In a small unassuming house on East Elm Street, Kent Horner, 31, diligently did his chores on a Friday afternoon, read passages from the Bible and reflected on a new outlook on life after entering into recovery from drug addiction.
With the help of A Way Out Ministries founded by Ted Killian, a former drug addict himself, people like Kent are able to find healing from addiction in faith-based, clean and sober transitional housing.
Just 28 days prior, Kent was living out on the streets, doing what it took to survive while feeding an addiction to opiate drugs.
Opioids, like OxyContin, Vicodin, morphine, are typically used legally for pain management, but when abused can lead to dependence and the potential for overdose, brain damage and death. Methadone is meant to help wean addicts off of opioids.
The median dosage for those dependent on opioids is typically 69 milligrams, according to the National Institutes of Health. Kent was taking 110 milligrams of methadone.
Through his recovery, Kent has been searching within himself to identify what led him to drug use. He looked down at his hands and occasionally paused while recounting a difficult time in his life.
Kent moved to Stockton from Japan with his family when he was 6. His father worked in the military. He speaks both Japanese and English and was raised in both cultures, often returning to visit family in Japan during his youth. Kent believes the culture shock of transitioning from Japan to the United States may have contributed to him feeling lost.
Troubles began for him between the ages of 14 and 15. He grew increasingly rebellious, and drifted in and out of his parents’ home, he said.
“I didn’t want to conform to what my parents wanted, which was actually a good and healthy life,” Kent said. “I harbored a lot of resentments for the system, for school and for my parents.”
He started down a dark path, making what he said were many bad decisions. He was taking a lot of psychiatric medications, which marked the start of further drug use, he said.
“I took a proficiency test at 15 and started living life on and off the streets, in different places, shelters and friends’ houses. I never found my footing. I felt so alone,” he said.
Survival on the streets often meant eating out of garbage cans or begging for food, Kent said. People don’t end up homeless as a choice, he said. Instead, often tragedy or other circumstances make it hard to get by. While some rely on the kindness of others, some resort to the path of evil, he said.
“There’s a lot of resources, but to be connected to those, you have to be willing to receive them,” Kent said.
Over the years, Kent used many different substances — mostly opiates, including heroin and methadone — as well as prescription psychiatric medications and alcohol. At times, he found brief periods of recovery but then slipped back into using drugs again. He’s made much more progress this time than during previous attempts at recovery, he said
Well-spoken, church-going and cleanly dressed in a button-down shirt, it’s hard to imagine how Kent may have appeared to others before detoxing.
“You wouldn’t have recognized me,” he said.
His journey into A Way Out’s transitional housing program began when he was approached on the street by Pastor Dave Cicelio from Restore Stockton and Gravity Church. He offered Kent not preaching, but small gestures of genuine kindness, including an offer to stay for a few days at his house.
Cicelio connected him with A Way Out Ministries and he decided it was time to try for recovery again.
“The day before I came in, I was at the end of my rope. I couldn’t live another day like this,” Kent said. “I was sitting in vain asking God to deliver me from this and I was offered words of hope.”
Many times before, he was caught between wanting to get help and not knowing how to receive it, he said. He thought he could reach sobriety on his own.
Detoxing was initially a scary thing for Kent. It drives many people to continue using, he said. He wanted to taper down on the methadone, but ultimately he quit abruptly.
He found solace through faith during the grueling detox period.
Chronic opioid use typically leads to physical dependence where the body has adapted to the drug, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Withdrawal symptoms — which can include restlessness, pain, insomnia, diarrhea or vomiting — can trigger as early as a few hours after the last dose, according to the NIDA. Users can also face severe cravings for the drug, which contribute to continued abuse or relapse.
“I had an amazing encounter with the Holy Spirit and God. It removed my fear and apprehension. The whole detox process started to feel comfortable and I was assured that it was going to be okay,” Kent said. “I was guided through with love and care and wasn’t going to be strapped in a bed and left in a room.”
Having a healthy and supportive environment was crucial to his recovery, Kent said. With that, anything is possible, even enduring terrible withdrawal symptoms, he said.
The transitional housing features several nice, dorm-like bedrooms with two beds each. The ministry there was founded on June 1, 2013. Residents have access to the Bible, Christian music and Christian programming on a television, and are asked to help maintain the home through chores. Their phones are taken away for 30 days, and they are taken to church regularly.
Killian sleeps in the back and offers guidance to those looking for recovery, but not everyone always makes it out clean. A few people before have snuck out in the middle of the night, Killian said.
“Every time someone comes here, we plant a seed. Sometimes it just gets watered somewhere else,” he said.
Kent is now entering into a new phase of his life and rediscovering himself in sobriety. He enjoys cooking for others, being in nature, reading and listening to music.
He is not yet in contact with his family — Killian has guided him not to reach out too early — but Kent acknowledged that there was a lot of hurt involved in that relationship.
“I put my family through a lot with my selfishness and the things I put myself through. I have to approach them on their terms,” he said.
His goal now is to use his new chance at life to help others who are dealing with addiction. He wants to meet people where they are at in their lives and offer the same kindness he received. He also would like to attend a mission trip to Honduras with Restore Stockton and Gravity Church to help people living in poverty, he said. The first steps will be continuing his recovery and working to raise money for the trip.
“I thought I was a lost cause. Finding hope seemed so impossible before that. These people have been a light through that darkness. It’s been incredible,” he said. He credits Killian, Cicelio and God for helping him through a difficult time.
From the transitional home on Elm Street, Kent has made his way back to Stockton to continue working on his recovery with Restore Stockton. In the long-term, he is letting God lead the way as his life’s journey continues, he said.
“For all the addicts, homeless and broken people in the world, there is help,” he said.
Contact reporter Christina Cornejo at firstname.lastname@example.org.