When Tanner Duvall was getting ready to graduate from Franklin High School in 2009 at 17 years old, a dirt bike accident landed him in the hospital with a broken collarbone. While his family and friends celebrated his graduation a few weeks later, watching him remove his sling just to walk across the stage, what they didn’t know at the time was the pain medicine that gave Tanner the strength to heal from his injury, had already begun to take over his life and send him into an opiate addiction.
That 2009 injury was the first in a series of events over the next 10 years of Tanner’s life that resulted in multiple arrests, drug use, losing custody of his daughter, and ultimately spending 8 months incarcerated in the Macon County Detention Center.
Today, Tanner uses the struggles he has endured over the last decade — his climb back to the top from “rock bottom” — to help others facing similar fates through serving as a Peer Support Specialist at No Wrong Door.
Tanner is one of seven peer support specialists working at No Wrong Door to “meet people where they are” in hopes of helping them begin their own recovery journey.
Because he has lived the same situations and experiences that individuals struggling with substance use disorder or mental health issues many of the people he encounters are facing, he is able to relate better and offer a listening, non-judgmental, ear.
“I was accepted into Western Carolina but decided to enroll in Southwestern to save money,” Tanner said of his plans after high school. “I wanted to be a physical therapist to be able to help people.”
After his first semester at Southwestern Community College, Tanner said he wasn’t making the grades he needed and his addiction to opiates really took front and center, so he left class one day and didn’t return.
Soon after his injury, doctors would no longer prescribe pain medications for Tanner, so he started to look for them elsewhere.
Tanner’s downward spiral was exacerbated in October 2010 when his best friend Parker Mathis was killed in a drunk driving accident.
“When Parker died, I lost my best friend. That is when I went from just recreational use of drugs and drinking to anything and everything to numb the pain,” said Tanner.
Tanner pinpoints October 2010 and Parker’s death as being “the worst downward spiral” that he had ever experienced. He said nothing else mattered.
“At that point, I was a snowball headed for hell. I fell in love with Percocet. They just numbed every feeling I had — life just seemed brighter when I was on them,” said Tanner. “I was really surprised how easy it was to just buy them on the streets. When I started getting them from anywhere I could find… the pills got stronger and I started doing more and more of them. I was working construction and I would work for a paycheck just to spend the paycheck to get high and then work to make enough to get me until the next paycheck and the next high.”
Tanner’s first run-in with the law came in 2011, but it wasn’t for drugs. He was 20 years old and arrested for driving under the influence. As part of his sentence for that DUI Tanner was placed on probation.
“I just couldn’t ever pass a drug test. So I kept getting violated and then ended up back in court,” said Tanner. “That is when the judge ordered me to a treatment facility.”
Tanner was ordered to spend three months in Goldsboro, North Carolina at DART Cherry. Now referred to as DART Center, Tanner received substance use treatment at the 300-bed residential treatment facility.
“That was the first time since I first started taking opiates in 2009 that I was able to not actually be physically dependent on drugs,” he remembered. “My addiction changed because I wasn’t physically dependent on the drugs, but I still wasn’t in the mindset to take the steps needed for recovery.”
Tanner recalls his first encounter with a Peer Support Specialist nearly 10 years ago while in treatment. He remembers immediately seeing the stark differences he saw in talking with the therapist right out of college that had never lived the same kind of life as him compared to the therapist who was a recovering addict.
“I think the problem at that stage in my life was that I never went to rehab to quit anything,” Tanner said. “I was there because the judge ordered me to be there. So when I got out, instead of getting sober, I just started substituting opiates for meth and more and more alcohol.”
Then in 2014 Tanner again found himself in trouble with the law — with a second DUI. Tanner was once again placed on probation and this time, he was able to follow the rules and had good check-ins with his Probation Officer Alise Sutton. He stayed clean all the way until his first daughter was born in 2017. Then he started to fail drug tests — being violated for both meth use as well as weed. He was working full-time — and had become a functioning addict — the people he was around at the time were living the same life he was— as functioning addicts — making it harder to see the problem with what the was doing.
“I was at work and got a call from DSS. They told me that due to something that happened, my daughter was being placed in emergency custody,” said Tanner. “That was a huge wake-up call. Looking back, I was really fortunate that my daughter was able to stay with family and didn’t end up in the system placed in a home with people she didn’t know, but at the time I wasn’t thinking that clearly.”
Tanner and his then-girlfriend did everything DSS asked them to do for the three-month time period that their daughter was in custody with a family member. They took all the classes, passed all the drug screens — and were a few days away from DSS terminating their case against the new parents — when Tanner’s family filed a civil lawsuit to keep custody of his daughter.
“The DSS case ended, but then with the civil suit, that started a whole other fight,” said Tanner. “It wasn’t long after that when my probation officer violated me for trying to cheat one of my drug tests. I went before a judge and he revoked the suspended sentence I was serving for my second DUI and ordered I served eight months in jail.”
