Former Addict Now Helps Others Recover
One in an ongoing series
Kevin Dial spent many years of his life in the deadly black hole of addiction. Now, his job – literally – is to help others escape.
After a long, hard road through treatment and recovery, Dial became a Certified Recovery Specialist, obtaining a certificate, a license, and a mandatory 18 months of being clean and sober. He works full time at Einstein Healthcare Network’s Crisis Response Center, an emergency mental health clinic that provides round-the-clock intervention for people in psychiatric or addiction crisis.
Dial sees patients who’ve come to the CRC because they’ve overdosed. Or they’re under court order to get treatment. Or they’re brought in by their distraught families. Or they’re finally desperate to end the torment of addiction to drugs or alcohol.
“I put them at ease,” says Dial. “I tell them I was a heroin addict for 15 years. Right away, their demeanor changes. Right away, they know why I’m there. I want to get them the treatment they deserve – and that I’ve been there before and I know how terrible it is.” Dial has been clean for five years.
CRC director Shamit Chaki says Dial “has brought a unique perspective – someone who is in recovery and is willing to appropriately share the story of the journey – with patients who are going through it.”
“Many patients who otherwise may have walked out because of feeling unrelated to, have reported a sense of hope and empathy when working with Kevin,” Chaki says.
Dial was a union carpenter whose 17-foot fall from a scaffold in his 20s led to a severe back injury and the tragically well-documented path from pain pills to full-blown heroin addiction. He escaped some of the more dire consequences – he never overdosed and was never imprisoned – but he damaged his health and brought anguish to people he loved.
Even now, his eyes ring with tears as he recalls the pain he inflicted on his mother. “She’s my hero and my best friend,” he says.
She’s a career postal worker, set to retire in January, who – no matter what – never turned her back on him. “I always knew I had a safe place to sleep,” he says. “Otherwise, I would have been dead.” And he telephoned her every day, no matter where he was living, no matter what he was going through.
Dial also continued taking care of his daughter, now 12, whom he raised as a single father after he and her mother split up.
“I was always the one who did everything with my daughter,” he says. “I always bathed her, I always cooked for her. When I was sick as a dog, I helped her with her homework. I couldn’t imagine not being there for her. The two main things that got me through were my daughter and my mom.”
When Dial lost two friends to overdoses, and cancer claimed his brother – ironically, a police narcotics officer – he was finally ready to get sober. He eventually began volunteering at the facility where he was treated. And when he found out he could qualify as a Certified Recovery Specialist, he started the path to his new life.
Dial provides patients the hope of his example, the lessons of his experience, and encouragement to start the journey to recovery.
“I had help and always wanted to help people,” he says. “Everything I did, I learned from and I’m using it today.”