Personal journey helps Morgan connect
By Angie Landsverk
Keenan Morgan hands out his business card any time he sees the opportunity.
“I’m available 24 hours a day. I pass out my cards everywhere I go,” he said. “Some of the doctors have my number and card. Probation and parole has it.”
Morgan is a certified recovery coach.
A recovery coach serves as a personal guide and mentor for those seeking or already in long-term recovery from an addiction to alcohol or other drugs.
Morgan offers individual coaching sessions and may be reached at 715-252-4164.
Jesse Heffernan brought this concept to the area.
Heffernan, of Helios Addiction Recovery Services in Neenah, is a certified recovery coach and consultant who has 15 years in long-term recovery from substance abuse.
“Coaches and peers fill the gaps in the system,” he said. “You can have amazing resources. But, in moments of crisis, families or people don’t know how to navigate them.”
Helios Addiction Recovery Services offers the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery model, which was conceived in 2008 as part of a recovery-oriented system of care for individuals and families dealing with substance use disorders.
Two years ago, Heffernan was working for Goodwill and traveled to Connecticut for the training.
“Being involved in recovery myself and seeing a gap, I had originally thought about proposing a program to Goodwill,” he said.
When Heffernan learned about this model, Goodwill sent him there for the team training.
Eventually, Heffernan decided to start his own business, and Helios Addiction Recovery Services is now a little more than a year old.
He has trained more than 70 people to become certified recovery coaches and earlier this year, facilitated several meetings in Waupaca as people in the community work to address issues related to heroin.
The Waupaca Community Health Action team provided the funding for Heffernan to lead the meetings, educate the community and help build a recovery program which includes recovery coaches.
Morgan was among the 20 people from throughout the area who received 30 hours of training in February to become recovery coaches. He and a couple others are in the Waupaca area.
He learned about the training from Robin Madson, executive director of Foundations For Living.
“Because of his experience in recovery, he provides a unique and powerful message and to help people navigate and find help,” Heffernan said of Morgan.
“The opportunity came up for me to become a recovery coach. I guess from my past experiences, I felt I would be a good fit,” Morgan said. “I have lived on both sides of the law.”
Morgan grew up on Chicago’s south side in a single-parent family.
The youngest of six children, he recalled his family moving a lot and living with other family members.
While Morgan knew his father, he said his dad was not involved in his life.
“I had a good early upbring,” Morgan said. “I was happy as a child. I got good grades.”
Throughout school, English was his favorite subject, and he loved to play basketball.
After high school, he attended Trinidad State Junior College, in Trinidad, Colorado, for two years. There he played basketball and began studying juvenile corrections.
When one of Morgan’s friends was drafted by the NBA, Morgan decided to live with his friend, first in Philadelphia and then in Salt Lake City.
After six years in the NBA, Morgan’s friend went to Italy to finish his career, and Morgan remained in Utah.
In the early 1990s, Morgan moved back to Chicago and eventually to Madison, where for several years, he worked at a Boys and Girls Club.
Morgan was in his 30s when he began experimenting with drugs, including marijuana and cocaine.
“I picked the bad crowd of people,” he said.
Some years after he first experimented with drugs, he considered becoming an alcohol and other drugs counselor and began the training but never completed it.
He used drugs on and off for years and said he stopped many times.
Eventually, Morgan went from using drugs to dealing them.
“I lost my mother six years ago. That’s when my life started turning,” he said. “After she passed, my life changed. I got involved in criminal activity.”
His mother was his best friend.
“She was my everything,” Morgan said. “I guess I got depressed and stuff and looked for different ways of coping.”
He had been a drug dealer on and off for a number of years when he was arrested in 2011.
Morgan served 3 1/2 years in prison and has been clean since 2011.
“I wanted to become a better role model for my kids and to make my mama proud,” he said. “I didn’t want everything that she had done for me to be in vain.”
Morgan made a commitment to change before he want to prison.
In prison, he continued that commitment through the Wisconsin Department of Correction’s Earned Release Program.
“It’s a nine-month program that deals with drug dealers and offenders, giving them the opportunity to earn early release if they complete their intense program. It includes AODA, responsible living and integrating back into the community and a work program as well,” Morgan said.
He moved to Waupaca about two years ago and works 20 hours a week at Foundations For Living’s Community Clothes Closet.
“I want to make recovery coaching a profession for me,” Morgan said. “In the Fox Cities, it is common for them to be paid.”
He does charge a fee but says he will not turn anyone away.
Since being trained as a recovery coach, Morgan has already started mentoring people in the community.
Heffernan said recovery coaches work with people before, during and after they are in treatment.
He said treatment has to be looked at as part of a continuum of care, not just a 30-day program.
“I used for over seven years,” Heffernan said. “We need to provide longer term care if want them to succeed.”
Recovery coaches work to lift people up and help them find options and resources, he said.
Heffernan directs those interested in becoming recovery coaches to www.heliosrecovery.com to find information about upcoming training sessions.
“It’s open to everybody interested or impacted by addiction,” he said. “A lot of people have a lot to give.”
Today, Morgan has a good relationship with his children.
He continues to attend Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings about three times a week.
“Alcohol abuse was never an issue, but there are more AA meetings in the community compared to NA,” Morgan said.
He said there is at least one AA meeting every day of the week in Waupaca, while there are just two NA meetings per week.
People may visit www.aawidistrict04.org for the current list of meetings.
Morgan said both NA meetings are held at St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Community.
He said help is available for those who want it.
“Just like everything else, you get out what you put in,” Morgan said. “If you want to stay clean, you do everything it takes to stay clean, which means separating yourself from people, places and things.”
He shares his story as a way to help others.
“I want to be a voice of my past experiences, about what drugs can do to a person and where it can lead them in life, and I want to try to make a difference,” Morgan said.
He believes people may be more to apt to listen to someone who has been where they are.
“I want people to know that it’s a disease, and you can recover. I want people to know that nobody wakes up wanting to be a drug addict. Something happened along the way,” Morgan said. “I myself want to be an example that you can recover and good things will come to you.”