What Makes a Man Wise? - St. Augustine Health Ministries
Nick Kristek

A handsome, athletic, and wild youth, Nick Kristek began abusing alcohol at 15 and turned quickly to drugs. While most peers focused on sports or the trials and tribulations of dating, Nick focused on his next high. He was violent and angry; he totaled cars and ran from the police. He stole money, thousands of dollars, and prescription drugs from those who loved him most. Arrested and convicted on testimony provided by his concerned family, his demise worsened.

Finally, after ten tumultuous years of drug abuse, he overdosed on a combination of heroin, OxyContin, and fentanyl. Nearby, friends decided he could sleep it off, unaware that he had aspirated on his vomit. The night passed. The following day, still unresponsive, they called 911. He was just 27.

Nick’s devoted family visited their comatose son daily. He had no brain activity; his kidneys were failing. Recommendations included “pull the plug.” Staff fastened “Do Not Resuscitate” to his wrist. Four long months passed. Then, while reminiscing aloud, his father shared a distant father-son memory and began to laugh. To his amazement, a listless Nick laughed too. 

Yesterday’s wild child is today’s wise man. Nick Kristek cannot walk; he cannot sit on a toilet or push his wheelchair. He cannot dress or shave himself, and he needs assistance eating. He has partial functionality in only one hand. Now 36, he shares his troubled story freely. Grateful for a second chance, he wants to help others traveling his fateful path. “If I can save just one kid. … It [drugs] took my freedom. … It sucks. … Please don’t do it. You’ve got to love yourself enough to not do it.”

Nick’s journey from coma to awakening and from rehabilitation to a new home was a long one, filled with challenges and obstacles that only a survivor can know. Eventually, his path led to our doors. After an exhaustive and worrisome search, Nick’s parents discovered St. Augustine Health Ministries. Relief was at hand. 

Now, Nick spends his days at St. Augustine Health Ministries enjoying activities, attending chapel services, and visiting with a family that never abandoned him. Surrounded by good, loving people and caring professionals, Nick has found a home here. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, contact the Alcohol, Drug Addiction, & Mental Health services (ADAMHs) at 216-623-6888 or the crisis chat service at https://www.adamhscc.org/. You can also text “4HELP” to 741741. Additional resources are available at https://www.adamhscc.org/resources/finding-help/by-service/crisis-services and https://redribbon.org

To learn more about Nick’s story, check https://www.cleveland.com/metro/2017/10living_with_heroins_consequence.html


Story updated & adapted from Living with heroin’s consequences, The Plain Dealer & Cleveland.com (Lynn Ischay, 2017).