My name is Dominic Carton, and I am a recovering addict. By the grace of a merciful loving God, February 19 marked five years of continuous sobriety for me. I don’t use the term “recovered” because I haven’t fully recovered from anything other than mind, body, and soul.

I will fight addiction as long as I live. The beast lies within me, and I have to practice principles every day to remain sober. I was born and raised in the foothills of southeastern Kentucky in Bell County.

Growing up I didn’t have a rough life or a broken home. I came from a good strong family. My mother is a nurse, and my father is a blue-collar ironworker. Growing up in a small town all that a lot of us knew was sports.

I had a football in my hand ever since a child. I lived, breathed, and loved the game! I was an unreal athlete. I had a great support team growing up who wanted to see me succeed.

Going into high school, things got real for me. I began to realize that my talent for the sport had progressed and I was beginning to get offers coming in from all kinds of colleges. In 2008, my high school won a state championship. I was on top of the world!

I had a huge community of loving people behind me. I went on a scholarship visit to the University of Louisville in 2009. My future was looking bright! I was ready to go to college and chase my dreams!

Two weeks after I went on that scholarship visit, I got into trouble. Everything that I ever knew, and everything that I ever felt about myself, instantly left me.

I was baffled. I was young, conceited, and vulnerable. See, when I was growing up and I was in school, I wasn’t taught about the real world. I wasn’t taught that there would be a “real world” out there if you don’t make it. I’m not blaming teachers. I believe that everyone thought I was going to make it.

When I got in trouble, it shocked the world. It shocked me. I was a 17-year-old child with no direction and no guidance. The only thing I ever knew in life was football. That was it!

After I lost everything I had worked so hard for, I kicked into depression. I didn’t know how to cope with life. I didn’t know where to turn or who to turn to. Everybody that was in my corner in life at that time I had let down.

I was 17 with the weight of the world crushing on my shoulders. So you know what I did? I turned to drugs. I turned to the one thing that my parents and my older peers did teach me about.

I turned to drugs to fill a void in myself. I turned to drugs to escape reality, but let me tell you that every time I opened my eyes back up the world was still there. My addiction took over me. I remember times when people wouldn’t stop to speak to me. I remember times when I would walk down the road, and people would cross the street to the other side. I was at the bottom of the bottom. There is an old saying that if you don’t humble yourself then God will do it for you!

Further along in my addiction, I remember praying to God for help: Lord, please help me! Please! The thing about it is I only hollered or cried out for God when I felt as if I were dying or I needed out of a situation I was in. I began finding myself sitting in jail cells and institutions. Repeatedly.

Every time I was ever released, I always turned back to the one thing I knew. That was getting high. I had no ambition to change. I watched friends die in front of me, I’ve suffered a few overdoses. I’ve watched addiction strip everything away from people, and I still didn’t have it in me to quit! I became homeless and broke and beaten down. I became lifeless I became an animal that nobody wanted to be around.

I got an offer to go to a treatment facility in Lexington called the Hope Center. It was offered though my parole officer, so, of course, I had to take it. Did I want to? No! Did I have to? Yes!

I remember my mother picking me up to go, and I remember being in her vehicle nodding in and out from taking numerous pills. I remember my mother dropping me off, and all I had to my name was a gray sweat suit and a suitcase. I didn’t own a pair of shoes, I had no money, I had only myself.

That program taught me about addiction. That program taught me about a mental obsession, physical allergy, and a phenomenal craving. See, all of these things make up the disease of addiction. I wasn’t aware of that. No jail or prison or institution taught me about that. I became trapped in – and I became focused on – my disease and where it has taken me.

I worked the 12 Steps to the best of my ability. It is then when I started to gain a little power back in my life. It is then that I gained my soul back and realized that I ain’t perfect, but I had a purpose, and I strived after that.

I transitioned into coming back to Bell County. When I did I wanted to come back and make a change. That same lost soul that came from Bell County now owns a home, land, vehicles, and has a beautiful family. I fought for my daughter through the court system and, after years of living right and praying to an almighty God, I was granted full custody.

Today in life I wake up and I vow to be a better man than what I was yesterday.

Every day I wake up it’s about growth. I currently have a huge selection of followers and a huge support group that are behind me with seeking funding or grants for a treatment facility. I believe that my purpose is to help those who are suffering.

God took that football from me. God humbled me. God wanted to use me to carry a message instead of a football. After years of addiction and going through treatment it clicked, and let me tell you I’m fine with that today. The same people who were behind me in football are the same people that are behind me for my movement for a treatment center. I went from putting product in an environment to being a product of the environment.

Nobody can tell me that recovery isn’t real! I live it and I walk it every day. I am seeking help, and I need help from resources to help me on my journey. I appreciate all who follow me, and I ask if anyone is suffering and if anyone is in danger to please reach out.

I want to give back to my community what was given to me. I am an icon in my community, and I want to help people. I’m sick of losing my friends, family, and loved ones to this nasty disease.

Thank you! #STAYWOKE