Breaking the chains of addiction


Vaughn was in his senior year at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa—a straight-A dean’s list student on his way to a degree in social work—when a car accident left him with a badly broken jaw and opioid prescriptions for the pain. What was supposed to help him heal became an addiction.

Prescription medications seem like an appropriate solution to some of life’s discomforts. After an accident, painkillers soothe and help with healing. When battling anxiety, insomnia or depression, relaxants, sedatives and antidepressants can bring relief. But far too often, people living otherwise productive, normal lives fall victim to the addictive nature of opioids and benzodiazepines—Xanax, Valium, Klonopin—and become hostage to the drugs’ debilitating effects.

He called a crisis hotline upon release from jail, and a responder came to get him, helping him through the paperwork and settling him into IHS, The Institute for Human Services that very night. IHS shelter staff and counselors helped Vaughn find solid ground again, providing him a safe place to live and resources that supported his return to a life with focus and purpose. After several months, Vaughn joined the IHS Hele2Work program, a personalized employment program that meets clients where they are and helps them find work and new meaning in their lives. 

IHS life coaches work with each person, helping him or her navigate the difficult process of breaking the addiction, which often includes intervention, counseling and recovery. These coaches know that this process is neither quick nor easy, so they walk step by step with them on that journey. Once clients overcome the addiction, coaches help them navigate their way back to productive lives, including accessing social services, finding housing, developing habits that support their new lives and finding employment. 

Today, Vaughn is one of the top two salespeople in his new job and is living a full and happy life. “I’d like to someday work with troubled young people, so we can break the cycles of drug abuse and homelessness,” he says. “I want to help others so they don’t have to go through what I did.”

Check out this video to hear more about his story.


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