“Addiction is just misplaced energy,” says Brent Lambley, an addiction counselor at Keystone Treatment Center in Canton, S.D., one of the top addiction treatment facilities in the nation.
Lambley should know because he’s a recovering addict himself.
His story, like many of the men he now treats, is a long one full of vicissitudes that finally set him on the road to recovery and self-redemption.
Lambley said his troubles started when he was 9 years old, and he began to shoplift. He, along with some others, targeted Norfolk retail stores and took “everything from candy to camping goods to electronics.”
From there, things escalated until the day he stole a pistol from a downtown hobby store. That crime led police to his doorstep, and he was arrested.
“It was a relief, actually,” Lambley said.
He’d been feeling a lot of anxiety after stealing the pistol, and he was ready to put an end to his thefts. Fortunately, he only received five years of probation instead of being placed in a juvenile detention facility like the prosecutor had wanted.
For the next few years, Lambley seemed to be on the right track. He entered seventh grade at Norfolk Junior High where he got involved in band and a community drum and bugle corps called Crimson Cadets.
The time commitment of those activities helped him to stay out of trouble.
He loved playing the drums, so he continued with that activity in the high school band and pep band. He also joined the speech and debate team, the tennis team, and even made honor roll during his senior year.
However, addiction reared its ugly head with him toward the end of high school when he started to attend parties.
Lambley said he smoked pot, and that “gave me the illusion that I could handle other drugs. I couldn’t, though.”
Lambley had shown enough talent as a musician with his drums to earn a music scholarship from Northeast Community College. However, by the time he began classes in the fall of 1986, he was a full-blown addict.
He dropped out of college during his second semester.
From there, Lambley’s life spiraled downward. He tried to make a living playing in a band in Grand Island, but his addictions ruled his life, and he lost that gig. Then, while passing through Denver, he tried cocaine and ended up blowing all of his money on the drug.
He spent the next 12 years living in and out of Denver.
He was homeless a lot, he couldn’t maintain a regular job, he got involved with a couple of street gangs, and he ended up dealing drugs himself to support his own drug habit.
Despite all of that, he managed to marry and father four daughters. It was because of his girls that Lambley came back to Norfolk.
Lambley said he wanted his girls to have a better life than what he and his drug-addicted wife were providing for them in Denver.
Changing his location, however, didn’t cause him to change his ways. So child protective services stepped in and took his daughters from him.
That was his turning point, his rock-bottom.
Lambley then tried to stop using on his own and left Norfolk to get away from the prevalence of meth in the area.
He returned for a custody hearing on June 10, 2000. The judge offered to send him to treatment in O’Neill. If he fulfilled the requirements of his treatment, then he could regain custody of his daughters, the judge ruled.
Lambley said that he entered treatment on June 23, 2000, and he’s “been clean ever since.”
He regained custody of his girls and spent the next 10 years working various steady jobs in Norfolk.
In 2009, he enrolled in two night classes at Northeast Community College. He earned A’s in both of them, and this got him interested in pursuing an advanced education.
He earned his associates degree in 2011 in behavioral science.
From there, Lambley enrolled at Wayne State College. He graduated with honors in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in human services counseling. Then he transferred to the University of South Dakota in Vermillion where he earned a master’s degree in addiction studies in 2015.
Lambley now lives in Canton, S.D., because Keystone hired him full time at the completion of his internship there. He does group and individual counseling and lectures at the facility.
He loves his job, and he feels blessed to be working with the quality staff there. On the side, Lambley plays the drums in a four-man band called Rebel Soul based out of Sioux Falls.