The eight months Tanner spent incarcerated at the Macon County Detention Center in 2018 — 11 years after he first started abusing opiates — was when he had his first encounter with No Wrong Door— which he credits for “giving him his life back.”
Tanner said a couple of days after being sent to jail a Peer Support Specialist named Samantha visited the jail and he went to one of the classes — but buzzed the detention staff and left because he didn’t think it was for him.
“I don’t know if I just didn’t have my head on straight or if I just didn’t have all the drugs out of my system yet or not, but I just wasn’t ready then. But then a couple of weeks later they came back and from that point forward I never missed a class that No Wrong Door had while I was locked up,” said Tanner.
During his eight months in jail, Tanner took the Prime for Life Class offered to inmates and graduated with a certificate. He attended Narcotics Anonymous meetings, went to church services that were offered, and did everything else offered to him.
Tanner says he had sort of a “spiritual awakening” that helped him see clear — and sober — for the first time.
“Sitting in jail I had time to think and that is when I was Abel to see the bigger picture clearly for the first time,” Tanner said. “I remember thinking that Parker wouldn’t have wanted that for me. Parker wouldn’t have wanted me to be sitting in a jail cell — high because of the grief I held on to from losing him. Parker would want me to be right. He would want me to be better for my daughter. I had gotten to the point where everything had been taken from me and I just realized that if was ever going to have a chance to get those things back and to be in her life, that I had to be right. There isn’t a drug or a high worth missing out on the relationship I have with my daughter.”
Time in jail away from people he thought were friends helped him appreciate the help No Wrong Door offered him.
“When I was in jail Howard and the others at No Wrong Door kept telling me that when I got out, they would be there for me. So the very first place I went during business hours was No Wrong Door — and they were there just like they promised they were going to be,” said Tanner. “That first year clean was so lonely. The people in my life who I thought were friends weren’t friends at all. They were just trying to bring me down — so being at No Wrong Door it really helped to be around like-minded people with shared experiences.”
Tanner was living with his mom and working for a local timber framing company when Shelia Jenkins, Director of No Wrong Door asked him if he wanted to serve as a board member of No Wrong Door. Tanner jumped at the opportunity. A couple of months after that, Jenkins asked if Tanner would be interested in volunteering in the jail — to talk to inmates like him — and Tanner never hesitated. He changed his work schedule to work 4-10s so he could have Fridays free to volunteer in the jail.
With the help of No Wrong Door, Tanner started to earn back more and more time with his daughter through visitations until finally, his dad saw the real changes he had made and agreed to return full custody to Tanner. Both Tanner and his daughter’s mother share custody and remain clean and sober today.
After nearly a year of volunteering at No Wrong Door, in December 2021, Tanner fell and broke his hip. Nothing able to work his physical labor job for more than six months, Jenkins asked Tanner if he would consider taking the classes to become a Peer Support Specialist.
“I never thought that I would be here doing this… but now that I am doing it, there isn’t anywhere else or anything else that I want to be doing,” he said. “I have such a respect for this place and the power that it can give people. It gave me my life back and if the work I can do here can reach just one person… then it is all worth it.”
Taking a decade of addiction and loss, Tanner began his official work as a Peer Support Specialist — specializing in Detention Engagement.
Tanner goes into the Macon County Detention just about every day. On Monday he teaches a parenting class for female inmates a course called “Love & Logic.” The course focuses on techniques for taking responsibility, lowering stress level and building positive cause-and-effect scenarios with children. On Tuesdays, Tanner facilities a peer-led group within the jail that gives inmates an opportunity for whatever they need.
If it wasn’t for No Wrong Door, I don’t know where I would be today. It is because of them showing up like they told me they would — it is because of people like Detention Officer Costin Jiglau who told me point blank “Duvall, you are better than this. You know you come from good stock. You can be better and you need to get out here and show everyone you can be better” — it’s because of detention officers like Karen Afonso and Sheree Poling who saw ME, not an inmate, not a criminal, but ME — that I am doing what I am doing here today.”
Tanner said it took some time, but he even thanked his dad for what he did for his daughter and thanked his probation officer Alise Sutton for violating him and sending him to jail — which was a crucial part of Tanner’s recovery.
“If it wasn’t for them and what they did, and for my mom, grandma and the support of my wife Anna, who I married back in June — I couldn’t have made it through all of this,” said Tanner. “Everybody’s recovery pathway is different. Not-a-one is the same. That is why I make sure to let inmates know that at No Wrong Door we welcome any recovery pathways — anyone that wants to start that journey, we will help them find what works for them. There are 7 peers here and not one of us have the same story.”
For anyone looking to take the first step toward recovery — Tanner leaves you with this:
“What are you afraid of? What are you apprehensive about? If you can figure that out — pinpoint what is stopping you and how to overcome that — then you can get to the next step — and No Wrong Door is here to help you figure that out.”
For more information about No Wrong Door and the services offered, email firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or Tanner at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 828-349.3366.
Be First to Comment