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Former heroin addict  faces ‘my own kryptonite’

Updated: May 31, 2013 11:36AM

Doug Stvan had the look. His mom noticed his resemblance to the “Man of Steel” character. That’s why, when word came down a new movie about Superman would be shot in this area, a few suggested he try out as an extra.

But doing so meant Stvan had to face “my own kryptonite.”

To get to the casting call being held that June of 2011 on the West Side of Chicago, Stvan would have to drive through neighborhoods where for much of the last 12 years of his life he’d been buying and using heroin.

Just a few months clean — yet again — Stvan knew how tough it would be to enter those dangerous old haunts, where he’d been robbed at gunpoint and thrown from a car. Where this desperate suburban kids from a good home could easily buy the drug that he was fully aware could destroy him.

“But I knew I had to face it,” he said, because Stvan is convinced he’d found the power to beat this most mighty of foes.

In the beginning

Doug Stvan’s life began its downward spiral in 1999 when he snorted that first hit as a senior at Naperville North High School, experiencing “a supernatural feeling beyond anything I could ever imagine.”

His story contains most of the now familiar horrors associated with heroin: multiple overdoses, a series of arrests and felony convictions, jail, probation … and continual support from his family, even after letting them down time and time again.

Throughout this long ordeal, Stvan admits to stealing $100 a day — from retail stores to to his dad’s bank card to his mom’s jewelry and grandma’s cash — to feed his addiction.

Stvan overdosed for the first time in 2006 in a fellow addict’s house but was “brought back from death” by paramedics, he says. While he somehow managed to stay clean long enough to graduate from Northern Illinois University, countless rehabs only kept him from using for so long.

The latest attempt to get clean came in the winter of 2011 when he landed at Wayside Cross in Aurora. He hated it there but worked hard at the program “because I had something to prove.” After getting kicked out for an altercation with another resident, he ended up back home and overdosing yet again, this time in front of his mother.

Eventually, his past brushes with the courts caught up with him. Cops showed up at his folks’ doorstep that spring and arrested him. He was told he’d be going to prison, “the only bad thing I hadn’t experienced.”

It was while wearing an orange jumpsuit in a DuPage County jail cell that Stvan experienced “my most powerful epiphany from God.” The judge, for whatever reason, decided to reduce his bail and keep him out of prison. And it was while wondering just why God had decided “to spare me yet again” that the answer became clear. “Just like Paul was transformed instantly and chosen by God,” he says, “I feel very similar and extremely blessed.”

‘I could feel the evil’

It was only a few months later, in June of 2011, the casting call went out for the “Man of Steel” movie and Stvan knew “I had to face my kryptonite.”

“It was hard,” he said of that drive through those streets where heroin is sold so openly. “It felt like total darkness. I could feel the evil, the temptation.”

Stvan didn’t get any call backs to be in the movie. But that was hardly important. Two years clean and with just a half year left of probation, the 32-year-old marketing graduate now works at his father’s accounting firm, and for the first time, sees a future. But more than anything, he wants anyone and everyone to hear his story that has, at its center, an avenue of hope not often discussed in the media or heroin educational forums.

He owes his “gift of recovery” to Jesus Christ, and wants to help others beat their own demons. That’s why Stvan attends local heroin forums and speaks frequently at Wayside Cross and other church groups. It’s also why he watched with a profound sense of empathy when three Neuqua Valley High School grads —Jake Marquez, Peter Rundo and Jaymes Lindbloom — discussed their addictions on the “48 Hours” program aired Saturday night on CBS.

Heroin use in the suburbs was part of the two-hour “War in Chicago” special that also featured local parents talking about their children’s addictions, as well as a grim report from Coroner Pat O’Neil of Will County, where overdoses have increased over 200 percent between 2008 and 2012.

Stvan is happy this local scourge is getting national attention.

“Believe me,” he says to audiences in his testimonial, “there is no temptation more powerful or enticing than heroin.”

He likes to think of himself not as an addict but as “a new creation.” It’s faith, Stvan strongly believes, that made it possible for him to face that powerful pull on Chicago’s West Side and come out stronger than ever.

And now, he says, “all I care about is saving lives.”

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