Getting beyond the stereotype, through the people in our community who are in an epic struggle to, as Derek, 27, says, “regain their humanity.”

I dream all the time of flying through a crib, hitting a wall, and seeing black. I told my mother about this dream and she said, “Well, actually your father was drunk one night while I was at Bingo and threw you out of your crib and you broke your left leg.”

My uncle was getting high one day and I think I had a toothache and he was like, “Here you are. This will make you feel better.” It was [OxyContin]. He crushed it up and said, “Breathe it through your nose,” and I actually snorted the pill at nine years old and I got high as s—. 

It progressed any way a normal drug addict would progress I guess, you start off soft and then you get harder with it. 

Nine to 12 was predominantly weed and alcohol. Then, when I hit 13, I started doing Percocet and Vicodin almost every other day. Obtaining drugs has never been a problem for me because everybody in my family is on some kind of painkiller. 

When I hit 16 I intravenously shot heroin for the first time.

You almost grow another person inside of your conscience and that person takes over you and controls every word that comes out of your mouth, your motor skills, your entire thought process. You may do things that you think are great ideas, 20 minutes later that person is crying in the corner because they just realized that those decisions are probably going to really screw up their life. 

I lived in dumpsters, train stations, ditches.  My main goal was to be high from the time I woke up until the time I fell asleep.

There’s probably just as much drugs in Knox County as there are in the entire city of Augusta. We have all these guys coming down from New York, California, New Jersey and they are all flooding our streets. 

I have been in well over 100 detoxes. I’ve been to 15 actual rehabs and I’ve done two halfway houses. Why didn’t it work? I didn’t want it enough. 

I had stopped heroin but was still drinking nonstop and taking Suboxone illegally. I was holding our baby in the hospital. Amanda looked at me and said, “You have two other kids, don’t f— this one up.” I kind of chuckled at her but then I really got thinking about it, and I was like, “Yeah, you’re right,” and I’ve been trying pretty hard since then. 

[Dr.] Ira Mandel’s services are amazing. He’s a really compassionate guy. Definitely in it for the right reasons. I have a Suboxone counselor who is awesome.

The [Hospitality House homeless] shelter is the reason I got all these connections. My case manager, Bill Meade, is very, very talented at what he does.  There is so much you can accomplish there. I’m doing a lot of the footwork myself, instead of focusing on what I’m going to do to get my next high. We just moved into our own apartment. I got my GED and my next course of action is getting some kind of grant to go to school for psychology and substance abuse counseling. I walk an hour and a half to work [full-time, overnight shift] every day, all to make a check for the kiddos and [Amanda]. My kids are my life.

This is the first period of my life I have remote clarity coupled with a real sense of pride.

To any high school kid out there thinking about doing drugs I say, “Focus on your math test, not getting high.”

Knox County Recovery Coach Program: 691-3697. Mid-Coast Recovery Coalition (for community members wanting to help): info@midcoastrecovery.org, 701-1181. To donate much-needed funds to the Hospitality House homeless shelter, call 593-8151.