When I think of Northeast Arkansas, I remember flashes and snippets from my childhood—Daddy’s cotton fields, Spence’s Store with icy Grape Soda, summer revivals at Brinkley Chapel.
Life was never perfect, but life was more than good.
Of course Northeast Arkansas has changed since I was a kid in the 1970s. Many storefronts are empty, rice fields outnumber cotton patches, and mosquitoes swarm thicker than lightning bugs.
A new Super Wal-Mart opened last year on the outskirts of Osceola. That was exciting.
Even with all the inevitable changes, I like to imagine home is the same. Our house still sits off Highway 140, and the same paperback books line the shelves of my bedroom. But there’s a dark side now—a burning black undercurrent that wasn’t prevalent when I was a kid.
Meth has spread like cancer through many rural areas of the country including Arkansas. Especially Arkansas.
Meth is cheap and available and can be manufactured in the back seat of a car, in a hotel room, A N Y W H E R E. A well-equipped Breaking Bad lab is no longer needed for the “Shake and Bake” coke bottle method. Ingredients are common. Crystal meth recipes can be found on the internet…
The problem is real and impossible to ignore. According to the DEA, Arkansas is one of the top three methamphetamine-producing states in the nation based on per capita figures. Instantly addictive meth seduces with feelings of invincibility and endless energy that quickly give way to paranoia, depression, and physical deterioration. We’ve all seen the lifeless pictures of rapidly aging addicts… Meth leads to crime, stroke, death. And here’s a sobering statistic: almost 11 million people have tried meth at least once.
Meet Ashlie. Ashlie Wilson is a day-by-day recovering meth addict. She lives in Lepanto, a little town just a few miles down from our farm in Northeast Arkansas. I don’t know Ashlie’s entire story, but what I do know is worth sharing.
120 days ago today, Ashlie summoned the strength to walk away from meth and her meth lifestyle. And she was heavily invested—cooking, dealing, using. She had reached rock bottom having lost her children, her will to live, everything. “Meth took me to places I never knew I could go. I got higher than high, and went lower than low.”
I don’t personally know Ashlie, yet I feel a connection. We have mutual friends and family, and although we followed drastically different paths, we call the same place home.
You’ll feel a connection too as you follow Ashlie’s inspirational journey documented on Facebook and told in her haunting, honest voice. Her comments are raw, her posts full of joy and optimism. She is grateful for a second chance (or third chance, or whatever chance she is living).
Day 116. I am so excited to be only 4 days away from my next monthly goal. I will be meth free for 4 months. So that is a very good thing… I am feeling a bit under the weather so today is probably going to be a short post. This just goes to show that not everyday in recovery will be spent feeling like you are on top of the world. I feel like I am coming down with the crud that has been going around. Yuck is all I can say about that. It is down days like these that only months ago, I would for sure use me feeling ill as an excuse to use. That is why I am so thankful that I was able to have a few months of sobriety under my belt before I got the bug that seems to be attacking everyone. …I haven’t once thought about the ole “quick fix”. Meth would for sure take all my aches and pains away, but the residual effects would be far to great to ever recover from. You see, that is one thing that addicts always want and that is a quick fix to every problem. They seek instant gratification so to speak. And meth gives you that, temporarily. After only a short period of time a person knows just how big of a mistake that they had made. I am so thankful to have been growing stronger in my recovery. I now know that getting high will fix my pain at this very moment, but down the line the pain will be ten fold. That makes me feel better just knowing that I am able to know the difference. I would rather sit here in pain for the rest of my life, than make the fatal mistake of using meth to numb any kind of pain. So today I will view as a test. Just to see if I would allow that ole demon meth to re-enter my life. Well the answer is “HELL NO”. In a way I feel a lil better just being able to vent. And to prove to myself that I have changed and that I am better…
Second chances are a good thing. One day at a time, Ashlie…
Grace Grits and Gardening
Morning Has Broken, Cat Stevens
“Because this is what I believe – that second chances are stronger than secrets. You can let secrets go. But a second chance? You don’t let that pass you by.”
― Daisy Whitney