Composing life without drugs: A Knoxville pianist's story of addiction
A piano echoes sounds of hope inside Emerald Avenue United Methodist Church Monday. The man behind the keys didn't always have that hope.
Kristopher Rucinksi played the piano since he was 10 years-old. Music took the center stage of his young life.
"For many years, music had been the most important thing in my life," he told WVLT's Robert Grant.
Music was his healthy addiction. As he said, "everyone has a favorite song."
"It's universal, we can all relate to it," he said. Just like many know someone effected by drugs. The opioid epidemic is slowly becoming universal. Tennessee's Department of Health released numbers from overdose deaths in 2017. It's the highest ever recorded across the state.
Rucinksi was a fortunate statistic; he survived addiction. At 17 years-old his father passed away. Drugs gave him a feeling of peace in a tough time.
"Literally the only thing I was concerned with was how am I going to get my next fix," he said.
Drugs gave him a feeling he soon couldn't live without. His music took a backseat. "It was all day every day and it was the most important thing in my life," he said.
After several years, his addiction progressed to the point where the Knoxville man lost everything -- his home, his money, even his piano.
"It was no longer center stage for me."
On January 27, 2006, his life took a turn for the better. Rucinksi said he hit rock bottom and the drugs weren't giving the lift he needed.
"This was life or death," he said. "It didn't have to be like this."
He later rediscovered hope in the piano once again. Now, Rucinksi is a composer and music teacher. His songs tell a story.
"It's a story of adversity -- like we all experience in our lives." It's a story he is sharing Sunday at Emerald Avenue United Methodist Church. A concert will raise awareness from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. It is free for attendees, but organizers will take donations for Tennessee Overdose Prevention.