Recovery leads addict to life of helping others
By CHARLIE WIESER
The Catholic Voice
Rick Keller's father died while he was incarcerated at the Nebraska State Penitentiary in Lincoln.
'I was detached from my feelings and told myself I didn't care," he said. 'He beat my mom a lot and then she'd take it out on me and my brother."
Keller, who now works as an administrative supervisor at Catholic Charities' Omaha Campus for Hope, served a year in prison after being convicted of grand theft auto. He was stealing cars and burglarizing homes to support his drug habit.
'I started drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana when I was 13," the 36-year-old Keller told The Catholic Voice. 'I was arrested for grand theft auto for the first time that year."
Though he continued to break into homes and steal cars while in school, Keller graduated from South High School in Omaha in 1988.
'Where I grew up, my friends were always drinking a lot and smoking weed, and so were their parents," he said. 'That's just the way it was."
TURNS TO METH
In his early adult years, Keller said he continued to get arrested for shoplifting, criminal mischief and four Driving While Intoxicated offenses. Still, he continued to abuse alcohol, smoke marijuana and snort cocaine.
A couple of years after his first use of cocaine, Keller said he tried methamphetamine.
'The first time I did meth, it gave me an all-over-the-body high. My adrenalin kept pumping. With all that energy, I felt all powerful and that nothing could go wrong," he said.
'The trouble is that when you start coming down you keep doing more meth so you can get back that good feeling."
Keller remembers being awake on meth for as long as three days at a time. 'During that time, I wouldn't eat much, but I'd drink a lot of beer," he said. 'Sometimes I'd go to the casinos and spend all my money."
'Using all that meth led to physical problems," said Keller, who was selling the drug to help support himself. 'My weight dropped to 134 pounds, and my teeth rotted and ate away at my gums. I was a wreck."
Then came the day, Keller said, when he saw himself in a mirror at a 'flop house" for drug addicts. 'I took a long look at myself. My eyes were black and my cheeks were sunken. I really looked bad."
GIFT OF RECOVERY
Eventually, Keller entered a treatment program and halfway house. Alcoholic Anonymous meetings helped him to remain alcohol and drug free, dating back to April 13, 2000.
'It was pounded into my head early that I can only really help myself, said Keller, who has worked at the Campus for Hope the past five years. 'I now pray so that I'm available to help people who want it."
Some of the help he offers is through AA, where he sponsors six individuals. Others are assisted through his work at the Campus for Hope.
During his six years of 'living straight," Keller attended classes at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Metropolitan Technical Community College. He needs 27 more credit hours to earn a bachelor's degree in Psychology.
'I now think about a future," Keller said. 'I've recovered my self-esteem by being honest with myself and others."
Keller admits he was 'never happy" while abusing alcohol and drugs.
'I'm truly happy now. My concept of God has changed," he said. 'I didn't believe I was worthy, but now I feel loved."