‘We were 2 hopeless drug addicts society had written off. We were felons, dealers, thieves. Then, we found each other.’: Couple find hope, sobriety after years of addiction, ‘we are finally free!’

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“Hi, my name is Rich Walters. I’m a person who is in long-term recovery from drugs and alcohol. I’m from Parkersburg, West Virginia, I’m the oldest of 4 kids. I have 3 little sisters, and I come from a good home. I don’t come from a broken home. My mom and dad have been married for 41 years.

Growing up, I didn’t suffer any type of physical or sexual abuse. A lot of people in recovery have that story, it’s just not mine. I also didn’t feel ‘less than’ any of my peers. I was always a great athlete and excellent student, from the outside looking in you would’ve thought my life was going to be perfect, and it was, for a long time.

Courtesy of Rich Walters

At 13 years old, I started smoking weed, drinking alcohol, and smoking cigarettes. At first, I wasn’t excited about this new experience. I felt guilt, shame, and remorse because I had been warned time and time again. I grew up during the ‘just say no’ campaign. I didn’t take heed.

Shortly after experiencing the effects produced by drugs and alcohol, I found out that some of my friend’s parents were okay with us getting wasted in their houses. They didn’t care at all. That’s when I started to love getting drunk and high. I could go ahead and do them with no consequences whatsoever, no parent cared. By this time, I had already quit playing baseball and wrestling. I was a 3-sport athlete my whole life, the other sport was football. My dad was always my coach. He worked so hard with me my whole life to make me a champion. But I had found a new love; I absolutely loved getting high, selling drugs, and getting drunk. I was 14 or 15-year-old man. It’s hard to believe looking back.

Courtesy of Rich Walters

At 17 years old, I realized I had a problem. I’d wake up in the morning and my teeth would be violently chattering, and my body would be shaking from alcohol withdraws. But the consequences of that were nothing. I could smoke some weed and they’d disappear. I graduated high school and somehow managed to get the opportunity to play football for West Virginia University. I didn’t want to though, drugs and booze had already became the centerpiece in my life. I ended up on their team and played the whole year, but I didn’t report back the next year for camp. Through all of this, I didn’t stop going to college. After all, it was the perfect lifestyle for an alcoholic and drug addict to thrive, and so I ‘thrived.’ I was having the time of my life.

In 2004, I graduated from WVU, but the thing I left Morgantown with that stood out was alcoholism and a vicious cocaine addiction. I moved back home and couldn’t get to work. I couldn’t pass a urine screen to save my life. Shortly after moving home, I developed an addiction to pain medication; it completely took over my life. It was the first time I would experience being a slave to a substance.

My daughter was born in 2005 and I tried my best to be a good dad. But addiction had me whipped, and bad. I would spend the next 8 years in and out of her life because of my addiction. Then, 2006 happened. My Uncle Mike, who was one of my idols and role models for the majority of my life, shot himself in front of my grandfather. His suicide catapulted me into an insane crack addiction. This went on for years and years. I was a speed baller. I used opiates and speed, together, daily.

In 2011, I was arrested and raised for almost 400 grams of a research chemical known as MDPV. It’s a Chinese analog drug that mimics the effects of meth, only way stronger. I was then arrested multiple times over the course of the next few years from crimes stemming from distribution of narcotics, to violent crimes. My life was in shambles, how could this happen? I remember thinking to myself, ‘For God’s sake, I am a college graduate! It’s not supposed to be like this!’ How did this happen???

Courtesy of Rich Walters
Courtesy of Rich Walters

It continued to get worse and worse. Overdoses, violence, 80 pounds under weight. Just complete insanity. April 28th, 2014, by the Grace of God, I found myself in a treatment facility. I was 34 years old and I had nothing left but a few bent needles and a lifetime of regret. While I was at that center, I watched a man speak who changed the course of my life forever. I had a spiritual experience that literally rocked my world.

I hit the ground running in a 12-step fellowship and never looked back. Since that time, we’ve created a new fellowship and several new meetings. I’ve sponsored hundreds of men and helped guide them to God. I am the organizer of the walk against heroin, and this year we will be having our 5th annual. This is an event where thousands of people come to honor the brothers and sisters we have lost to overdose.

Courtesy of Rich Walters
Courtesy of Rich Walters
Courtesy of Rich Walters

Life hasn’t always been easy sober. I had bury my son’s mother, and my daughter’s mother, within 8 months of each other. But God helped me up, he showed me that no matter what life throws at me, I don’t have to fold. I don’t have to get weary and I don’t have to get loaded.

Roughly 2 years ago, I met a beautiful woman named Shay. Before this, we were two hopeless drug addicts that society had written off. We are felons, we were intravenous drug users, we were thieves, we were dealers, we were violent, we were outcasts in our own families. Simply put, we lacked human connection and most importantly we lacked God. We were terrible parents. We were beyond human aid. But God had other plans. He gave us grace, mercy, and favor. He gave us strength, clarity, and wisdom. He gave us life! And in it, we found each other.

Courtesy of Rich Walters
Courtesy of Rich Walters
Courtesy of Rich Walters

We got married on November 30th, 2019 (as a matter of fact, we just got back from our honeymoon). She’s been an angel sent by God. She’s truly amazing, and I’m a lucky man.

Courtesy of Rich Walters
Courtesy of Rich Walters
Courtesy of Rich Walters

Today we are amazing parents. We have a beautiful family and our kids are so beautiful. Today we are reconnected with our families. Today we are beacons of light in our communities. Today we have so much love and support it’s mind boggling. Today we are happily married. Today we are finally free! Never count someone out, never call someone worthless, and never write people off. They might just be the person that helps your loved one find a life of freedom. God uses broken people like Shay and I to help other broken people find peace!

Courtesy of Rich Walters
Courtesy of Rich Walters

 

Today, I have a social media platform called Rich Walters with over 300,000 followers, and she has a platform with over 300,000 followers called From Prison to Purpose. We spend our lives helping people get into treatment and off of the streets out of the crippling grip of addiction.

We have the best friends and family a human being could ask for. But most importantly, we have a true relationship with God. It has changed our lives forever. Recovery has given me a life beyond my wildest dreams. It is the best lifestyle you could ever imagine. If you’re on the fence about sobriety, ask yourself this: ‘Am I still having fun? Or am I just existing to get a fix?’ All of us had dreams and aspirations as children, and they’re still very real! It’s time to get off the merry go round of addiction and jump into the game of life. It’s time to put the sword down and stop fighting. You’ve been called to do something great in this world. You haven’t suffered all of this time for nothing, make it count. Use your story to help other suffering addicts avoid death and misery. You were called to be great! Now step in your purpose and thrive. It’s your destiny!”

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Courtesy of Rich Walters

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Rich Walters. You can follow her journey on Facebook and InstagramSubmit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read more about addiction and recovery:

‘Why bother? Nothing’s left.’ I was a washed-up, homeless junkie injecting meth into my arm.’: Veteran launches organization to end veteran suicide after battling addiction, ‘your life is worth living’

‘I’d be single and a virgin forever. ‘The boys called me ‘big girl.’ I’d never be able to be naked in front of a lover.’: Woman loses 115 pounds after drug addiction, traumatic childhood, ‘I regret nothing, I finally had an opportunity to blossom’

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