Stories of Recovery: Speaker Among Those Giving Back

Kurtis Taylor

Kurtis Taylor addresses the Opioid Misuse & Overdose Prevention Summit on Wednesday.

June 30, 2017 — Attendees at the Opioid Misuse & Overdose Prevention Summit heard messages Tuesday and Wednesday of redemption, of lives turned around and gratitude from people who are continuing in recovery after suffering from addiction.

They credited local programs run by mental health agencies and caring counselors for helping them turn their lives around.

The stories of recovery were part of the morning plenary session at the two-day summit, held at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh and attended by more than 550 health, treatment and recovery professionals from across North Carolina and 11 other states. All five spoke of giving back, working to help others facing similar challenges in their lives. They represented Recovery Communities of North Carolina.

One of them is Kurtis Taylor, who spoke of his journey that began when he was 12 years old and drinking alcohol. He later moved on to other substances. He said he suffered the “horrors of addiction” for years. 

“I’ve been arrested more times than I care to count,” Taylor said. “I did every despicable thing that you can think of to get that next hit, fix. I could not be trusted. I was homeless, I was unemployed. I was derelict. I spent years on the streets with nowhere to go.”

He spent time in prison.

“When it came time for me to begin my recovery journey, treatment was there. When I reached out for help – now get this – there was actual in-patient substance use disorder treatment in Raleigh, North Carolina.

“…It was some of the best treatment services in the world. Those nurses on that detox unit might as well have been angels. Those counselors, in that treatment program, are a major, major part of why I’m standing here today.”

Taylor spoke of how Oxford House became his home -- you’ve got to have a home to find a job -- and his starting place for finding his way out of substance misuse. He now is outreach/reentry coordinator for Oxford House and has helped set up 40 of the organization’s 232 houses in North Carolina. He spends much of his time helping men and women who are incarcerated begin recovery plans on the day they are released from prison.

Taylor says it is his job to make sure people stay out of prison, especially those challenged with substance use disorders. He served on the N.C. Task Force on Mental Health and Substance Use as a liaison, and serves on several organizations aimed at prevention and treatment of people with substance use disorder.

He describes his new life as “recovery actualization.” He attends Shaw University full-time pursuing a bachelor’s degree in social work, raises a family and works for Oxford House.

He plans to continue advocating for recovery services and to be a voice for people who need recovery services.

“One of the things that is clear to me today is that … I’m really thankful that somebody considered me worth the investment. And I’m absolutely determined that the person that’s using right now, this very moment, knows that he or she is worth the investment, and that I’ll do everything within my power to help other people realize the power of recovery actualization.”

Jim Jones