While their backgrounds, beliefs and battles are all different, their stories are very similar.
“I overdosed a couple years ago, I was in the hospital on my deathbed,” said Josh Gibson, who has now been sober nearly three years. “They told my ma to plan my funeral. I got out of the hospital after four months, did it all over again, got hospitalized like four more times.”
Methamphetamine took control of Josh Gibson early on and didn’t let go.
“When the methamphetamine started, it was glass,” said Chad Zwiefel, now nearly two years sober. “I remember doing it the first time, and then it was work, work, work, work and go, go, go and everything was good then, you know?”
Zwiefel was hooked on meth at 19 – the first spark of a non-stop 25-year habit.
“Before it was methamphetamine, it was crank, fluff, people were making it, you know? Nitrous ammonia was around and that’s when it started. It grabs you, and before you know it, 20 years have gone by. Four relationships, four kids, you know it’s just, I look back and it was fast, a blur,” Zwiefel said.
A similar story for Belinda Mercer who first tried meth at 16.
“I didn’t really know what it was,” Mercer, now 18 months sober, said. “I just tried it and I was completely addicted. It just became something to use.”
Another common thread between the three – a breaking point.
“2014 is when everything fell apart,” Zwiefel said. “I lost my place, I was like $6,000 behind on rent, My place is getting towed out of there, I’ve lost everything. I went and stayed at a buddy’s house, that just about wrecked our friendship. I wore out my welcome there, next thing you know I’ve got no place to go.”
“My lowest moment was my children,” Mercer said. “I put my children through a lot that I now don’t regret, but I wish they never would have had to go through it. I can’t go back, but I can definitely go forward with them.”
From then on, every day is a step forward, a step in the right direction, a step out of addiction – until the inevitable misstep.
“I was actually clean for 10 years and I just went back to it,” Mercer said. “I was selling everything possible to get it.”
“What I did wrong was hanging out with that crowd,” Zwiefel said. “I let all them people go, but then I had one buddy that I had to hold on to cause I felt for him. He was in his addiction. I went out there to try to tell him I was worried about him and he needed to get some help. Two weeks later, we’re doing dope together.”
Sobriety is a series of stepping stones as these three walk down the road to recovery.
“I’m not getting my life back, I’m just learning how to live for the first time at 31-years-old,” Gibson said.
“You don’t ever have it, recovery’s gonna be the rest of your life,” Zwiefel said. “You don’t have (anything) but a disease. You gotta let go of the people. It’s just, let go of the people, the lifestyle, all that you know? I don’t think there’s a right and a wrong way. The main thing is don’t use. Keep trying to do the next right thing and stay honest, and I think things fall into place.”
“Even on my biggest struggling days, I have 1,000 people I could call, just to get that help,” Mercer said. “There’s always someone there to help you, someone to always lend a hand, someone always to listen, and never give up. It doesn’t matter what you’re going through, there’s someone always there to help.”
After all, healing requires helping.
“I would just love to continue walking a journey beside someone else to help them through it,” Mercer said.
Even if it’s something as simple as sharing their story.
“Don’t give up, don’t give up,” Gibson said. “Whatever you’re going through now only adds to your story. If you’re still upright and breathing, it’s only a comma it’s not a period mark. Life goes on.”