Off drugs for years, Edwards man wants to help others |

Off drugs for years, Edwards man wants to help others

Steve Lynn
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Richard knew he had to stop doing drugs and drinking alcohol when he was sitting outside a night club smoking a joint one night.

Richard sees the irony in doing drugs while deciding to stop smoking marijuana, drinking, doing cocaine and hallucinogenic mushrooms. But the drugs almost killed him, he said.

That night club revelation came 10 years after his sister and her fiance were killed by a drunken driver. Around then, when he was 13 or 14 years old, he started smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol.

Richard was 24 years old, four months and 24 days old outside the night club. His older sister was that old when she died, he said.

“My life literally started when hers ended,” said Richard, who couldn’t take the mundane existence of getting high all day: when he woke up and during and after work.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

At the end of July, the Edwards resident will be 20 years “clean,” meaning he has stayed off drugs. He credits his recovery to Alcoholics Anonymous and especially Narcotics Anonymous, which he has been active in attending through the years of living in the Vail Valley.

“They loved me when I couldn’t love myself,” Richard said.

“It’s given me my dignity back, it’s given me purpose in life,” Richard said. “It’s given me a relationship with my family.”

Richard asked that only his middle name be used to protect the integrity of Narcotics Anonymous, where members are asked not to publicly reveal that they are a part of the organization.

Narcotics Anonymous helps recovering drug addicts because it gives them a place where they fit in and where they won’t be judged, said Montica Leitner, a counselor and clinical specialist in substance dependence in western Kansas.

Many people worry that they won’t have friends once they quit doing drugs, but Narcotics Anonymous meetings give them a social network, Leitner said.

Meetings also give people an escape from their daily lives, much as drugs gave them, but in a healthy way, Leitner said.

Recovering drug users share their stories with other addicts, and they give each other advice on how to deal with situations that make them feel like using drugs.

“All the sudden they have purpose,” she said.

Without Narcotics Anonymous, treatment for drug addiction is much more difficult, she said.

“These organizations, they save lives,” she said. “I’ve seen that, I’ve done research on it.”

When Richard ” who grew up in Akron, Ohio ” got to the Vail Valley 11 years ago, there were meetings in Beaver Creek and Minturn, but those quickly closed. Since then, various meetings have started and disbanded, he said.

But a new one in Eagle was started about six weeks ago, and the one Richard helped found in Eagle-Vail in 2007 has been successful so far.

“This one’s really got a chance,” he said.

Richard drew inspiration for the Eagle-Vail meeting from a meeting he attended while on vacation in the Dominican Republic. Lizards crawled around on the floor of a dilapidated building, but the men at the meeting were excited about it, he said.

For the final half of his life, Richard plans to help drug addicts who want to get better through Narcotics Anonymous.

“There’s a group of people meeting on a regular basis that can help them find a new way to live,” he said. “It’s a simple, spiritual, not-religious program.”

Staff Writer Steve Lynn can be reached at 970-748-2931 or

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