Veteran finds success at California Palms Addiction Recovery Campus

Michael Kukonik's addiction to heroin started after an injury while serving in Afghanistan

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Michael Kukonik was addicted to heroin.

It’s an addiction that started four years ago.

“I got hurt when I was in Afghanistan. I had bulging disks… bursitis in my hips,” he said.

Kukonik was given pills to ease the pain, and when he couldn’t get prescriptions for those pills anymore, he turned to heroin.

Now 64 days clean, Kukonik said it’s the longest that he has been sober since his addiction.

He had been trying to get help since 2015, but he said he would check into rehab facilities and sit in class all day long.

“After the second or third class, you just lose focus. You’re out of it and don’t even care anymore,” he said. “What I thought is, I just want to get high and forget about all of this.”

His relapse happened just 20 minutes after he finished the 21-day program.

But at the California Palms Addiction Recovery Campus, Kukonik found a place where he could keep his focus.

He came to the facility on March 27. There, he attends a variety of different classes, like meditation and goal setting.

Director of Marketing Jennifer Weaver said those involved in the program can also get involved in physical activities, like kickboxing, yoga and water aerobics.

Kukonik said he can see how these programs are beneficial.

“It pretty much produces the same chemicals that heroin does when you’re doing physical activity,” he said.

The California Palms Addiction Recovery Campus is the only rehabilitation center strictly for veterans within 200 miles of the Valley. It is approved for the Veteran Choice Program, which pays all pre-authorized costs for long term stay.

‘We don’t bill for them. We don’t charge them anything,” Weaver said. “We would never just put them out. We want to make sure they have the skills they need to get through everyday life when they leave here.”

Kukonik hasn’t used drugs since March 16, and he plans on staying another five months at the Palms. He hopes to one day become a counselor and help those battling addiction.

The campus has been open for two months now. Currently, it has 14 residents, but it can take up to 205.

Employees are counselors and people who have recovered from addiction themselves.

For more information about the California Palms Addiction Recovery Campus, call (330) 935-2663 or visit www.caliparc.com.