Originally from Massachusetts, Ken Roberts came to Minnesota a little more than six years ago "as a 'guest' of the folks at Hazelden," he quips.
It wasn't his first go-round in recovery, Roberts says, "more like my fifth, at least. But this time, I was actually willing to change; to follow someone else's advice."
Halfway across the country was a long, but necessary, way to go for treatment. "I was at the point where I had lost everything because of my addiction. My life was not in a good place. Friends, jobs, my fiancée. You name it: I lost it. But even after all that, I was lucky enough to have some supportive family who cared enough to send me out here to get help."
Following five months of in-patient treatment, Roberts was discharged to Saint Paul to live in a sober house and integrate back into the working world. The first home he ended up at was nearly his undoing. "It was a mess," he says. "In a bad neighborhood. Run down, unsafe, filthy. There was no one there to give me a hand getting my bearings. I didn't know anyone here; didn't know the city. I was so torn—I wanted to do the right thing in my recovery, but the place just felt wrong. My gut said I needed to find something different, a better place."
Through a friend, Roberts found Transition Homes, and knew instantly he had made the right choice in looking elsewhere. "It was a beautiful Victorian home in a normal residential neighborhood. The owner met me when I arrived, told me I was welcome to stay. He handed me a key and said, 'move in when you want; pay when you can.' I lived there for a year as a resident."
Following his segue into sober housing, Roberts got a job; met new people—including the woman who would become his wife; took up running (he eventually proposed to his wife during the Twin Cities Marathon); and found himself back in school. "My roommate signed up for an addiction studies class and encouraged me to, as well. He bailed after two weeks. I stayed, re-energized by it. It gave me structure and accountability. I was working toward something where I could finally give back to the community that gave so much to me."
Roberts did his internship at Transition Homes—the same place he had lived following Hazelden—and then was officially hired full-time. He earned his LADC (Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor) certification and eventually was named program director. Now, in addition to his work at Transitions, Roberts is working with Project Recovery, which provides outreach and housing services for homeless adults with chemical dependency issues. He is also serving as a mentor to fellow athletes and is working on his Integrated Behavioral Health degree.
"My life is very hectic and demanding," he says. "But it's also incredibly rewarding. Recovery is not a one-time event. It's ongoing. Stopping drinking is a good start, and making your amends. But then what? You have to keep going—you have to learn how to live your life. Connecting with something outside of yourself, being of service... sharing your story. That's the greatest gift we have."