Recent studies indicate Nevada's death rate from meth and other stimulants is the highest in the country. But Grant Denton, 39, a survivor of childhood abuse who become a deadbeat Dad junkie trapped in homelessness and repeated incarceration, is ensuring the situation isn't even worse.
Through his work, he now leads many other recovering addicts on a path he himself has taken, with discipline, exercise, meditation and a resolve to survive, to make the world a better place, to be ferocious, relentless and optimistic.
"You want to be someone that's remembered for change to help change, on a larger scale. Change as many people as you can. Create that positive way. So, I guess I want to be remembered as someone who changes as many people as possible on a larger scale... This is bigger than drugs," he explained during a recent interview with Our Town Reno.
Denton's Own Turnaround
He said his own grandmother who always helped him, at one point refused to send him any money as he had asked for.
"She sent me a letter saying that she wouldn't send me any more money. Now she's done with me. When you burn a granny bridge, you fucked up... But she did say she'd send me books. So after about two weeks of being upset with her, I asked for some books and she started sending me some. I asked for a book about the Prison Yoga Project. I learned how to breathe. I learned how to meditate. I learned how to be grounded. I read a book about .... Paramahansa Yogananda, a yogi... And then when I started reading, I started to educate myself and I started exercising. She also sent me a book called You Are Your Own Gym. That's when things started shifting...."
He now wakes up at four a.m., and drinks a lot of coffee. He starts many days with part of an inspirational audio book. When we interviewed him, he was listening to the Virgin Way by entrepreneur Richard Branson. One of the quotes: 'If only we had the power to see ourselves in the same way that others see us.' is a reality Denton had to wake up to when he was an addict.
Denton goes to the gym very early, both for himself and then on different days leading free sessions for different groups, including one for women in recovery called "Rise and Grind". To recovering addicts he says: "More people care than you think. Don’t fear stigmatization. People want to help, come out and seek help."
From the Depths of a Troubled Childhood and Adulthood
Born and raised in Las Vegas, Denton grew up in a Mormon family of eight, with an abusive father. He was molested by a man at his church when he was 11. He says the downward spiral soon began.
"When things like that happen to you as a kid, and these people who are supposed to protect you, your teachers, your church should maybe protect you a little bit... your parents should probably protect you. And then, when this doesn't happen, then you stop trusting everybody... And so, when you stop trusting people ... my lack of trust moved me in the direction of going downhill," he remembers.
He got into fights in school and got kicked out as a senior and ended up in juvenile detention. He worked in nightclubs as a performer, while also selling drugs there, and after becoming a young father, tried to "make an honest living,", but he says it didn't work out.
"To go from being paid to party to making an honest living is a very difficult transition. You go from zero consequences. Right. You do whatever you want and then you've got to follow some rules. So it doesn't make any sense. So I ended up doing a lot of pills, doing meth and then I worked my way down to being homeless for three years in Vegas to about eight years of getting high and spiraling down and in the last three years, I was shooting heroin and meth and homeless in Vegas," he remembers.
Being A Loser, at the Lowest, to Now Inspiring Others to Follow His Flight
Denton's candor is astounding as he recounts one of his lowest points in a life now trending very high.
"With my ex-wife, I had two sons. And one of them was at the time, he was six and my younger one was about four, three, and I went over to the house. She would let me come because they would be like 'I want to see Dad, I want to see Dad....' She let me come over and I was homeless within a seven-mile stretch of a border highway. So, I came there one time and I got sick right. Any time I’d come over she'd have to hide her purse and I sent my son upstairs to take money. He wants to help his dad right? And he brought out 60 bucks. I get to the bus stop and I get a text on my phone that says 'GRANT YOU'RE A LOSER' in all caps. I texted back, 'Who are you whore?' I googled loser and it said .... in the act of losing ... I'm like 'holy shit'.... I'm like 'wow. I am a loser.' That was probably the lowest point. I turned my kid into a conspirator. Right. And I was I was by definition a loser," he said.
After recently moving to Reno, he says, he realized his passion was in developing programs for people in recovery. "I met John Firestone, our executive director, and he told me to come up with something and so I came up with the volunteer program called the Spartans," he said.
Spartans of Reno
Denton leads his so-called Spartans to help with other local social assistance and recovery programs, by doing paint jobs and cleaning. "The purpose ... is to get them out in the community giving back and that’s a good way to integrate them back into the community where they feel like they're a part of something," he said.
Recent mottos on the Facebook page range from: 'Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about CREATING yourself. DO THE WORK!!" to "Leaders create leaders."
"Absolutely nothing," Denton says when asked if he has any regrets. "If you look at it like this. Everything that I did I can't regret it. I needed it." A Spartan is a person of great courage and self-discipline, exactly what Denton now is.
Interview and Reporting for Our Town Reno by Prince Nesta with Photography by Jordan Gearey