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6:53 PM Wed, Nov. 14th

Community View | Celebrating Recovery: One fight at a time

D.J. Visant

D.J. Visant

According to a recent survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 21.5 million American adults aged 12 and older battle a substance-use disorder. I am one of them.

Today, I’m a 28-year-old father of two amazing kids. I am in a healthy relationship, am close with my parents and own my own business. If you met me eight years ago, you wouldn’t believe that I’m the same person. But the wonderful part is that change is possible and recovery can happen.

I was like a lot of young people. I had opportunities and a life full of promise ahead of me. At age 15 I was training to become a MMA fighter. By 17, I took my first professional fight. But then life got in the way. I was 18-years-old when I tried heroin for the first time. I was immediately hooked and within months I was a full-blown addict. It’s amazing how far and how fast one can fall.

I tried to turn my life around by joining the military, but an injury put me on the sidelines. I found heroin again and life was a repeat of arrests, trouble and living in drug houses. Then my daughter was born. I became clean again and this time it lasted two years. My son soon followed but, unfortunately, so did my addiction. I relapsed and was again in a pattern of arrests and trouble. By age 26, I was homeless and living on the streets. I couldn’t even feed myself. Since the mother of my children is also an addict, my parents took the kids.

Prison followed. When I was released, I moved back in with the mother of my children and the kids joined us. But … I relapsed again.

By 27, I was in prison. When I was released, I was homeless and living under a bridge. I used a dirty needle and found myself in a hospital fighting for my life. At the time I welcomed death. At least I wouldn’t have to suffer anymore. But … I recovered. I checked myself out of the hospital and ended up in jail again because I couldn’t avoid trouble. But lucky for me and with the help of my family, I was sentenced to rehab. After two months of being incarcerated in solitary confinement, I was sent to Southwest Behavioral & Health Services’ Marina Pointe Residential Substance Abuse Program in Bullhead City. That’s when my whole life changed.

What began as a 28-day rehab stint turned into an extended commitment. The day I turned 28, I went to trial and lost my kids again. They were permanently placed with my parents. As I result, I decided to extend my treatment at Marina Pointe and worked hard to turn my life around. Maybe this time would be different.

I fell in love with the people that were committed to my care and recovery. They taught me about mindfulness and changing your mindset. I became convinced I could do it and started helping other clients. Soon, I began speaking to groups and at local events. My words had an effect on the people around me. I decided to use my experience to help others. It was time to return to my roots.

Today, I’m the proud owner of Fight 4 Recovery AZ. I decided to use my experience as a pro MMA fighter to reach others who are struggling. I no longer want to die. I have my kids and family back. This is just the beginning of a very long journey for me. I know that before anything else my sobriety must come first. With each day that passes, I’m slowly becoming the man and father I want to be. I have a lot on my plate but know I will be OK. It just takes one day at a time.

For more information about the Marina Pointe Residential Substance Abuse Program and Southwest Behavioral & Health Services, visit www.sbhservices.org or call 928-763-7776.