I had a pretty great childhood for the most part. When I was seven, I was adopted by my grandparents for the simple fact that my biological mother wanted a better life for me. I was raised in the Mormon religion, and my grandparents always took me on adventures to see the world. They set me on a pedestal to be someone I just wasn’t, which created a lot of tension in my house. I started experiencing abandonment trauma from an early age.
In junior high, I struggled with getting bullied for being a tomboy. Girly things weren’t appealing to me, and I remember constantly feeling like I was born in the wrong body. In high school, I experimented with drugs and alcohol to fill the void of not fitting in and not feeling like I was enough. After high school, I moved out to be on a wildland firefighting crew and studied to become a paramedic. During that time, my drinking got way out of hand, and I ended up doing a lot of things that came with a lot of shame and regret. In 2011, I had my first girlfriend. At the time, it was magical. Things seemed so perfect. But then my entire family found out, and I was disowned by my grandparents. My biological mom said to me, “when I put you up for adoption, I didn’t want you. Now that you’re gay, I sure as hell don’t want you.” Those words haunted me for the next five years as I dove right into alcoholism.
In 2014, I was introduced to meth by a close friend whom I considered family. It filled every void inside my empty soul. Life got good for a while. I was going to school to be a roadway engineer, working for the state of Utah, owning my house, buying a new truck, and having a girlfriend. In my head, the only way of seeing how I deserved all this was because I used. I started using intravenously, and that’s when it all fell apart. I lost it all. I ended up jumping from trap house to trap house and sleeping in my car with my dog, stealing, lying, and cheating to support my habit. In 2017, I moved in with my cousin and tried to get clean. That lasted three days until I found a new hook and a better lifestyle where it was socially acceptable to use. I started bartending at the local gay bar while selling coke and meth out of my cousin’s basement. In 2019, I started working at a strip club, and that’s when I hit my bottom. I was in a very toxic relationship where we both used and were so codependent on the drugs and each other it was just a dumpster fire. I tried committing suicide on June 17, 2019. Luckily, I had a few people supporting me that were there to help check me into a rehab facility on June 26th, 2019.
That is where my recovery started. I did an inpatient treatment for eleven days before getting discharged for breaking boundaries by trying to date a staff member. Who knew? While in treatment, I had a lot of therapy sessions in which I discovered the real authentic me and came out as a transgender man in one of my first AA meetings. The day I left treatment, I knew I wanted to chase recovery more than chasing the drugs and the hustle. I admitted myself into an Intensive Outpatient Program. I found a badass sponsor in a twelve-step fellowship, and I started building my community of recovery and support. I ended up moving into a small sober living house so I could really dive into step work and focus on growing as a person. I made it a goal with my sponsor to one day go out to the East Coast and do outreach by helping those in active addiction know they aren’t alone, and that they matter, and there is a new way of life if they want it. In 2020, I got a job working in a detox treatment center where I could better serve those coming into recovery. I teamed up with another rockstar in recovery to create a nonprofit called Beyond Addiction Mosaic (BAM). I was able to also go back to school during a pandemic to work towards becoming a social worker and drug and alcohol counselor. I met a woman on a social media platform who lived in Maine and after four months of dating, I made the choice to move to the East Coast and to expand BAM in the New England states. I quickly found out East Coast culture is a lot different than Utah’s simple life. That relationship ended, but I feel in my heart that because of it, I could get out to the East Coast, and it was all part of my higher power’s plan.
BAM New England (BAMNE) has taken off, and we have already done outreach to the people of Boston, Massachusetts and Bangor, Maine. BAMNE has spoken on panels about harm reduction and how to move forward with a solution for substance abuse, while also helping our unsheltered community.
While on the mission of outreach, I was blessed to meet an individual (now my wife) who has the same goals and purpose as me. We are raising three kids, setting examples, and creating a safe place for them to explore their identity and become the people they want to be. I was able to achieve my transition goals by getting on consistent hormone replacement therapy, top surgery, and becoming my most authentic self. Top surgery is a gender affirming surgery where the breast tissues are removed, and the chest is sculpted into a more masculine shape. The nipples are surgically sized down and reattached.
Today my life is beyond anything I could ever imagine. Through recovery, I have made the amends to the people I have harmed; I can build meaningful relationships with people who support my ideas and passions, and I can share my story and give hope to the addict who feels like there is no way out. Today I’m not alone. Today I know my worth, and today I am beyond grateful. Today I am a proud transgender man. I am a sponsee. I am a mentor. I am a member of society. I am a father. I am a husband, and most importantly, I am in recovery. Hi, my name is Kole, and I am an addict.
— Kole T.