Danville man shares story of addiction and healing

Published 8:41 am Monday, September 18, 2017

For Danville native Brent Kendall, his past of addiction and drug use can sometimes be haunting — but he’s turned it into a way to help others by sharing his story.

“I grew up in a good home. I had very good parents — my mom and dad both were very good people. They worked really hard. They’re still together today,” Kendall said. “I was raised in church, I was raised knowing right from wrong.”

Kendall was in seventh grade when he first experimented with drugs. At the time, he was playing baseball with the high school team.

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“I guess as a way to fit in, I guess that’s why I started using drugs,” he said. It was occasionally smoking marijuana and doing “a little drinking.”

“My thought initially was, it was innocent. I would never picture myself turning into a drug addict by socially or occasionally using marijuana,” he said. “As high school progressed, it turned into an every day thing, as far as marijuana goes. Then it turned into recreational use of other things — pills, ecstasy, different things.”

If there was a party and someone had a drug, Kendall was the guy that would try it.

He was very good at baseball and pretty good at basketball. He had been offered seven different scholarship opportunities to play baseball in college and had been scouted by several schools.

“By the time I was a senior, I had gotten to the point where I let my grades get so bad, I lost every single one of those opportunities to play baseball in college,” he said. That was 2001. He was given a chance to walk on at St. Catharine’s College, with the idea of transferring to another school to play baseball after he had gotten his grades up.

“It had gotten so bad, I didn’t even make it through spring practices. I walked off the field,” Kendall said. “Nothing even mattered to me but using drugs and, honestly, selling drugs. I thought that was going to be the easy way to make money.”

After attending St. Catherine’s for a year and a half, he dropped out. His parents, Eddie and Pam Kendall, told him to go back to school or move out on his own, so he enrolled in Bluegrass Community and Technical College, in the industrial electricity program. He completed the program, but never stopped his drug use.

“By that time, I had become addicted to cocaine,” Brent Kendall said, and said it was the first drug he had to have every day. “I hated using it. I hated the way that it made me feel. But yet, each and every single day, I had to have it. That was the first drug that I honestly knew I was addicted to and couldn’t quit.”

In 2006, he says luckily, he was arrested, along with his brother-in-law. Kendall faced charges of possession of cocaine and marijuana.

“I had five years facing me. It was the first time I’d ever been in trouble, the first time I’d ever been arrested,” he said. “I ended up taking a felony diversion.”

That meant that he could stay out of jail if he could stay out of trouble until his probation ended. “I did that. I got clean for about four-and-a-half years … I still hadn’t learned my lesson,” Kendall said.

Kendall had been drug tested the Friday before the Labor Day and said, “I was like, ‘There’s no way I’m going to get called in again for a drug test next week. So I’m going to go out this weekend and tie one on.’ Sure enough, Tuesday, when the office opened, I got a phone call,” he said. “I knew I was in trouble.”

He failed the test, but was given one more chance — this time, if he failed again, he would get five more years.

“I got clean. I got clean because I had to, not because I wanted to,” Kendall said. “But, during that time, things started looking up for me.”

He got a job working maintenance in a nursing home facility, moving from assistance to maintenance director, before getting a regional position remodeling newly purchased nursing home facilities for Signature Healthcare.

“I had a huge salary. I was making tons of money, I was running my own crew, had a company truck, company credit cards, company phone — I was living like a rock star, honestly,” Kendall said.

Kendall was working on the road a lot and “making more money than I could spend.”

Then, he fell off a ladder in Birmingham, Alabama.

“I hurt my back and the doctor prescribed me Oxycontin … I didn’t know initially that I was addicted to them. I just knew that they made me feel really good,” Kendall said.

That was around 2009, he said, when the economy tanked. Kendall lost his job, his insurance and his access to Oxy. 

“When I tried to come off, it was the absolute worse sickness I had ever felt in my life. I was in the middle of a mess,” Kendall said. “Within three months of being prescribed them, I was taking them as the doctor had prescribed. Then I went to snorting them. Then I went to smoking them. Then I went to injecting them.

“By the time I went to injecting them, within a couple of months, I had drawn out my retirement fund and blown through every single dime I had. I had lost absolutely everything.”

On Dec. 22, 2010, he was arrested again.

“I was so high and out of my mind — I had broke into a house,” Kendall said.

The house was in Lincoln County and he said about seven deputies, along with Lincoln County Sheriff Curt Folger, caught him there.

