John's Story

John S.
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I eventually checked into treatment at Hazelden Betty Ford. And it was a life-changing experience.

John S.

John was a musician in a rock band and thought his life was really exciting.

"It got to the point that I was partying hard, staying up all night, making terrible decisions," he recalls. "I couldn't figure out why things weren't really working out for me. In my mind, it was everything but the alcohol and drugs."

It wasn't until he was arrested and thrown in jail the night before a big show that he realized something needed to change. "I didn't make it to that show," he says. "But I eventually checked into treatment at Hazelden Betty Ford. And it was a life-changing experience."

Like so many people struggling with addiction, John was also diagnosed with a mental health condition. "Through meds and treatment—a long but fruitful path—I got sober," he says. He spent another decade touring with his own band, all the while sharing his recovery story and spreading the message of hope.

One thing led to another, and John is now dedicating his career to paying it forward to help others find recovery. After graduating from the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies with a master's degree in integrated counseling, he moved to Alaska to provide addiction and mental health services to the local, mostly Indigenous, population.

"I felt a calling to come up here," he says. "Resources are scarce, and the work is so needed." As the only addiction and mental health counselor for hundreds of miles, John says it felt really good to be able to use his own experiences to serve others who might not otherwise get the help they need. Now he's working with behavioral health providers across the state to shape public policy around substance use and mental health care.

"Being of service is how I feel like I'm always improving," John says. "I get back from everything I give."

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