Twenty years ago, I saw it happen to a family member.
He had always been prone to addiction and his use of marijuana and other drugs had stunted his education, his career and his personal life. But once he got hooked on methamphetamine, all of those other drug habits seemed almost trivial.
He was in his early 30s then, with a wife and three kids, but he withdrew from all of them. Stopped going to his kids' games. Stopped going to church and to work. Stopped showing up for dinner. Then stopped coming home at night altogether.
His family didn't see him for weeks at a time. He was living wherever meth was cooked. His body, mind and soul were wasting away. He did shameful, unspeakable things to himself and others.
At least once, he found himself staring down the barrel of a gun when a meth party went wrong. At other times, the police were closing in and he escaped arrest by seconds.
Finally, he hit rock bottom. He had no money. His health was shot. He had ruined all of his relationships.
But he had a family who, despite everything, still cared deeply about him. They helped him check into a rehab center.
It took several weeks to beat the physical addiction and to become strong enough to face the things he had done and move ahead with his life. He felt intense guilt and shame and remorse.
He also realized that the addiction is never really beaten, that he could easily end up on the floor again of some god-forsaken house with chaos swirling all around him. He can still smell death closing in.
Family and God saved my relative from an early, undignified death. He turned to the Bible to guide his soul and help him resist the temptations of meth. He still reads the Bible every day, still falls to his knees to thank God and beseech Him to give the strength to keep the inner demons at bay.
He's been clean for 20 years, but he knows that he could tumble headlong into the drug-abuse abyss any day when weakness and opportunity intersect.
His battle with meth took place a long time ago in a state far away. Today, thousands in Madison County are fighting a losing battle against the drug. Our county, according to police statistics, has among the worst meth problems in the country.
At The Herald Bulletin, we're working on a special report to detail the local meth scourge, how it arose, what's driving it and what can be done about it.
If your life or that of a family member has been derailed by meth, please consider sharing your story with us. You may contact me (see below) or reporter Jack Molitor at email@example.com or 640-4883.
Editor Scott Underwood's column appears Mondays. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @THBeditor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 640-4845.