From opioid-fueled thief to grateful counselor to peers in Michigan

Bay City resident Kyle Hanshaw: “I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.” (Courtesy photo)

He remembers the moment almost to the second: July 8, 2013.

That’s the day Kyle Hanshaw walked into a Bay City treatment center for a years-long addiction to prescription opiates.

“I was sick of it,” he said of a habit that all but destroyed his relationship with his fiance, turned him into a small-time criminal and left him craving drugs virtually every day.

The low point: A drive south to Saginaw with his fiance and son in the car to trade drugs with another user. He left the car’s motor running, entered a house and went down to the basement for the exchange. The man pulled out a large knife.

“I thought I was going to die,” Hanshaw recalled, a moment that turned out to be about mistaken identity.

“That’s when I knew I had to change.”

Related: In opioid war, studies urge medication. Michigan clinics push abstinence.

It started when he was in high school, on probation for a weapons charge. A marijuana smoker at the time, Hanshaw knew he couldn’t pass his probation-ordered drug test and still smoke. So he turned to opiates. They weren’t screening for that.

He got his hands on Vicodin and Percocet, two powerful painkillers. Then he began stealing oxycodone, the principal drug in Percocet, from his grandmother. He persuaded her to ask her doctor for more when she ran out. He then asked for money so he buy drugs on the street. He repeatedly injured an ingrown toenail to wheedle more pills from his doctor. He stole and sold electronics – all to get more drugs.

“I finally got sick and tired of being sick and tired,” he said.

He reached out to an aunt, who he regarded as something of a mentor. He was going to ask for money but wound up asking for help.

She Googled around, found a place in Bay City called Recovery Pathways. Some weeks later, he walked in for his appointment in a state of withdrawal. He was put on buprenorphine, an opiate substitute, which eases the craving for the drugs he was abusing. He was set up with regular counseling and support sessions, a combination of medication and therapy that studies say is more effective than counseling and abstinence alone.

Hanshaw said that was the last time he abused opiates.

More than five years later, he’s back with his fiance with plans to marry. He owns a house.

Still on buprenorphine, he has been slowly reducing his dose with the goal of reaching zero by 2020.

And now he shares a message of hope at Peer 360 Recovery Alliance in Bay City, a nonprofit recovery organization where he is employed as a peer recovery coach. He supports clients who are walking a similar path, as they turn to medication assisted treatment as part of their recovery.

“I let people know how much it has helped me,” he said. “If it’s used correctly, it really does make the difference.”

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Lakeside Terri
Thu, 01/17/2019 - 9:06am

Thank you Kyle for turning your pain into experience and dedication that can help others.

Robyn A Tonkin
Thu, 01/17/2019 - 9:56am

Why did Kyle have a weapons charge in high school?

What I see in all this is a huge social apparatus where people spend their lives--their personal lives, their work lives, their entire life--immersed somehow in a drug culture. They're either taking drugs or talking about how they used to take drugs, or talking to other people about how they take drugs or used to take drugs, and taking lots of photos of everybody in the same life. AND--this society has a much more immense interconnected and interlocked apparatus of police, lawyers, judges, social workers, organized help gurus who run treatment programs, doctors, PA's , nurses, EMT's and ambulance personnel who treat these people when their drug use gets the better of them physically, or they commit some crime or several crimes all at once to get drugs or money to buy drugs. Let's not forget Big Pharma--working feverishly to develop new drugs, some of which addict people and some of which purport to help people. What I see is an ever growing, multi-faceted mega-business based on ordinary people's psychological emptiness, ennui and search for happiness that goes so wrong. Boy, does this society fail itself in an incalculably immense way or what!

Jaimie Estep
Thu, 01/17/2019 - 1:52pm

Kyle is a great success story and I enjoy working with him in Peer 360 Recovery Alliance. There is help out there and anyone can fight this and have a good life.

Kyle H.
Fri, 01/18/2019 - 12:58pm

Thanks again, Ted! The opportunity and platform to share my story and hope for others is beyond appreciated.
I did want to clear a couple things up:
1) I am a Recovery Coach (CPRC), and not a counselor.
2) Peer 360 Recovery Alliance is not a treatment center, but a non-profit recovery organization.
Great article, everything was spot on and exactly how I intended. Thanks!
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If you'd like to know more about Peer 360 Recovery Alliance and how we are working to reduce the stigma associated with those battling addiction, visit our website @

Tue, 01/22/2019 - 9:20pm

I read the article and seems there's some important information missing, while suboxone and methadone can both be extremely successful tools in the addiction fight, they are both EXTREMELY ADDICTIVE. After being on these drugs for years the human body becomes numb to life in general and problems can persist. After nearly 12 years on methadone I finally had enough and actually put it in my head it was time to quit completely. . There is so much missing in the fog of opiate use that saddens me. I'm clean today, and have my emotions and feelings back. ...wishing I hadn't wasted so much time.

Irene Hansen
Fri, 10/18/2019 - 10:29am

WE need to separate ADDICTS who want to get the high from PATIENTS who want pain control to live a self sufficient life. As in your own publishing of this young mans story he injured himself to get HIGH! WHY ARE WE TORTURING AND KILLING RESPONSIBLE PEOPLE WITH REAL DISEASE?!!