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Butler residents recount personal stories on path to sobriety

August 13, 2017 Digital Media Exclusive

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Brent Kennard, right, hangs out with his friend Drew McConahy at Tani’s Pizza in Butler. Kennard is in recovery and enjoys being social.

Anthony Riegel is one of many people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction in Butler who knows well the power of a 12-step program.

“It's absolutely, positively the steps,” he said. “(It's) the sponsor-led steps and some kind of faith in a higher power.”

Riegel, 50, of Butler has been in recovery from alcohol for eight months. He has been able to stay sober through the world-renowned 12-step program.

Step 1: Admitting the problem

“We admitted we were powerless over addiction — that our lives had become unmanageable.”

Brent Kennard, 28, of Butler began drinking alcohol at age 7, and by 12 he was using cocaine and heroin. He always knew he'd had a problem, but he thought he could control it.

That changed when he began to spend more of his life in prison than out.

“It was me sitting in jail the last time (realizing) that there was something wrong, and I had to try to change or I was going to keep going to jail,” Kennard said.

Kennard decided to become clean on July 16, 2016.

It was the same decision that Butler resident Mike Shamber made during a stint in rehab in 2010, and that Amanda Haskin, also from Butler, made while in state prison in 2012.

Kennard didn't officially begin a 12-step program until after he was released from prison and acquired a sponsor, but he did the initial legwork while locked up.

He dove into his recovery by taking various classes while in jail, including a drug and alcohol class. Through these classes, Kennard learned the power of cognitive thinking.

“You don't have to react on your thoughts before you actually think about it,” he said. “Take a step back, then you can realize the outcome before you act on it, and go a different path instead of taking the first choice. The first choice is always negative when you're in that environment.”

The power of realistic thinking, or as it is known in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) circles “wise mind,” is something Jason Beckwith knows well.

Beckwith, 40, of Butler has been in recovery for more than two years. He credited CBT and the 12-step program as factors in staying clean.

He said he learned to stop attempting to “mind-read,” or assume what other people were thinking, as well as to avoid internalizing and attempting to rationalize bad behavior, whether it was his or someone else's.

He replaced these ways of thinking with rational thoughts.

“You can't remove without replacing,” Beckwith said. “A lot of people get caught up, in the beginning, with removing people, places, and things, and they don't replace them with more productive and positive things.”

A full story — including the other 11 steps — appears in the Sunday Butler Eagle.

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