Genetics play a major role in the way one’s body responds to (and processes) drugs and alcohol. However, something that plays just as big of a factor is the home or environment one is raised in. 

In fact, many experts believe howyou were raised could play a bigger role in forecasting your vulnerability to substance abuse addiction.

Remarkably, for Talon Burke, he had to overcome both genetics and a less-than-perfect home environment to break that cycle.

“My parents had me when my dad was 15 and my mom was 17,” he said. “They never married. They lived with my grandmother for a couple of years until I was one, then they split from each other. I went with my mom until she couldn’t care for me any longer.”

Talon’s parents both battled sever addictions to drug and alcohol for years – to the point where they had to give Talon up to foster care at the impressionable age of five. 

“I lived with my foster family for about a year, then my dad regained custody of me and I lived with him for a little bit until my dad and stepmom got a divorce,” Talon said. “My dad wasn’t able to care for me again, so dropped me off at my grandmother’s house, who formally adopted me at age 7. That’s when my dad went to prison on drug charges.”

As for Talon’s mom? He had no idea. There was no relationship. Talon’s father was eventually released when he was 14, but life moved forward, everything had changed and the bulk of the damage was already done. 

“I always struggled with school,” Talon said. “Until my freshman year of high school, that is. That’s when I joined the football team. It was the best thing I ever did for myself. I started working out and loved every second of it. I found peace and refuge in the weights.”

Talon gained All-State honors in football while also lettering in wrestling and track. He credits powerlifting with getting him through high school. 

“After high school I moved to Cedar Rapids with my best friend to go to college,” Talon said. “Until I got a call that my mom was in the hospital on life support from a drug overdose, and that she wasn’t going to make it. She passed away on Mother’s Day.”

Unfortunately for Talon, the pain would get worse. 

“My great grandmother, who was my best friend, passed away in November of that year,” he said, fighting back tears. “That hurt me a great deal. Just a few days later, I got a call that my father died. I was absolutely broken; I didn’t know how to keep moving on. I battled depression and anxiety a great deal for the next two years.”

Sometimes there isn’t any clear answer for how to get over pain and heartbreak; you just have to keep moving forward. Talon says that he drew inspiration and motivation from APEMAN as he rekindled his passion and love for powerlifting. 

Ultimately, that’s what got him back on the right track. 

“I’ve been following APEMAN for a long time,” he said. “I love every shirt and mantra. It has greatly motivated me to become better in my everyday life and to be the best powerlifter I can be. It’s helped my entire small family, too. APEMAN has helped me see that family and friends are the most important and incredible people in our lives, and we all need someone to lean on and pick us up when we can’t pick ourselves up. It’s helped me to be kind to others no matter what and to treat every person I meet with kindness and respect – you never know what others are dealing with in their life.”

Along with his grandmother and girlfriend, Talon recently moved to Arizona and started going to American Raw Fitness gym. And while his grandmother is battling cancer, Talon says he couldn’t be any more optimistic for the future. 

In fact, that newfound hope is represented through a tattoo of a rising Phoenix on his shoulder that signifies the second chance that Talon was given in life. 

“I just want to thank APEMAN,” Talon said. “I’m happier and more excited than I’ve been in a long time. The future is bright.”