Josh Laws — From heroin to hope
When now 36-year-old Josh Laws was a junior at Pisgah High School, he knew he had a major problem as he sat at his desk early one morning drinking tequila out of a Mountain Dew bottle.
“I got up from class to go to the bathroom, and was so drunk that I stumbled down the wrong way in the hall,” Laws said, noting he was expelled from school that day for being intoxicated.
He believes he became addicted so young because alcohol was introduced to him at age 13 when he drank a beer while fishing and ginseng-digging with a family member.
By 17, he was a full-blown alcoholic.
He quit school altogether before his senior year to work in the floor covering business and, at 18, tried cocaine.
“That first experience gives you such a euphoric feeling, but it never feels that way again, so you are always chasing that first high,” said Laws.
His “chase” sped him down the road from cocaine to pain pills, meth and heroin. Within months, the price tag for his drug addiction ranged from $600 to $800 daily.
To make that level of money, he bought drugs, sold drugs and stole, all in a desperate attempt of achieving his next high. He watched fellow drug-users lose their vehicles, homes, families, and heartbreakingly, even their own lives.
“It’s not just a mental thing — I was physically dependent on the drugs," said Laws. "I wanted to quit, but after three or four days of not having the drugs, I was so horribly sick and the urge to use again was so powerful that I would get tired of fighting the urge, because it’s easier to get high and not feel sick."
A deal with God
That vicious drug cycle lifestyle resulted in Laws being arrested 40 times and spending five years total in jail between the ages 22 to 34.
In 2014, he was arrested again. Classified as a habitual felon, he was looking down the barrel at serving 12 to 14 years in prison, which got his attention. He was tired of seeing his girlfriend, Amanda, and her daughter, Adecyn, through a piece of plexiglass during visitation.
So there, in his Haywood County jail cell, he made a pact with God.
“I prayed and told God that if he could get me out of this, I would make it my life’s mission to stay clean and do his work and help other people in my shoes,” said Laws.
Two weeks before Christmas 2014, a jailer suddenly stopped by his cell and cheerfully said, “Pack your stuff — you’re going home.” His $100,000 bond was dropped and a 12-year sentence was knocked down to 180 days.
“That just doesn’t happen,” he said. “It was by far the best Christmas present I’ve ever received.”
A new life
In his first determined step to fulfill his end of his pact with God, he immediately made a doctor’s appointment and began taking Suboxone, a prescription medication used to treat drug-dependent adults, which Laws calls a “miracle drug.”
“It blocked the craving for drugs out of my mind,” he said.
Currently, he feels like a new man.
Two years and three months clean from alcohol and drugs and describing himself as “an addict in long-term recovery,” he works as a plumbing apprentice and lives in a restored 1887 farmhouse with, Amanda, whom he married Nov. 12, 2016, and Adecyn.
“I went from having absolutely nothing to having a home and a job and family, and I’m so thankful for Amanda because, without her constant support, I would probably have given up,” he said.
Amanda couldn’t be more proud.
“I didn’t give up on him because I knew who he was and I knew that disease wasn’t him, so I just prayed and loved him through it,” she said.
“Daddy is the best daddy in the world and he does a lot of stuff for me and mom,” added 8-year-old Adecyn.
In a continual effort to reach out to alcoholics and drug addicts, Laws now speaks publicly on substance abuse in Haywood County.
“A lot of people look at a drug addict and think that if they loved me enough or if they wanted it enough, they would just quit, but it’s nothing about willpower or moral failings," he said. "It’s a physical disease just like high blood pressure or heart problems or diabetes. A lot of people think you are weak-minded if you can’t quit, but I’m as much of a strong-minded person as they come and I couldn’t do it by myself.”
Speaking directly to drug addicts, he offers them a reason to live when he assures them that life can be so much better without the drugs.
“It might hurt for a little while, but it’s definitely worth the pain,” he said.
To all those who have never tried drugs, Laws has this preventive, bold message — “Unless you like a jail cell for a bedroom, it’s not something to try because you will either end up dead or in prison. If you have plans or dreams or any hope of a future, stay away from it.”
As he speaks publicly and works tirelessly to give other drug addicts help and hope, he feels like he is fulfilling his life’s mission.
“God did his part and now I feel like it’s my turn to do my part and help other drug addicts and I’m determined to do that,” said Laws.
To contact Laws, email at firstname.lastname@example.org.