“I still see him today and he still aggravates me about that day. It’s a lot different now when I see him,” Kendall said, smiling.

He was facing about 35 years of charges — besides the burglary, he had also purchased a handgun at some point he said he didn’t know was stolen and had been linked to other charges.

“I had a mess,” he said. 

While in jail, Kendall was visited by a pastor.

“I told him, ‘I just don’t know what I’m going to do. I just can’t quit,’” Kendall said.

That’s when he learned about the Isaiah House. It hadn’t been in Willisburg long, Kendall said, and he was able to get a bed at the rehab facility.

“When I got there, I finally realized I wasn’t alone. This whole time, I thought I was battling this addiction and there was nobody else like me, that I was on my own,” he said. “In my family, we had nobody that had ever been drug addicts.”

Kendall had even contemplated suicide while battling his addiction, and “held a gun to my head one day, trying to get the nerve to pull the trigger just because I thought that would be the easy way to end things.”

His parents, he said, blamed themselves.

It was at the Isaiah House that Kendall finally got the help he needed, got clean and found God.

“I had been to church my whole life, but never really got the concept of being a Christian. When I got there, I got it,” he said. “I was shown love by all these guys, all these people, that I never thought I deserved.”

He got into Celebrate Recovery at the treatment house, which made a big difference, he said.

“It wasn’t until the Isaiah House and Celebrate Recovery that I started understanding … It seems that coming clean about stuff helps your healing process,” Kendall said. “The more you hide stuff, the more you bury stuff — because as addicts, that’s what we try to do, we try to bury our hurts in drugs. With all of that comes shame. It’s hard talking about stuff you’re ashamed of. But that’s where the healing takes place.”

Talking about it, he said, takes a “huge weight” off one’s shoulders.

He got baptized while at the Isaiah House. In 2011, Kendall graduated after completing his rehab, but still had to face a long list of criminal charges. He also faced a 10-year sentence because of the seriousness of his charges.

Ultimately, Kendall did two more years in prison before being released on parole in 2013. After getting out, he went to work at the Isaiah House for a few years.

Now, Kendall said, his life is much different and much better. He was released from parole on Aug. 21.

“I’m officially a free man … No more people staring at you taking drug tests and watching you use the bathroom. No more permission to go on vacation. All of those things were good, it held me accountable and kept me on my toes,” Kendall said. “But it was a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders the day I got those papers.”

Now he will start the process to be able to vote again and to apply for a passport, “little things I’ve always taken for granted.”

Photo submitted
Brent Kendall, center, with his wife Pam at their recent wedding. Brent Kendall holds his son, Easton, while they’re surrounded by Pam’s children Alyssa Pinkston, left, and Nate Chapman, right.

Also, he said, smiling, “I’m married.” On July 1, he married a woman named Pam. Between the two of them, they have three kids: he has one son, Easton, who will be two in February, while she has a daughter, Alyssa Pinkston, 11, and a son, Nate Chapman, 14. They don’t have a child together.

“We’ve been blessed. We go to Danville Church of God and we’re both very active over there,” Kendall said. 

The two also want to go on a mission trip in the next few years, something Kendall will be able to do once he gets that passport.

“Things that I never thought I would want to do or be able to do, now I’m doing those things,” he said.

He speaks proudly about his wife. The two met at the gym and were the best of friends before finally deciding to date — their official first date was July 4, 2016.

“I had been in a bad relationship, to say the least. She had been in one too. When we met, it was a friendship, we just confided in each other. We had been through similar things,” Kendall said. “We found out we were both into church, started hanging out, went to church together.”

Neither one “dreamed it would happen,” he said.

“The more we hung around each other, the more we became close. It blossomed into more than a friendship,” Kendall said.

When they met, Pam was into body building while Kendall was into power lifting. She has since gotten into the power lifting, and he’s begun helping her with her training.

“She has done two competitions with me training her and she has done phenomenal,” Kendall said, proudly.

The older kids are starting to get into it, too, he said, calling it a family thing.“We all enjoy it.”

He said, “Pam has been through as much as me. If she hadn’t gotten pregnant with Nate, who knows where she would have been 14 years ago.” He said she’s using her past to help women who are going through struggles.

“We both have had things happen in our life and we try to use our stories to encourage people and help people. Lord knows I’ve caused enough bad damage around Danville,” Kendall said.

This December will mark seven years Kendall has been clean.

