It is the easiest drug to get addicted to. It is the hardest addiction to break.
So goes the vicious cycle of methamphetamine use, a drug created using basic household cleaning products that leads to a twisted life of crime and horror, as detailed in reporter Scott Thomas Anderson's new book "Shadow People: How Meth-driven Crime is Eating at the Heart of Rural America."
Anderson, the crime reporter for the Amador Ledger-Dispatch, spent 18 months traveling across the United States, visiting with law enforcement, addicts and families of methamphetamine users to chronicle not only the destructiveness but the power of the drug.
Along with two recovering methamphetamine addicts, Anderson visited the Lodi Public Library on Sunday to discuss his book and give audience members an insightful look into how people get hooked — and also rebound from the drug.
"Some people will read this book and they will get angry," Anderson said. "But that is OK. This book is not meant to scare people, though. It is meant more to be a way to look for solutions."
Solutions, for example, in the form of those found by Matthew Learned and Stacy Wells.
Both were heavy methamphetamine users. Both ended up losing everything.
But they stood in front of audience members Sunday, clean and sober.
Learned was actually featured in Anderson's book. In Learned's chapter, readers discover that he had been in and out of the prison system for 17 years.
Back behind bars again, Learned had no direction and he did not seem to care. Then, one day, he heard two sentences that would completely switch his outlook on life.
"Any back pain you had would go away. Any tooth ache was gone," he said of the drug. "It was incredible. But then I was told 'Man up. Get real.'"
Man up. Get real. The words sunk into Learned's memory. He was a new father, and his daughter's mother was telling him he would never get to see her, because she did not want that kind of life for the baby.
Man up. Get real. So Learned learned how to beat his addiction, if for no other reason than to keep a promise he made to his daughter's mother that he would never abandon his family. He would never let drugs get in the way.
For Stacy Wells, getting clean and sober was something she knew she could accomplish. She just had a hard time saying no.
Wells had been a recovering addict for eight years before she started using again with her ex-husband. She said she had been tired of babysitting the man.
"It was that mentality of 'If you can't beat 'em, join 'em,'" she said.
Wells started using heavily again, and she recalled thinking of ways she could kick the habit as she was loading up her pipe for a smoke.
Wells and her husband were arrested later for possession of a controlled substance and child endangerment, among other charges. Wells said that day was when she hit rock bottom, sitting in the jail cell, alone, getting booked.
"I went from a family of six to a family of one," she said. "I was literally standing at the glass licking it, asking to be let out."
Wells only spent five days in jail, but like Learned had to attend hundreds of hours of classes and do numerous hours of community service in addition to staying clean.
"I figured if I was willing to do anything to get dope, then I better be willing to do anything to stay clean," Wells said.
Contact reporter Katie Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.