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Drugs help Zach numb emotional wounds from his youth

Zach smiles in a portrait

When Zach looks back on his childhood, he sees a kid who had everything he needed, but who dealt with some challenges along the way. “I never went without, but I felt alone,” he said. “My dad treated me differently. I was the only son that was his (others were stepchildren). My dad spoiled me—everything I wanted I got. My younger sister would hold that against me. My dad was abusive to them, but he never spanked me at all.”

Also, Zach’s mom was in a wheelchair his entire life. “I would see kids with their moms, walking, doing things with their moms that I couldn’t do. I couldn’t go on a hike or a bike ride. It was hard on me as a kid.”

Zach liked school, made friends and played sports. “Everything was going all right until I was a teenager and my parents separated,” he said. “I moved in with my dad and he became a really bad alcoholic. He never did anything with me anymore. He’d just go out with his buddy and drink. That’s all he did.”

A couple years later, his parents got back together. “But everything went downhill pretty fast,” Zach said. “My dad told me in a Taco Bell drive-thru that he was cheating on my mom. I felt like I couldn’t tell her, that that would be breaking ‘man code’ and I resented him for it. There was a lot of emotional pain that came with that. I didn’t tell her for a year and a half. I wouldn’t come home sometimes. I didn’t want to see him. I needed to figure out how to take away that pain.”

When Zach was 18, he got into a dirt bike accident. He broke both of his legs and was prescribed painkillers. “As soon as I took those, my physical pain was gone, but so was my emotional pain. At first it wasn’t an everyday thing—and then I didn’t feel good without them.”

The habit got out of control, and at 21, when Zach had moved out on his own, his house was raided. His girlfriend was pregnant, and his son was born while he was in prison. “Knowing I wasn’t there because of my own stupidity, that had an effect on me,” he said. “We got our own place and I did AA. I did good for three years. Slowly but surely though, I started not putting my family first, my recovery first. I relapsed. As soon as I took the pills, it was over. I was introduced to stronger drugs, to heroin.

“I didn’t think I had a problem. I still had a job, a house, my girl, my son. But I didn’t really. We were arguing more. I got arrested again and I went back to jail. It became a cycle. She ended it with me. I said ‘Forget life,’ and went into (my addiction) all the way.”

Eventually, Zach had had enough. “I knew my way wasn’t doing it,” Zach said. “My family is hurting. I’m hurting my son. I have another kid on the way—a daughter with someone else. I knew God, but that was it. I knew people who had recovered, and they had God in their lives. In jail this last time, I talked to Chris (the Mission’s director).”

Zach got to the Mission in February. “I’ve been in and out of programs my whole life,” he said. “It’s not my first rodeo. But this time, I’m finally shutting my mind off and doing it someone else’s way.”

Zach has opened his heart to a relationship with God. “I didn’t know anything about the Bible. I’m learning a lot, and it’s sinking in. I know I need to pray a lot more, get into the Bible a lot more. I’m gaining tools, working on pride and patience, and being more humble.

“I have my family back in my life. I’m practicing the Bible. I feel happier inside, more motivated. My mind is at ease now, and I have acceptance. I just want to be there for my kids.”

Moving forward, Zach wants to be sober and clean, and have his son, now 6, back in his life. “I want to be the man I know that I am,” he said. “That guy I used to be is no good. I never want to go back to that guy I was before.”

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