Addiction is described as an insidious disease that steals from families, health, freedom and too often, lives.
For those who don't suffer from addiction, the answer is simple - DON'T DO DRUGS.
SPECIAL SECTION: Stories on the increase use of opioids in the U.S.
Richard Weathers who grew up in what he called "severe poverty" wishes he'd listened to that simple advice, especially when he went out on his own at just 13-years-old.
"My father was in prison and my mother raised six of us and I hit the streets early and began using drugs and alcohol," Weathers said.
He eased the pain of growing up on the streets with drugs. Any drugs.
"I was addicted to heroin. I was addicted to opiates. I was addicted to methamphetamine. Anything I could get to change the way I felt," he said. "It's a feelings thing. We don't want to feel whatever trauma, whatever abuse we went through, and so we try to disguise that any way we can."
Weathers' drug problem got him kicked out of the army. He spent four decades in and out of prison, living on the streets, always chasing that next high.
"I wanted to stop for years but I just couldn't do it. The drug had me."
Drugs may have "had" him, but he didn't want to spend any more time behind bars.
"I just knew I didn't want to die in prison."
So, Weathers admitted he had a problem and reached out for help.
"When I did discover that I could make it without it, the growing process began," he said. "I laugh a lot of times that my birthday was March 28 of '08."
At the age of 57, Weathers earned his degree. He's now a drug counselor and shares his story with addicts like himself.
"Not just junkies. They're brothers. They're sisters. They're uncles.They're moms. They're dads," he said. "I want to be the best example I can be so that somebody else can say, 'You know what? If he can do it, living under a bridge and then coming out…"
Weathers works on his recovery every day and hopes his experience gives strength and hope to other addicts.
"I just look forward to the next eight years, because being sober is the best thing ever. I can't believe I wasted so much time, I could've been doing this"
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