife to addiction I still had received no formal treatment to learn how to process all of these things.  Upon being released I immediately started drinking which turned right back into everything else before too long.

I then decided to drop everything and move to Philadelphia to go to college.  Unfortunately my problems followed me.  Being 25 and a sophomore in college is a little bit awkward and I still didn’t feel like I fit in.  Everywhere I went I felt like people were staring at me thinking that I was different from them, and I would say in my mind “you don’t know me!”  It was only a matter of months before I started using again.  After being arrested for possession twice more, and using Suboxone for 13 months (which I believe does work for some, but did not for me) I started using again, but this time was for the last time.

I was in another specialty court (Veterans Court of Philadelphia) and not doing well.  My depression took over.  Suicidal ideation was not my everyday thought it was my every minute thought.  My addiction felt the way that a roulette gambler must feel when he puts his and his entire families life savings and everything they own on double zeroes, and losses it all.  Every. Single. Day.  I grew tired of this after 7 years of using, and ended my life.

My whole life I had been running from myself and all the people that ever wanted to help me because I refused to be honest with myself about things I had experienced.

Literally, I intentionally overdosed (it was my fourth overdose, but my only intentional overdose) with the hopes of not waking up.  God seemed to have other plans.  After waking up in an abandoned lot in the Kensington area of Philadelphia (a place I knew all too well) hours later I gave up, and my new life started.

After putting myself in a hospital and going through 6 months of inpatient treatment in which I ensured that I addressed all the things that I never wanted to my entire life.  I told myself every day that if I did not practice rigorous honesty that I would be dead. It is 100% true and I still live by this every day in all my affairs.  In making a decision I think about if it is something that I would want to lie about or not.  If I feel like I would want to lie about it, to anyone, I won’t do it.  Being honest with myself and those around me gives me the ability to focus on my environment, and those in it.  I finally became comfortable in my own skin.

My whole life I had been running from myself and all the people that ever wanted to help me because I refused to be honest with myself about things I had experienced.  I was finally able to function normally and feel and experience life, and be ecstatic about it!

After completing treatment I decided to follow my dream of becoming a drug and alcohol therapist.  After achieving this a month after leaving rehab, I had to get some bigger dreams and achieve them as well.  So I did, and again I have.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I knew that I had never been happier.

I am currently a Case Manager for the Philadelphia Drug Treatment Court program.  I run and manage a recovery residence.  I mentor clients in Philadelphia Veterans Court after I graduated last year, and I lead Philadelphia’s Chapter of Young People in Recovery with Devin Reaves.

Even more than that, I am a son, a brother, a godfather, and a partner to a wonderful woman.  My recovery didn’t get me cars, or jobs, or titles, or possessions.  I did that on my own.  My recovery gave me peace of mind, and taught me that there is a life that is worth living and now I can’t get enough of it!  There aren’t enough hours in a day to do all the awesome stuff that I do!  In the rooms we say “I am just looking for the next right thing to do.”  Well I am actually looking for the next right thing to give to someone else in recovery because I have too many right things going on!

I stand for all the people out there who aren’t ready to stand for themselves yet because I believe that they someday will.  That they can, no matter whom they are or what their story is.  I hope to help those out there like me that don’t believe or don’t want to believe that there is a better life out there, that recovery is possible and that with a little hope, a little support, and a LOT of work, they can have it too.

 Today, I have over two and a half years clean and I am still thankful for every single second.  I believe that in recovery anything is possible.