PHOENIX (KSAZ) - Many people know or are related to someone who has battled with drug addiction. It's at epidemic levels, and overcoming addiction is hard. It's so difficult that many give up hope, they're in too deep, and they think there's nothing anyone can do to help them. An Arizona man addicted to meth for more than a decade managed to turn his life around from rock bottom to recovery.
"When you are a meth addict you don't feel like there's any help. I was at a point where I could not quit on my own," said Jack Olson.
Olson was at rock bottom, a meth addict, and busted for running a meth lab out of his home.
"The addiction takes over, it's like someone else is driving the car," he said.
He was on a dead end road, a tweaker, wasting away.
"I'm 235 lbs now, I weighed 172 when they weighed me in jail; I'm 6'3.""
Olson lost his house, his business, and was behind bars in tent city.
"I was wearing strips and pink underwear."
In the Summer of 2001 he started serving a 9-month sentence, halfway through it, he says Sheriff Joe Arpaio walked through the yard and said something that changed his life.
"One of the guys shouted out 'Hey Joe, why do you got to treat us like animals.' He said: 'I didn't ask you to come here. If you don't like it you don't have to come back,' and that was it."
That simple phrase hit Olson like a ton of bricks.
"But that is what clicked in my head and I just immediately felt excitement about what had taken place. I made up my mind that I was done. I never wanted to go back to jail again, and I had to do whatever I had to do to make that happen."
And he did, Jack spent the last three months of his sentence mapping out just how he would turn his life around. The minute he stepped out of jail he put his plans in place.
"I got out of jail at 6:30 in the morning of April 2, 2002. I got in my truck and drove an hour and a half north. I wouldn't even get my stuff out of storage without bringing somebody with me for a long time because I couldn't take the chance of being tempted, being around it, or running into someone I knew. I had to make a chance."
Olson drove to Camp Verde to start over; he says it was the best decision he's ever made.
"You have to completely disassociate yourself with anything and everybody in that life to do it; that's the only way to do it. You can't be friends with somebody that does meth if you are a meth addict. You have to start over."
He met his wife 4-months later; Connie has been a rock keeping him on track with his recovery. Combined they had four kids before they met, they adopted four more. It's the life he wants and is working hard for. Over 15 years Jack has had a couple of slip-ups as he calls them, but thankfully both times he got right back on track thanks to treatment and rehab.
"Anybody who is struggling with drugs before they end up in jail can make the decision to get help. I never knew until the past couple of years that you could check yourself into rehab without a pocket full of money."
Olson recently found himself back in Phoenix to face the man who kept him locked up for nine months.
"I always told my wife I'd like to meet him, so he knows what he said really changed my life."
Jack said he was nervous and excited, but he met Sheriff Arpaio.
"Didn't I see you years ago? In the tents?" asked Olson.
"You did, briefly, I was just passing thru," said Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Jack told the Sheriff how his words motivated him.
"I honestly believe had I not got out with the mental motivation to turn my life around. And it hasn't been easy, it's been a struggle, it's been a long struggle and the most difficult struggle of my life. But had I not made that decision; I wouldn't be sitting here today. I swear on my life. I would have been dead right now at the rate I was going," said Olson.
A thank you was many years in the making for a man who doesn't normally hear that.
"You kind of made my day today, I do have a lot of negative stuff," said Arpaio.
It was a positive meeting between a lawman and his former inmate.
Jack says a recovering addict has to be willing to relocate, find new friends, or even isolate from family members if they are using drugs. He even quit one job when he found out a co-worker was a user. He says he can't take any chances with his sobriety.