WHEN Kyra Dawson and Hunter Shepard began talking to each other online, they had an instant connection.
Despite Kyra, 27, living in Loughton, Essex, and Hunter, 26, in West Virginia, the couple say it was their similarities that brought them together.
However, it wasn’t an interest in music or a love of Mexican food that the couple shared, but a dark and dangerous addiction.
Kyra’s drinking has spiralled out of control at the age of 15 and she deteriorated after the death of her adopted mum Marie 12 years later.
And 5,000 miles away Hunter was battling his own demons having become hooked on crystal meth, heroin, and spice at an early age.
Now 26, the former drug-addict also had a violent past landing him with several prison sentences.
However, Kyra, who is now expecting a baby with Hunter, was not detered.
Speaking exclusively to Fabulous, she said: “I had a really bad past so it wouldn’t be right for me to judge him.
“It actually made us very close because we shared that thing in common.
“We just had an instant connection. We didn’t even think about the distance between us. We just started talking and then we started getting feelings for each other.
“It just works, anything can work out if you work hard enough for it.”
Kyra’s own battle with addiction began in her teens when underage drinking with pals quickly took a dangerous turn.
She explains: “I was about 15 when I started drinking.
“I was drinking way more than my other friends. I was drinking vodka while they were drinking alcopops.
“I didn’t know that I had a problem but I was hiding bottles of vodka around the house.
“As I got older the drinking only got worse and I began self-harming.”
It was the death of Kyra’s adoptive mum when she was 25 that brought Kyra’s addiction to a head.
“My mum passed away when I was 25 and that’s when the drinking got really bad.
“I began dabbling with drugs and after a suicide attempt I ended up in hospital.
I didn’t know that I had a problem but I was hiding bottles of vodka around the house
“My mum was really special to me, so when she passed away I just felt like my whole life was over.
“But I realised I couldn’t live like that anymore and I know that my mum wouldn’t want me to ruin my life.
“She took time out of her life to adopt me and she wouldn’t want me to ruin that.
“I ended up going to meetings and joining an addiction group on Facebook and that’s how I met Hunter and my life changed from there.”
Hunter’s addiction began in a similar way to Kyra’s when he began dabbling with drugs in the hope to ‘fit in’ as a teen.
Speaking to Fabulous he explains: “Growing up I was chubby, I had this weird haircut, my teeth were all crooked, I was just different you know, so I was bullied.
“When I turned 12, I began experimenting with weed and alcohol. I was just trying to find a way to fit in.”
But while Hunter’s peers were using the drugs socially he quickly became hooked and at just 12 he was arrested for violent behaviour.
“Being arrested only made me even more different from everybody else and only fuelled my addiction,” he explains.
By the age of 16, Hunter had spent a year in jail and by the age of 19 he had moved on to using both heroin and the formerly legal high spice before graduating to meth once the latter became illegal in the US.
His addiction left him sleeping in his car in the carpark of a McDonalds for months on end, and was forced to rob people in order to fund his addiction.
Hunter had continuous stints in rehab where he would gain weight and become sober, happy and healthy.
I was defeated and I was willing to do anything to feel better
But continuous set-backs would see Hunter fall back into addiction in a vicious cycle.
“I was powerless over it,” Hunter explains.
“I had five months clean and I was in California and I decided to move home to West Virginia and I lost my job and I lost my girlfriend in the matter of a week.
“It was the perfect combination for me to relapse.”
Hunter claims that he was spiked with a synthetic drug called Flakka which saw him take a turn for the worse.
“I blacked out for three days straight and my parents took me to the hospital,” he said.
“When they took me home they helped to wash and bathe me and even feed me, they took care of me like I was a baby.
“But I continued to get high.
“As my dad dropped me off at the airport the last thing he said to me was ‘do you want to be buried or do you want to be cremated?’ Realistically those were my only options
“That hit me hard.”
Hunter, who is already a dad to a daughter from a previous relationship, said it was the thought of his kid that helped him get well.
“I realised I wanted to be a dad and I wanted to give her the life that she deserved and I didn’t want to die,” he explains.
“I was defeated and I was willing to do anything to feel better.”
After spending time in a treatment facility, Hunter eventually began attending NA meetings and found a sponsor who pushed him towards recovery.
You only get so much life anyway you don’t want to waste it suffering
“Abstinence, eating right, going to the gym, this was the perfect mixture for my recovery” he says.
Hunter, who has now been clean for almost three years, then began using the same online recovery group as Kyra.
“We understood each other automatically,” he said, “She might not know exactly what I’ve been through and vice versa but we have shared those struggles.
“I was very straightforward about the stuff that I’ve done, and that’s not who I am now and she understands that.”
Hunter and Kyra were together for three months before finally meeting in the UK and shortly after arriving in October he popped the question.
And the fiances are now expecting their first baby together which is due to arrive in June next year with mum-to-be Kyra admitting she’s “really excited.”
The dad-to-be is currently staying with Kyra in Essex, but the couple are undecided about where they will live permanently and are in talks about their future.
Meanwhile Hunter is now working for a recovery helpline so that he can help others to become sober.
He adds: “It takes work.
“People like to procrastinate when it comes to getting help, but addiction is so deadly.
“You only get so much life anyway you don’t want to waste it suffering.”
You can follow Hunter's recovery journey on Facebook
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