Kurt’s Story of Addiction Recovery (SOAR)

Last Updated on August 12, 2021

stories addiction recovery

Kurt Hylton grew up in Bakersfield, CA where he lived with his mom and stepdad in a happy home and a sober environment. However, alcohol abuse was rampant on his biological father’s side of the family. Although his mom largely shielded him from it as a kid, when he left home after high school, things changed.

Alcohol was a way of life in Kurt’s family. He worked for the family business and he would watch on Monday mornings as his older family members would drag themselves into work on Monday morning after a weekend of drinking. He’d think, “How can they drink so much and come to work feeling like crud? I’ll never be like that.”

As life went on, Kurt got married and had three kids. He never really got into drinking early on in his life, but as the stress of working and raising a family increased, he began to use alcohol as an escape. There were many times when he’d overindulge and wake up the next day feeling like crap.

“I’d say, ‘Man, I’ll never do that again!’ Until the next weekend or the next chance I had,” Kurt says.

After his family’s business closed its doors in the ‘90s, he went to work for Union Pacific as an engineer. That culture was a whole different world. Drinking and partying was the thing to do after work and Kurt began to spend his evenings doing the same. Soon, relaxing and unwinding with alcohol became the norm for him.

Kurt before treatment at Nova Recovery Center.
Kurt before treatment at Nova Recovery Center.

Kurt never drank in the morning. Instead, he would wake up, go to work, suffer through his day, and then re-medicate with alcohol in the evening to feel better. Unlike earlier in his life, Kurt found that he enjoyed hard liquor much more than he used to because it was easier to find his “happy place,” that sweet spot where he didn’t have to face the stress of life. Years went by and gradually, Kurt became what he always said he wouldn’t be. 

In May of 2015, Kurt realized he was tired of living for his next drink. He called Union Pacific’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and asked for help. So, they sent him off to a treatment center in California. 

It was a promising start to a new life in recovery, but that first rehab center was the first of many on a long list. For Kurt, treatment was refreshing, revitalizing, and even life-changing. But when he got back home, the challenges of work and life weighed heavily, and eventually, the stress, shame, or the urge to drink would be too heavy to carry around anymore. So he’d give in and have a drink. And that first drink would always lead to more.

“I’d have issues at work and it’d overwhelm me,” he says. “I didn’t call my sponsor about what was going on—just went to the liquor store and that was my solution. But all that solution did was put me back in that restless, irritable [state] and discontent feelings.”

Three years later in 2018, Kurt was still trying to get sober. His mom and stepdad would try to help him detox but it was always miserable and he’d relapse every time. Then came a huge blow: his stepdad passed away unexpectedly, just one week after he’d helped Kurt get sober.

The loss was particularly difficult for Kurt and he began drinking again before the memorial service. As life began to move forward after his stepfather’s passing, Kurt stayed in that dark place. He called his EAP again to ask for help and ended up in Austin, Texas, at Briarwood Detox Center

After detoxing, he was sent to Nova Recovery Center to take another stab at treatment. Although he’d been to treatment before, it wasn’t an easy transition.

“It was all quite new to me,” he said. “Having been to rehab before, I had expectations of what I felt things should be, how things should operate, and how people should act,” he says. “I showed up there and was adjusting to a new facility with new rules, nitpicking them based on how I think they should be.”

Things at Nova were different, but it was for the best. Kurt’s Recovery Specialist took him through all of the 12 Steps for the first time and he had a significant spiritual experience that he had never had before in treatment. After spending 104 days at Nova, Kurt returned home where he remained sober for about a year.

Kurt after treatment at Nova Recovery Center.
Kurt after treatment at Nova Recovery Center.

Unfortunately, Kurt’s sobriety didn’t last. For one reason or another, Kurt relapsed several more times and continued to battle his addiction over the next two years. He was in and out of treatment at Nova, fighting his hardest to stay sober. Although it wasn’t (and still isn’t) perfect, Kurt’s recovery is a slow and gradual process of healing and growth.

“I’ve learned something new and different at each center and realized that this is something I have to do,” he says. “If I’m gunna live and see my family grow—my grandkids grow—and be part of their lives, sobriety is a must.”

Currently, Kurt has eight months of solid sobriety using the tools he learned at Nova. He strives to take things one day at a time, working closely with his sponsor and attending at least one meeting a day. He also created a private Nova alumni group on Facebook, “Old Oaks Ranch Group” to help other Nova alumni find and connect with sober peers.

“I’ve got a lot more peace and contentment this run in sobriety,” he says. “I owe a lot of that to the people from Nova…I’m blessed and grateful to be sober today and still have my job. I want to enjoy life without alcohol as a solution because it’s not a solution. For me and others like me, it’s not good. Even if it’s a celebration, it’s not good. There are other ways to celebrate,” he says.

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