Cook is an example of how heroin abuse can touch any family. His mother was a prevention specialist with the recovery service when Dusty began using drugs. He started with marijuana and alcohol, then left home after graduating at age 17, moving to Dayton.
His journey from there was downhill.
“When I walked away, at the age of 17, and decided to go out on my own, that was the start of a lot of pain and misery that was going to be self-inflicted,” Cook said. “I remember taking that first pill and thinking, 'Wow, this is the way that I think I should feel,' because I've always wrestled with anxiety. Part of my addiction was self-medication.”
At the age of 21, he was introduced to cocaine. It soon became his drug of choice. He was selling drugs to keep up on his habit, which brought him into contact with harder drugs, such as heroin, which eventually took over his life, he said.
“I found myself in major states of blackout, having major problems holding a job, having major problems with holding a relationship and being a father. It was starting to affect every area, every aspect of my life,” Cook said.
“Finally, things came to a head in Dayton. One night I was beaten, and left for dead at a park. I started really realizing. I had blacked out for 14 hours and I didn't even remember anything from the night other than leaving the bar and waking up in the hospital.”
It took several tries to turn around his life.
Cook first had a taste of success in his attempts to get clean in 2003, but only made it two years before relapsing, he said. He tried again in 2007 and it stuck. Even after being clean seven years, he said it's a daily battle.
“It's very easy to relapse. There are so many pitfalls. If you're not working on recovery, you're working on a relapse, it's that black and white,” Dusty said. “Either I'm moving forward or I'm heading backwards. You cannot stand still in recovery. “It's a very slippery slope. I just do what I need to do one day at a time. One day at a time has turned into seven years.
“It's important to remember that recovery is possible; the lie of 'once an addict, always an addict' should no longer be tolerated,” Cook said.
He is now working toward a career in prevention or chemical dependence counseling, he said, and is an intern at Darke County Recovery Services in Greenville.
Heather Meade may be reached at 937-548-3151 ext. 243. Follow me on Twitter @AdvocateHeather, or find me on Facebook. For more online features, visit advocate360.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.