Former meth addict now giving back through ad campaign, counseling work

Sunday, November 29, 2009
Josh Palmer, a former meth addict, has gone from one of the spectrum to the other, turning his life around and seeking to help those who are battling addiction. (Staff Photo by George Anderson)

MALDEN, Mo. -- People can -- and do -- recover from meth addition. Such is the case with former Malden, Mo., man Josh Palmer.

Palmer, who got involved with methamphetamine at the age of 17, is now clean and sober and helping others, after having his life spiral out of control.

"I started getting high and drinking when I was 13," Palmer said. "I got involved with methamphetamine at the age of 17, and it wasn't log before I was making meth and selling meth.

"I didn't have a real grasp on reality. When I was 23-years-old, my mom was 41. She died with cancer, but I stayed high the whole time she was battling cancer because if I wasn't around her, I didn't think it was happening. And it wasn't happening, in my mind.

"Then I ended up homeless, my wife left me, and my kids were taken away from us."

Palmer, now 32, said it was at that point that he knew he had to do something to get his life back on track.

"When I realized that I was homeless, my mother had already died, my wife had left me, and my kids were gone, I just kind of gave up," Palmer said. "I said, 'There has got to be a better life out there.' I'm searching for it today. It is a lot better today."

Palmer said he began his path to sobriety by going through the Dunklin County Drug Court and by getting involved with faith-based meeting at Malden in April of 2004.

After becoming sober, Palmer said he got back with his wife and kids and began working in substance abuse counseling.

Palmer said the hardest thing he has had to face so far is his pending divorce after working to get his life back together.

"I decided to get clean and sober, and stay sober," Palmer said. "I did it for myself and my wife and kids were an extra benefit in that. But I guess facing this divorce and trying to understand why [is the hardest thing I[']ve had to face so far]. But I have a support system in place where I can call up on the phone and say, 'Hey, look. This is what is going on.' They pray with me and we talk about it and everything like that."

Palmer currently works for the Family Counseling Center, Inc., as a substance abuse counselor.

Palmer said he assists clients age 18-and-up from the Department of Corrections.

"There are a few of them that have stayed clean and sober and have gotten jobs and gotten their families back," Palmer said. "There are a few of them that are enrolled in college and have started college and are making changes in their lives."

He recently became known nationally after becoming involved with an anti-meth campaign through the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

"Judge [Phillip] Britt called me up and asked me if I wanted to do it," Palmer said. "I went through drug court, graduated drug court, and got into this field."

The campaign, which kicked off on Sept. 1, 2009, is scheduled to run through the end of November. Palmer said he has heard that the commercials are getting people's attention and has had a "good response so far." Palmer said he got into the campaign to try to "give hope" to those who feel hopeless.

"When I was using, I didn't believe there was any hope," Palmer said. "I thought everybody used and they just had not been caught. The whole key is about showing others and giving them hope and helping one another.

"I see it as if it can help one person change their lives, why else did I go through all the hell that I went through before if I can't use it today to help somebody."

Palmer has said the ads are worth the money because too often addicts don't know there is help for them.

The campaign, which promotes the Web site, will be available to nonprofit groups and local governments as public service announcements in 2010.

When asked if he plans to continue substance abuse counseling for a long time, Palmer said he plans to do so "until the Lord changes it."

"I believe that if there are more people out there that are willing to give their time and experience to help another person, the world would be a better place," Palmer said. "Instead of [people] being so selfish and so self-centered and 'It's all about me,' instead of the next person."

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