Shawn Allen had a normal childhood. He grew up in church. His parents didn’t drink or smoke. It wasn’t an environmental thing, he said.
Shawn started running with the wrong crowd and experimenting with drugs near the end of high school. Soon, he alienated all of his friends who had plans for college and the future. By the time he was 23, he was unaware of how bad his life had become. He was able to keep a job and maintain a relationship with his family; he was in denial.
Then his dad died at age 50 of an aortic aneurysm, which occurred while he was doing a live radio remote at a car dealership. His dad was dead in 25 minutes.
Shawn was a daddy’s boy, but they were too much alike and butted heads when Shawn was a teen-ager. He remembers staring at his dad’s coffin. People who came to pay their respects also gave Shawn pills to help his nerves. They thought they were helping, but from that point on, Shawn took drugs to numb the bad and enhance the good.
It’s a progressive disease, Shawn said, and that was definitely a turning point. He started taking things he said he’d never take – looking for the perfect mix to get high. And he started doing things he said he’d never do – lie, steal, bully his family.
Shawn was unemployable, running with the worst people, and alienating anyone who challenged him. He didn’t think drugs were the problem and refused to take responsibility.
For 10 years, he spiraled deeper and deeper. The public intoxication and possession charges became trafficking charges. A brief time in jail became years in prison. Shawn lived in a trailer with no windows, no electricity, and no running water. If he wanted to take a bath, he heated water in a crock pot, poured it into the bathtub, and sometimes had to wait while other people used the water before him.
Shawn spent all his time either passed out, on the verge of overdosing, or dope sick. On a drug run to Florida, he woke up next to someone who had died of an overdose. His best friend from kindergarten died in one of those road-trip motel rooms.
On Oct. 21, 2010, Shawn was living in a trailer and paid his rent with methadone. Shawn’s second trafficking arrest was caught on WYMT-TV. He spent 10.5 months of a 5-year prison sentence in the Floyd County jail, which is where he was when his grandmother died. During their last conversation, she cried and asked him why. It was the first time Shawn had felt anything in 12 years. He began to pray – sincerely this time – and his prayers were answered.
He got into a substance abuse treatment program in Lebanon.
“Civic organizations, law enforcement, and UNITE stopped me dead in my tracks,” Shawn said. “They pulled me off the street and gave me a glimpse of what I could be. They gave me an extended lifeline and introduced me to recovery. They believed in me.”
Shawn found people who accepted him and showed him the hard work needed in recovery. When he was released, he went to 90 meetings in 90 days.
“The core is going to meetings on a regular basis. And what I did between the meetings was just as important.”
Shawn went back to college and attended at least 10 meetings a week for several years. His life came full circle when he was hired by WYMT to be the Big Sandy news reporter, eight years after his arrest was broadcast on that same channel.
He still goes to several meetings a week and helps others in recovery. Those relationships sustain him. Today, he is a dad, owns his own home as well as rental homes, and sells cars.
“I know that my purpose in life is to stay clean, help other addicts, and be the best daddy. I have a great relationship with God. All my relationships with family have been mended.”