A heroin addict whose drug addiction damaged his appearance and left him covered in blotches has revealed his incredible improvement after being sober.
Hunter Shepard, 26, of Parkersburg, West Virginia, now shines with health after overcoming a 10-year heroin and crystal meth addiction that devastated his looks and left him convulsing after being taken to the hospital while high on narcotics.
Hunter, a serial offender who stole from people to fuel his habit, became homeless as a result of his heroin addiction and ended up living in the back of a car.
However, Hunter’s former gaunt appearance has been replaced by a healthy, joyful glow, and he seems unrecognizable in images of himself from the day he was brought to treatment for the final time in February 2018.
He’s been clean for almost two years, and he’s commemorated the event by proposing to his English lockdown girlfriend, Kyra Dawson, 27, who just discovered out she’s pregnant with their first child.
‘At 16, my life was spiraling out of control, and I bought heroin for the first time in my life,’ Hunter explained. To support my drug habit, I began stealing from my own home.
‘I was expelled from school and ended up spending two and a half years of my life in prison. I became trapped in a cycle of incarceration, addiction, treatment, and relapse.
‘It came to the point where I was so high on meth and heroin that I didn’t even recognize my name. I overdosed and had to be taken to the hospital; I was in serious difficulty.
‘On February 21, 2018, I went directly to rehab for the sixth time, and I’ve been clean ever since. After being in active addiction for so long, I truly consider myself fortunate to be alive.
‘I seen people die firsthand, therefore I consider myself extremely fortunate to be where I am now. I’m happy and well, and I’m starting a new family with a baby on the way.
‘I’m not ashamed or disappointed in who I was because it was an illness,’ she says. My life experiences shaped who I am now.
‘I have a wonderful life today, and it’s incredible how far I’ve gone in only a few years.’
Hunter’s battle with addiction began at a young age, when he was only 12 years old. Hunter stated that despite his ‘lovely’ upbringing, he acquired rage, sadness, and anxiety, which he feels arose from his own perspective on his appearance and standing among peers and in his local community.
Hunter, who saw himself as a ‘outcast,’ claimed he turned to alcohol and marijuana to cope with his own mental health struggles; infrequent behaviors that evolved into a dependent addiction. Hunter had dropped out of school before the age of 16 and had previously been jailed in a juvenile detention center twice for drug and violence-related offenses.
‘I turned 18 in there,’ said Hunter, a father of one.
‘Every time I got out, I immediately started on the run again, and I was trapped in a rut. I didn’t have any money, so I began stealing people to fuel my addiction.
‘I moved on from pot and began experimenting with psychedelics, spice (synthetic cannabis), and several other substances. From there, things simply got worse and worse.
‘When I was 18 or 19, I resorted to heroin, meth, LSD, ketamine, and essentially everything I could get my hands on. Over the following five years, my parents would assist me in getting into treatment; I went around five times but ended up relapsing when I got out.
I didn’t care how; all I cared about was getting my next hit. I used to live in a car and would break into people’s homes to steal things so I could buy more narcotics.’
Hunter is shown high on psychedelic drugs and in a hopeless condition of substance addiction in videos from his disastrous journey to the hospital in February 2018, which proved to be the turning point in his life. He says he watches these movies to remind himself of how far he’s gone and to motivate him to keep making good decisions in life.
Hunter then spent five months in a drug recovery facility in California before making the courageous decision to leave West Virginia, leave his old life behind, and begin a new life in Yuma, Arizona, in the summer of 2018. There, he joined a Facebook drug and alcohol rehabilitation group, where he met several like-minded long-distance friends.
He had no idea at the time that one of his letter buddies, Kyra from Loughton, Essex, would become his fiancée two years later. The couple’s romance began when Hunter sent her a message at random during the spring coronavirus lockdown after they had known each other for around 18 months.
Kyra, a recovering alcoholic, spent months texting and video calling Hunter from the other side of the Atlantic before international travel restrictions were loosened sufficiently for them to meet for the first time in person at the beginning of September.
‘We met in an online recovery group a long ago, but we only truly grew close during lockdown,’ Hunter told Metro.co.uk. ‘I never anticipated this to happen after sending her a playful message.’ After a few months of dating, we decided we wanted to meet in person, but Kyra couldn’t travel to America due to visa constraints, so I updated my passport to come over to England.
‘I’m not used to the cold here, but I enjoy it. For the time being, we share an apartment, and our ultimate objective is to build a life together in America.
‘I proposed to Kyra on my birthday last month, I just knew she was the one for me because of how much we had in common and then on Monday she found out she is pregnant.
‘It’s been an incredible couple of months, and I feel extremely lucky to be myself.’
Hunter has turned his addiction struggles into a profession in the drug rehabilitation and treatment sector. He works as a company development and outreach coordinator and now makes a career by offering advise, assisting addicts in recovery, and inventing innovative methods of substance misuse therapy.
‘I love my work and am pleased to utilize my experience to assist other people,’ Hunter, who shares his story on his Facebook page ‘Hunter fighting addiction,’ said. I am really appreciative for the chances that have come my way.
‘I want to demonstrate to everyone that there is a route out of addiction; I am living proof of that.
‘I have the most amazing life now, and I adore the people in it.’