ALBANY, N.Y. -- Brendan Norton was 23-years-old when he fell down a flight of stairs. It appeared to be a small accident but it led to some serious injuries.
Norton broke his tibial plateau and severe an artery, which put him in the hospital for two months.
"I’ve had a total of 19 surgeries,” said Norton, who lives in Saratoga Springs.
He was prescribed opiates to treat the physical pain he was suffering. But Norton says the serious injury made him feel helpless so he started to use the medication for emotional pain as well.
“Watching all my friends become successful, have careers, get married, have kids, and here I was 25 or 26 years old at this point I’m still living back at home with my mom," Norton said. "It was a lot.”
He says that is when his addiction began. However, access to opiates was always available. So Norton never turned to the streets, dodging heroin.
But in May 2012, Norton's wife gave him an ultimatum: Get help or get out. He enrolled in a 12-step program to help cure his addiction.
“I loved my wife. She has always been supportive of me," Norton said. "So I didn't want to lose that.”
This week marked three years of staying clean for Norton. He also graduated from SUNY Buffalo with a master's degree in December.
Earlier this month, Norton started working for Prevention Council of Saratoga County. That's where another opportunity arose, a chance to attend the State of the Union.
“You can’t pass up an opportunity like this, not just to go to the State of the Union Address but to share my voice as a message of hope and recovery,” Norton said.
Norton will be Congressman Paul Tonko's guest. Tonko says he wants to put a face on this epidemic, which is why he asked Norton to attend.
“These are family members, our loved ones, our friends, our neighbors, our communities, our schools that are impacted," Tonko said.
Norton hopes this experience will allow him more opportunities to share his journey. He says if his story and message can save one life, then it's worth telling.
“It’s a very difficult struggle but it’s something that can be won," Nortons said. "It’s a battle that can be won.”