Tony Byrne is on the Kyros team as a Partner Relationship Manager – and this is his addiction recovery story. Tony works to develop long-lasting relationships with other recovery organizations. Over eight years into his recovery, Tony’s personal mission is to use his lived experience to help those who are still experiencing active addiction, involved in the criminal justice system and are looking for ways to become productive members of society. Outside of work, Tony is a devoted father and husband to his three kiddos and wife.

Tell us a bit about your recovery story – how did you begin your recovery?
From the age of 12 until 35, I struggled with an active addiction. I spent the majority of that time in jail or under felony monitoring with Community Corrections. I was assigned a public defender after my 2014 arrest on felony drug charges because she believed that treatment was the “cure” for my life of crime. The court released me to the MN Adult and Teen Challenge long-term residential program after she badgered me severely until I consented to attend therapy. I finished my treatment 13 months later, and I’ve been walking free ever since. I commemorated eight years of rehabilitation in October 2022.

Tony Byrne pre-recovery

What are some obstacles you overcame at the beginning of your recovery journey?
The majority of the challenges I faced in early recovery were related to self-esteem issues as well as childhood trauma. To protect myself from further trauma, I created a hateful persona, which allowed me to be a person who caused fear in the community. To my mind, it was preferable to be the source of fear than to be constantly afraid. To engage in my recovery, I had to deconstruct this persona and let go of the hatred that had kept me strong and safe throughout my addiction. That procedure was the most difficult thing I’d ever done in my life. After destroying my persona, I allowed others to sow into me so I could become the man I am today.

What do you think are the biggest challenges that people in recovery face?
One of the most difficult challenges in recovery, in my opinion, is the establishment of healthy communities. Being a part of a healthy community is a difficult lesson to learn, but once learned, it serves as the foundation for a vibrant long-term recovery. Second, shifting the mindset from “I am an addict” to “I am a person struggling with addiction” is critical. Learning to trust others as well as oneself is also essential for a successful recovery. And finally, in order to stop being the center of my own universe and become a part of God’s universe, I had to replace my ego and self-centeredness with faith. This spiritual journey has been the determining factor in my recovery success.

How has your life changed throughout your recovery?
My life has completely changed. I was dishonest, untrustworthy, fearful, and lacking in integrity for the majority of my life. I was a drug dealer, a gangster, and a criminal. Today, I am a loving husband and father, a recovery professional, and a trustworthy, honest person. My word was once worthless, but I’m proud to say that it now means exactly what it says.

What does success in recovery look like to you?
Showing up every day with the intention of being present in your life is what it means to be successful in recovery. It entails accepting that the journey and the effort are more important than perfection. Being a servant to your community and family is also essential to the success of your recovery. Recovery can be a lonely endeavor without these things.

Is there anything you wish you could share with anyone who is at the beginning of their recovery journey – or at any point in their recovery?
Don’t give up five minutes before the miracle happens. You are worth the effort for a better life! It is not easy to recover, but it is well worth the effort!

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