"I should be dead for how much heroin I've done," said Kyle Dunn. "There's a lot of people who have died who haven't had as many chances as me. I should have died 100 times over. By the grace of God, I am alive."
According to SouthTownStar.com, Kyle Dunn's white skin is marked by blackened veins and pin-prick scars, evidence of the curse he bears. Heroin is a growing problem in the Southland, with overdose deaths in Will County up six times since 2000. Kyle Dunn is one of the many faces of heroin addiction, but he also provides some hope for those trying to recover.
Kyle's troubles began in junior high, when he was expelled from school for selling marijuana, along with the Ritalin a doctor had prescribed for him. After the expulsion, Dunn remained on the right track until he fell in with the wrong crowd as a high school sophomore. He became friends with a drug dealer, and soon Kyle was selling a quarter pound of marijuana and up to 10 jars of pharmaceutical pills to his classmates each week.
Kyle said, "I started to know what money was back then, and I started stacking paper. I loved the lifestyle. I loved making money. I love smoking weed. I was friends with jocks, nerds, cheerleaders. I was friends with everyone because everyone wanted something to do." With the profits from his drug business, Kyle bought pills, marijuana, and cocaine for himself. He was failing his classes, dropped out of high school, and finished his education in an alternative school.
Kyle Dunn snorted heroin for the first time when he was 17. He recalls, "I had a huge tolerance (from pills), but when I did it (heroin) I was high as hell. I got blasted. It's like riding a roller coaster your first time. I loved the down feeling, being chilled out and relaxed. I love it. I really do. I love it and I hate it." Heroin was cheaper than pills, but Kyle and his friends often had to travel to a nearby city to obtain the drug.
As Kyle's heroin abuse escalated, his personal life began to fall apart. He was charged with retail theft in 2009. His mother began to notice money missing from her wallet, items stolen from the house, and violent mood swings in her son's personality. She said, "When you finally come to grips with that your son is using heroin, you are scared to death and you know how horrible things are and you immediately want to get him help, but at the same time you're feeling like a failure as a parent. You're embarrassed so you don't want people to know."
Kyle's friends began dying of overdoses. Kyle said, "I didn't care when people died. It's like 'Another one bites the dust.' At the same time, I'd be in funeral homes snorting a bag." Kyle's mother gave him an ultimatum. She told him, "You move out so I don't see you die or you come with me and get help. If you're going to die of this stuff, I'd rather have you die outside of my house."
Kyle tested positive for drugs and checked into South Suburban Council an Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Recovery Center in May 2009. That was the first time he had gone without drugs in six years, and he describes the next 10 days of withdrawal as "hell." After his release from treatment, he checked into a halfway house, where he lived for the next three months.
After that, Kyle enrolled at Trinity Christian College, where he began studying pastoral theology and church ministry leadership. In June 2010, Kyle's recovery hit a road block with the death of his brother. He began to lose faith. Kyle said, "I'm going to a Christian school but not believing in God at all. I'm sitting in my seat saying, 'Damn, I hate you.' " Kyle got back in with the wrong crowd and began smoking marijuana again. Three months later Kyle was doing heroin again. This time he graduated from snorting to shooting.
He checked back into rehab in January of 2011. Less than a month after his release from rehab, Kyle's girlfriend gave birth to their daughter. Kyle calls his daughter his "motivator." He plans to go back to school, but is taking a semester off to take care of his daughter and his girlfriend. He works part time, and remains involved with the church. Kyle leads the Christians in Recovery, a 12-step program, every Thursday night.
He wants to stay clean. Kyle said, "It feels more normal to be clean than to be using drugs. It's hard work keeping yourself regulated and living a life like a normal human being."
If you or someone you know is struggling with heroin addiction, please contact us.