The Times West Virginian

Local News

January 21, 2013

Making lives better

Chuck Von Kaenel uses experience to help others end substance abuse

FAIRMONT — When Chuck Von Kaenel was growing up, he was rebellious.

Because of his actions in high school, he had the choice of going to jail or into the military. He chose the military.

And that’s where his use of drugs and alcohol began.

Von Kaenel began smoking cigarettes, “joints” and drinking often while in the service to help him cope with the thought of not knowing if he was going to return home or not.

“It was something to calm you down and give you peace,” Von Kaenel said.

While in the service, he said trouble seemed to follow him.

“I’d get promoted and then I’d get busted,” he said. “It just kept coming back.”

After the military, Von Kaenel got a job but his habits were still with him — he continued to smoke and drink.

“I was an alcoholic,” he said. “I tried drugs. I mean, I’ve tried the world.”

In 1975 when Von Kaenel was in his 30s, his substance abuse problem got to the point where he started thinking about committing suicide. At the time, it was the only thing that made sense — even if he was high.

“I had just drawn four lines of cocaine and finished a fifth of scotch,” he said.

Von Kaenel remembers being in Cleveland, Ohio, sitting in his car looking across the street at an opening that led to a 200-foot drop.

“I was going to drive through there and go down the hill,” he said. “There were railroad tracks about 200 feet below it.”

Von Kaenel also had two five-gallon gas tanks in the back of his car.


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