Kenneth Clay

What was life like growing up? Horrible. What’s good about growing up around alcohol and drugs? Life is violent, your family stays broke, you’re in and out of shelters. I look back at it and think, "who wants to live like that?" It set the tone for the rest of my life. 

How did you get into crack and alcohol? I’m the youngest of ten boys. The older boys are all drinking and smoking weed - you can figure out what happened! I was 13 years old when I picked up my first beer can and a joint. Twenty years later I’m in and out of jail for misdemeanors connected to alcohol and in and out of crack houses taking chances on getting killed. I’m hung over, sick everyday, and asking people for change. I’m an addict!

What were the highlights of your life? I can’t say I have highlights. You can’t live on drugs and alcohol all your life and say there are highlights, it’s mostly lowlights. 

Can you describe a low point for you? It’s 1991 and I’m drunk on Cisco (liquid crack), and I’m fighting a gang in a park in Denver Colorado. I black out. The next thing I remember is walking down the sidewalk and a cop saying, “Do you need help?” I’m coming out of the blackout so I’m dazed. I look down and I’m covered in blood. I get in the car and the cops drive me home. Later I take a whole bottle of aspirins coz I’m paining, then I start blood clotting and bleeding out the nose. That night I’m in hospital needing blood transfusions. Fast forward a few months and I’ve got Hepatitis C. You get Hep C when the blood of an infected person enters your blood stream. It’s terminal! I’ve never messed with needles or heroine, so I think I got it from the blood transfusion. Hospitals didn’t have to screen blood before 1992. I was 36 years old. 

Tell me about your journey into recovery. Four years ago Doctors told me that if I didn’t stop drinking I was gonna be a dead man. I woke up and I decided I wanted to live! I’m 60 years old and for the first time in my life I really want to live. I signed into AA and I’ve been clean ever since. Today my liver enzymes are stable. There’s hope for a few good years ahead!

How did you get connected to Reconciliation Services? I’ve been an addict and homeless most of my life. I wanted to make changes and I needed help and support to get paperwork and find an apartment. I was told RS would help me and they did. Mr. Turbo became my case manager and worked with me to fill in paperwork and make applications. He was an advocate for me to get my apartment in KC. In the last few years I’ve managed to save and buy myself a moped. I see it as a testimony of my being sober and a symbol of my self-respect. I have furniture and a TV in my apartment and food in my fridge. I’ve got some dignity now and I’m progressing. I work with AA and by encouraging and supporting others to keep focused I help myself to keep moving forward. RS continues to be a resource and a place where I can go for friendship, support and practical help.

What’s next for you? Enjoying relationships with my family, a church home, doing good for people, just simple things.

What have you learned from your life that you’d like to pass on? I tell young people the way I lived had no dignity and no self respect. I’m sad that I lived that way for many, many years. I would say to anyone, if you grew up with violence, alcohol and drugs and continued in that lifestyle like I did, you can break out of the cycle. You can live differently because there are resources like RS to help you find the strength to live a different life and God will be right there to help you.

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Story: Lyn Morse-Brown
Photos: Tom Morse-Brown