Before 12-year-old Kayden Carlos started sixth grade, he experimented with alcohol.

Shortly after, he smoked marijuana with friends at a concert and got his first criminal citation. By 13, Carlos used cocaine regularly and had tried methamphetamines, ecstasy, and mushrooms. As a freshman in high school, he was able to support himself by dealing drugs around his neighborhood in Brigham City, Utah.   

“I began getting addicted to money by 16,” he said. “I wasn’t making much by just selling marijuana, and heroin looked like the best source for me to make a lot of money. So, I’d drive up to Salt Lake City and pick up large quantities of it and double or triple the profit in the little town I lived in – that was really appealing to me.”

Carlos’ magnetic personality allowed him to gather an extensive list of connections and earn more money than most adults employed by his school. But his criminal record was also extensive.

“I wasn’t really addicted to the drug,” he said. “I would use it every now and again but really, it was just the money that I was most concerned about.”

Carlos remembered around that time he had a first spiritual experience, which made him realize that although he was only 16, he had spent four years of his life intoxicated or high on different forms of substances – even while he was on probation.

“On probation, I looked for substances that I could get high on and that wouldn’t get me in trouble or show up on a test,” he said. “But after witnessing a miracle, I went through a repentance process and acknowledged that what I was doing was wrong.”   

After struggling with a heroin addiction for four years, Carlos fought to stay clean for almost four months – but he relapsed. “I had a bad day, struggling with school and everything,” he said. “I simply smoked some marijuana and that immediately put me back on the path of addiction. I realized I wanted money again and went back to selling. I got some charges; got locked up and when I got out, I went back to what I knew – selling drugs and getting high.”

By 18 years old, Carlos noticed a pattern in his life: Whenever he would stop using drugs, he’d relapse.

“Every time I failed and slipped up, I sank much deeper than I ever was prior, and at 18, instead of just selling, I was actually really addicted to heroin.”

A family affair

Drug addiction has always had a deep impact on the Carlos household, and the dynamic of the family was made up of different battles against dependence.

drug addict missionary
Kayden Carlos as a teenager and his mother Julie

“When I was 8 years old, we lost our home,” he said. “My mother and father split up by that point. My mother had struggled with a meth addiction herself. But she took me, my brother and my 18-year-old sister, and she had to try to fully support both me and my brother.”

Carlos said that the first time he understood what the word “hope” meant was when his mother, Julie, managed to get… (continue reading)