My name is Adriel Hanson, and I am in long term recovery from substance use disorder. My story starts when I was young. My dad chose substances over his family and left when I was two-years-old. My mom was left to support us on her own as a social worker for the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). There were a lot of ups and downs, homelessness, hunger, and struggle.
My use started when I was 12 years old. It progressed heavily year by year. I was an honor roll student but was always trying to numb the realities of my life. From age 15 to 17, I had several arrests. When I was 17, I was charged with multiple felonies and facing 30 years if they could charge me as an adult. I was given the opportunity to stay in the juvenile system after a six-month court battle. I spent over a year going through multiple treatment centers — wilderness, residential, etc. After my year of treatment was complete, I started life as an adult, putting the past behind me.
I wanted so badly to not return to my previous lifestyle. I wanted to make everyone proud. I went wrong by not having any aftercare set up—no meetings, no groups, and no recovery community. Despite this, I made it three years, four months and seven days sober. But I ended up drinking, which led me to relapse on meth.
My substance use continued until I was pulled over and arrested for a DUI about a year later. I was placed on probation again, where I completed outpatient treatment, groups, and all of the requirements of my probation. As soon as I was off of probation, I started using right away. I hadn’t applied anything I had learned.
In 2015, my wife and I had our first son. I stopped using at that point. I didn’t want my kids to grow up the way I did. But I still had no connections in recovery—no community, no groups. I was trying to do it for my family.
In 2016, I lost my mom to Lupus, I found her in an apartment after she had passed away. This devastated me and started the most horrific relapse for me. For the next two years, my use was really heavy, and I was constantly hiding it from my wife, family, work, and friends. I was the Chief Operating Officer at a business finance company, financially we had everything. Internally, I was a complete wreck and couldn’t catch more than two days of sobriety. I would leave in the middle of the night to pick up, and take “long lunches” away from work. When I would sleep, I would miss days of work. I wasn’t eating. I detached emotionally from my family and numbed myself to the world.
During this time, we had two more boys. I was now a father of three, putting my kids through the same thing that I had gone through as a toddler. Around this time, my dad came back into my life, and he was sober. His return to my life was a reminder that no matter how bad things get, we can take our life back.
On September 3, 2018, I decided that I needed to stop using. I wanted my life back. I got myself into outpatient treatment but wasn’t quite ready to get completely sober. On September 19, 2018, my house was raided. This was the beginning of the end for me. I was charged with multiple felonies. For the first time, I saw the very direct impact that I was having on my family, kids, wife, and community. I wanted to run away and hide, just disappear like my dad did when things got tough, but I chose not to.
I fought hard! I fought for myself. I fought for my family. I fought for my mom. I fought for my dad. I fought for all of the people who could see the better side of me. I was terminated from my position due to the new charges. This was really hard for me, but I wasn’t going to let anything be an excuse to use anymore.
October 31, 2018, was the day I actually got completely sober. DCFS was heavily involved until I was sentenced on my charges in 2019. Although the probation agency wanted me to serve time in jail, the courts and the prosecutor believed in me. DCFS saw that I had really turned my life around and closed their involvement without taking my kids away. I had to get really honest with my wife, family, and friends about my use. I gave away all my secrets. I let them know every sign to look out for and found better ways of being accountable to the community. I didn’t get offended when I was accused of using because it was the reality of my life for such a long time.
I immediately got involved in recovery, first by joining Young People in Recovery (YPR), and then by volunteering with Utah Support Advocates for Recovery Awareness (USARA). I started chasing my recovery like I chased dope. Every day I did something for my recovery.
We lost a lot. We had to move from our four-bedroom family home on the east side to a tiny basement apartment in Magna. My kids could no longer have what they wanted at the stores. We struggled to buy groceries and pay rent. But I did it, sober! I would much rather experience a year of struggling as a sober person than experience one more day struggling in active use.
My dad also passed away just a few months into recovery. It was so heavy because we had just reconnected, and he supported me through the passing of my mom. For once in my life, I processed a loss without using substances. I had to feel the emotion, but I also had solace in knowing that he was able to see me get sober and pull things together.
Eight months into my recovery, the courts and prosecutor agreed to reduce my charges and let me off of probation. I built my life back up, had a great career managing accounts for a staffing agency, and was working hard on my recovery.
In December of 2019, I started working at Wasatch Crest. In March of 2020, I started working at USARA as a Peer Recovery Coach. I am a certified Peer Support Specialist now, and I work full time in recovery. I am coming up on two years in recovery and almost one year since the termination of my probation. Today, I get to inspire change with my story. I get to be the change.
My substance use could have ended as a juvenile, and my story could have had much fewer struggles and trials, but I had more to learn. I figured it out this time—the most important factor that has made my recovery different this time is my connection with the recovery community. I still continue to go to YPR every Monday. I attend SMART Recovery meetings, and I have a huge recovery community.
My recovery this time was for me, and the joy I get today being present as a Father, Husband, and Friend, is more than anything I could have ever asked for. I still have struggles, and I still have some triggers, but using is NOT an option anymore. I know what I stand to lose, and that one is too many and a thousand will never ever be enough. I cannot drink or use any substance in moderation, my brain is not wired that way, and it never will be. I am okay with that. I feel real joy today. I feel real emotion. I am present.
If I could give any advice, it would be to not rush through early recovery. (It is such a small amount of time. You shouldn’t expect to get your whole life back right away). By rushing through early recovery, you can set yourself up for failure. If you are struggling, reach out for help. A slip or lapse doesn’t mean the end. It means we had something left to learn. Get right back up, and hold yourself accountable. Don’t let the substance take your life from you again.
Get INVOLVED, with service, the recovery community, a peer coach, sober events, etc.! The opposite of addiction is connection. The more connection you have in the recovery community, the more you get to enjoy your long-term recovery.
Don’t ever forget where you came from. It’s no different than it was on your worst day. It doesn’t ever get any better out there. It won’t be different this time. You matter! We care about you! We support you! We are here for you! YOU ARE WORTH IT!
I am so grateful for the life I live today. I am so grateful for sobriety, so grateful for community, and so grateful for the man I am today. We do recover, and life does get better, so keep going!
About the Author
Adriel Hanson is a Recovery Advocate at Wasatch Crest. Adriel works primarily with Wasatch Crest’s transitional living clients. Drawing on his training as a Peer Support Specialist and his lived experience as a person in recovery, Adriel helps clients bridge the gap between treatment and long-term recovery. While encouraging clients to broaden their perspectives on their recovery and personal well-being, he guides them in developing aftercare plans and postgraduate support systems.
After overcoming his own struggle with substance abuse, Adriel knew that he didn’t want his experience to be in vain. He began working in the recovery community so that he could provide strength and hope to others who were struggling.
Adriel is inspired by the opportunity to guide clients from the darkness of substance abuse into the light of recovery. He believes that Wasatch Crest provides key aspects that are vital to long-term recovery, and he feels grateful to be part of a team that truly cares about helping clients live their best life.
Adriel had over a decade of executive management, professional training, and supervisory experience. He is trained in SMART Recovery, motivational interviewing, and suicide prevention. He is also a Peer Recovery Coach with Utah Support Advocates for Recovery Awareness (USARA). Adriel’s long-term goal is to open an adolescent treatment center so that he can improve access to care for adolescents and help repair the juvenile justice system.
Adriel is a loving (and busy) father to three young boys. He’s an active member of the recovery community and enjoys working on cars and spending time with his family. He was born in Puerto Rico.