Soon, he’d left his wife and moved in with another woman in Elba, Alabama. Joshua’s apatite grew from regular methamphetamine usage to include marijuana, cocaine, alcohol and virtually anything he could access. He was regularly selling drugs as well, not to make ends meet, but to ensure the insatiable flow of substances into his system.
“I was using a quarter of an ounce of dope per day,” he said. “That was just to maintain my habit. I knew that I was on the verge of death at that point. I was shooting up and my blood was like molasses. I knew something was wrong. I tried to stand up and I’m pretty sure my heart stopped beating because I blacked out.”
Later that same evening, Josh was questioned by police when loitering in a convenience store parking lot. While the authorities ran his information through the system, worry gave way to panic when he remembered that he had nearly five grams of meth hidden in his clothing. “The cop said I had electronic warrants out and told me to stay put,” he recalled with wide eyes as if reliving that night. “When he walked back to his car, I reached in, grabbed the dope and swallowed it so they wouldn’t find it on me. Honestly, I wanted to get rid of it, but I’d also had enough at that point. I still had my phone and I called my wife and told her to call the jail and tell them I was suicidal.”
Joshua was charged with trafficking after selling drugs to a confidential informant the month prior. The seriousness of the matter as further compounded by bond revocations that would thread back seven months. At the station, Joshua tried to choke himself and after being resuscitated by an officer, he was placed on suicide watch. “My mug shot is me sitting in the chair strapped down,” he said. After a month in jail, Joshua went before a judge and asked to go to rehab. The court approved the Mission’s Active Recovery program. During the first week, he admits that his primary motivation for sticking with the training was prison avoidance. All of that changed, however, after his wife and daughters came to visit.
“That’s when it sunk in, that after everything I’d put my wife and kids through, they were still willing to stand behind me if I got my stuff straight,” he said in a calm voice. “I knew at that point that I had two choices. I could do this for me, for the real reason, and get my life straight. Or, I could do it for some other fake reason and wind up back on drugs. I’m just tired of losing everything.”
The road to redemption is often one slowly paved. The early interactions from his family were more acts of kindness, support, and perhaps sympathy rather than intentional mile markers to trust or a new beginning. Two months of seeing Joshua’s physical and emotional improvement, however, his wife knew he was making progress toward a better life and ultimately forgave him for the horrible mistakes in the past.
“The hardest pill to swallow was seeing my kids forgive me after leaving them,” he recalled with painful clarity while slowly nodding his head. “I had to apologize to them first, but they forgave me. If the roles were reversed, I don’t know if I could have done the same. It’s all God.”
A big turning point in the Active Recovery program came when Joshua realized he was triggered simply by conversations about drugs. In fact, things got so bad during class conversations that he’d often fight the urge to leave just to find peace in the quietness of a bathroom stall. A life riddled with addiction from the age of 12 is one worn to the core with chemical dependency and its aftershocks.
“It was really hard for me,” he said remembering one intense session. “They were just talking about it like you have to. But my palms started sweating and I started shaking. I started to feel like I would right before using. But I knew I had to go through that so I could learn the tools I needed to fight that urge in the future. That’s why I’m able to talk about my past now, because it’s my past.”
Joshua is dedicated to trying to live the life he knows he was always capable of living. He confessed that having people at the Mission “rooting” for him to do better as a person has also served as fuel for progress. “If they see something great in me, I gotta find what they’re seeing,” he said.
“I have three daughters and they are getting close to dating age,” he offered with a reluctant grunt and mild laugh. “I want them to be like, ‘I want to be with someone like my daddy.’ I want them to be proud of their daddy and not ashamed of me. It’s nothing but God and the Jimmie Hale Mission that we’re back together as a family.”
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I would love to raise money for the Rhonda Neil Room. She lived and worked at Jessie’s Place for years. I would love to send fundraising to your direction, but I also know she stood for the hurting and homeless, so I could also do a similar drive to help other agencies. I just feel that a placard to honor her, especially if I come up with the funds I’d worthwhile.