“It’s still taken this much time to try and clear my name,” he said. “Now I see cops and I don’t get nervous, I don’t run scared, I can walk up and shake people’s hands and talk about my past.”

He also helps at Truth and Consequences, a yearly event at Boyle County High School to show teens the reality of their choices.

“I just tell them the truth. I tell them about my past, the things I’ve been through. I tell them about my prison experience, things I saw in there,” Kendall said. “It is what it’s called. You tell them the truth about the drug use and the things that could happen and the consequences of it.”

He’s been doing that for four years and has visited other schools, as well as churches and a whole lot of youth groups.

“I speak as much as I’m asked,” he said. He also doesn’t hide the truth from his step children, he said.

Kendall wishes a program like truth or consequences had existed when he was in school.

“I don’t know that things would be different, but it would definitely have put things into perspective. We had cops come in and try to scare you to death, but I don’t ever remember people coming into our schools and telling us personal experiences of their problems,” he said. “I think it’s awesome. I love doing those things.”

He said he’s never tried to hide his past from anyone, but he tries to not let it determine who he is.

“I’m still judged by a lot of people because of things I’ve been through … I still get bad comments from people who knew me years ago. Those are the people who really don’t know who I am now,” Kendall said. “The person who was stealing and sticking a needle in his arm every day is not the person who I am today.

“Drugs, definitely, make you into someone that you’re not. It turns you into someone else.”

Kendall said he knows he’s hurt a lot of people over the years.

“One thing I wish I could change is the people I hurt along the way. They didn’t deserve it. But as far as me changing things I’ve done, I have to look at it as, I wouldn’t be who I am today if I hadn’t gone through all of those things,” he said. “Every day is a new day. I wake up every day and try to be the best person that I can. I try to be a good husband and father — that’s number one. I try everyday to be a positive example, so people who see me know I’m not who I used to be.”

Kendall said he looks to how far he’s come. “I’m not sticking a needle in my arm, I’m not in a prison cell … (I) just be thankful of how far I have come.”

He’s also thankful for his parents.

“They’ve been more than supportive. They’ve helped pay for treatment, they’ve been there through stuff that a lot of parents wouldn’t. They stuck by me, supported me and have helped me a lot along the way,” Kendall said. “Most of the time, honestly, I probably didn’t deserve it. I’ve stole from them — lied, cheat and stole from them. They’ve been there, supported me and helped me come through this on top.”

Kendall said his parents come to hear him speak and sing at churches. “They’re still my No. 1 fans,” he said.

He grew up listening to his mom sing at church and said she got him into it. “I like doing it as much as I like to speak,” he said.

Eventually, Kendall said, he wants to get involved in youth ministry. 

“I understand their experiences. I understand what they’re going through. When I was that age, that’s when I started making those bad decisions,” he said. “Kids need someone in their life to be honest with them and try to point them in the right direction and be someone they can come to and talk to.”

Sometimes, he said, kids are nervous about talking to their parents about things like drugs, and he would like to be a person they can talk to. He also wants to get more involved in Hope Network and the outreach programs at his church.

Kendall said he likes being able to help people now, as they move forward in life.

“Most of the time when I talk to people, I always tell people, it’s never too late to change. A lot of people feel, even at church, ‘I’ve lived my life for this long, why would I want to change now and become a Christian?’ It’s the same way with drugs, ‘I’ve been an addict all my life, why do I want to change now?’ I always tell people that it’s never too late,” Kendall said. “Getting clean and staying clean has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It’s literally an every day battle. It’s something I have to wake up every day and choose to live differently. 

“Becoming involved in church and becoming a Christian and changing the way I’m living has been the biggest thing for me.”

People get stuck, he said, and feel like they can never change.

“I used think that, I really did. I always tell people, if I can do this, then anybody can.”

Finding a support group — be it at church, Celebrate Recovery, a 12-step group, a group of friends or a pastor — is essential, he said.

“I use them all. Any time I have something that’s bothering me, I pick up the phone, I text or call. I’ve always got those people that are in my corner,” he said. 

He’s even become part of support groups for others. Kendall said knowing others look up to him and look to him is satisfying.

“As much wrong as I’ve done, to have people actually come to you and look to you for help, in that sense it’s a pretty big deal for me,” he said. “I try to help them in any way I can.”

This story has been updated to reflect that Easton is Kendall’s son from a previous relationship, not with his current wife, Pam. She has two children from previous relationships as well.