He thought his childhood was normal. Afterall, it was all he had ever known. But Brandon Tomlinson grew up in an alcoholic home, and fighting was frequently seen.
Brandon tried alcohol at age 10. By the time he was 16, he was smoking marijuana and taking pills.
During his senior year of high school, Brandon was arrested for possession of marijuana and Klonopin. He entered a diversion program, then briefly stopped doing drugs but drank heavily. By age 21, he was a full-blown alcoholic and smoking marijuana.
One day Brandon got drunk and high, got behind the wheel of a vehicle, and caused a 13-car pileup. Brandon fled the scene but was caught. It was his second DUI, combined with three felony counts and other charges. He ended up serving 30 months and was in a substance abuse program in Louisville.
After getting out of jail, he worked construction where a co-worker introduced him to OxyContin and needle use. Soon his habit cost $800 to $900 per day. When he ran short of money, he bought Suboxone off the streets. Brandon got fired, entered a rehab program, but overdosed on heroin soon after completing the 30-day program. His dad kicked down the bathroom door and found him turning blue with blood coming out of his mouth.
Brandon says it was his first spiritual experience to know that heaven and hell definitely exist. He felt an overwhelming sense of dread – it was dark, and he was scared. There was no light at the end of the tunnel.
NARCAN saved him, but he continued to use heroin and even started selling to support his habit. He was arrested for trafficking, detoxed in jail, and felt so bad that he prayed he would die. Once he bonded out, he began using again. This time, however, the heroin was laced with fentanyl. He was in the hospital garage when he overdosed again. His girlfriend (now his wife) and a friend dragged him into the Emergency Room. He was in a coma for a week and hospitalized for a month.
Brandon’s family was told he wouldn’t regain brain function and would be permanently committed to Eastern State Hospital. He heard voices and had delusions.
And still the drug use continued. He failed a court-required drug test and spent nine months in a recovery program. When he got out, he returned to his girlfriend, who was still using. He thought he could save her, but he ended up back to using and selling. His girlfriend went to jail, then he failed another drug test.
This time, he participated in a SMART (Self-Management And Recovery Training) Recovery program. He completed the program, finished probation and began working at a drug treatment center. Then he started using again.
Brandon hid his drug use. His girlfriend went to Hope City in Barbourville and found the Lord. He resented her for it, but she saw through his lies and told him that he would die if he didn’t get help.
He overdosed again and went to a 30-day treatment. Brandon came to Barbourville, and every day Scott Phipps, who runs Hope City with his wife, Tammie, picked him up. They talked, they ate, they prayed. Brandon gave his life to the Lord.
After almost 20 years battling substance use disorder, in and out of trouble with the law and bouts of homelessness, Brandon is now married and serves as director of Redemption Road Recovery Center.
“I have peace of mind and a sense of purpose. God changed my life through this community and this group of people. And I see how Operation UNITE is making a difference. Without the treatment vouchers, a lot of people wouldn’t be able to afford treatment.”