At a frail 108 pounds, Dustin Cunning sat among family members and surrendered. He lived in active addiction for about 17 years until that unsuspecting day when his family staged his intervention. It was that day which would be the catalyst that changed his life.
“I drank and used for a couple of years until I went to my first meeting at age 18. I was already pretty sick by then,” shares Dustin openly. “I compared myself to all of the other people in attendance at that meeting, focusing our differences instead of our similarities. I was not happy to be there. It was a combination of myself and my disease which prohibited me from sticking with the program. I wasn’t ready to get honest with myself.”
With this first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting under his belt, Dustin continued to drink and use with growing intensity. In the years leading up to that faithful day when his family staged the intervention, Dustin slowly gave up on himself.
“I’d given up on recovery. Likely the only reason I am alive today is because I had a family that never gave up on me,” Dustin says. “I was scared of getting off the drugs and booze. I had failed myself and the people around me so many times. I was so broken inside.”
However, Dustin’s desire to be a better husband, father, and son persisted. In the months following his intervention, Dustin began treatment at Renascent. During his time in treatment he formed a lasting bond with the counsellors, finding comfort and value in knowing each of them have their own lived experience with addiction.
Today, more than four years into his recovery, Dustin works as an Intake Counsellor at Renascent’s Client Care and Access Centre. He works as part of a mighty team which acts as the first point of contact for someone who is interested in attending Renascent’s treatment programs. He triages calls, and conducts client intakes and assessments of clients; which means he assesses people’s treatment and care needs, makes recommendations regarding the internal or external programs or services that may help them, and documents and reviews their addiction history along with other pertinent health care information they share.
“I decided I wanted to be an addictions counsellor while in treatment. I saw first-hand these amazing, special counsellors who used their darkness to light the way for others. It was so inspiring,” says Dustin. “One of the things I love most about Renascent is that almost all of our employees are in recovery themselves. That breeds such a focus on what our objective is – to help people who are struggling. To me it so special to see that in action.”
Dustin gushes a bit about his new life – one that he did not think was possible. He is now able to be the husband, father and son he has always wanted to be.
“It means the world to be present with my family and friends. It is a gift. I am extremely grateful to Renascent because that’s where my journey of recovery began. I’ve learned to appreciate the little things. I still have challenges in life, but I now get to sit on the kitchen floor and play cards with my son – something I didn’t do when I was struggling. I have a long way to go, I am still learning.”
When asked about how Dustin was able to maintain recovery after leaving treatment, he says, “the recipe that worked for me was finding a home-group, being committed to sponsorship, working the steps, and being in service to others.” Dustin’s advice to newly graduated Renascent alumni is to:
- Find a recovery path that works for you.
- Find a recovery community that works for you.
- Try to continue the healing process