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“I’m a recovering addict, but I’ve been sober seven years,” said Will Smoot, standing before more than 150 of his neighbors, family, friends and strangers last week.
The crowd broke into applause.
Smoot started to speak, but had to choke back tears as he told of his downward spiral into heroin addiction; a story that he had never publicly shared.
Smoot shared his story as part of a Town Hall Meeting held on Sept. 26 at Grant County High School, which was sponsored by Champions For A Drug Free Grant County, in response to a growing heroin epidemic in the community.
Smoot, 33, of Crittenden, grew up in a Grant County home with two hard-working parents, one a teacher and one a chemist. He was surrounded by family and went to church. He had a large group of friends and enjoyed spending his free time with them.
“The year before I started high school, I smoked marijuana,” Smoot said. “For the next four to five years, I couldn’t function unless I was high and I stumbled through life.”
As Smoot’s story unfolded, Grant County High School’s auditorium was quiet, despite a mix of children and adults in the crowd.
Smoot said he managed, for a while, to live a double life, even having friends who did drugs and friends who did not, but as the addiction consumed him, he fell farther into a hole.
“I stole money from my parents on a regular basis,” Smoot said. “I lied, I cheated and I did some really bad things to some really good people. The biggest mistake I made was turning my back on the people who loved me and wanted to help me. At that point in my life, I was worthless.”
Smoot said his addiction started when he was 21 and began taking prescription medication for an injury.
“The doctor prescribed it, so I thought it was OK,” Smoot said.
Smoot said his relationship with his parents had been good, until the drugs.
“My dad means more to me than anyone and I fought with him one day because he wouldn’t give me a ride to Cincinnati to get drugs,” Smoot said.
“After a while it rules your life and you think about it from the time you wake up until you go to sleep,” he said. I’d do anything for that next fix. My whole life revolved around how I was going to get high.”
Smoot even overdosed on heroin and said within an hour of getting out of the hospital, he went out and got high again.
This pattern of behavior continued until Smoot’s dad told him he wanted his son back.
That’s when Smoot decided to get clean.
He found a methadone clinic in Indiana and that’s where he put his life back together.
It took him eight years. Often times, his mother drove him daily to the clinic for treatment.
Smoot’s life looks different today than it did in the drug-induced haze.
He’s been working the same job for five years, he met and married his wife and they have a 4-year-old daughter. Last year, the couple built a new home.
“My wife makes sure I stay clean,” he said. “I have a beautiful daughter. The most important thing, I found God in my life.”
The crowd broke into applause and a chorus of “amens.”
Smoot said he has made peace with his choices, but it’s the next generation he’s concerned about.
“We have to change the way we are as a society,” he said. “Bibles aren’t allowed in school, but go down the road to the jail and they want you to read the bible, that’s got to change,” he said, to another round of applause and amens from the crowd.
“I’ve made a lot of bad decisions and lost a decade of my life to addiction,” Smoot said. “All it took was one time to try it and I was addicted. I’ve heard teenagers say the first drug they tried was heroin and that’s not what I want my daughter to face.”