Broken dreams

One woman’s journey to recovery

— Daily Freeman-Journal photo by Hans Madsen Josi Gilbert

Josi Gilbert didn’t know much about drugs or their effects when she was growing up. As a child and young teen, she was somewhat insulated from the hard truths that would become part of her life in just a few short years.

She grew up in Webster City and Fort Dodge surrounded by a large family – four younger siblings, her mother and a stepfather. She was involved in her church and attended a Christian high school.

How does a person with a bright future fall into the throes of addiction? Most addiction counselors say that some people are predisposed to addiction because their parents have battled drug or alcohol issues.

In Josi’s case, her father was serving prison time on methamphetamine charges. Her mother suffered from some mental health issues and Gilbert said her stepfather was abusive.

“My mom was great but she was sick a lot,” she said. “She’s doing better now.”

She didn’t seek any kind of counseling after the abuse occurred. She kept those feelings and emotions bottled up inside. She didn’t share them with anyone.

“I couldn’t talk about it,” she said.

She didn’t have any friends who were involved in drugs during high school

“I was a good teenager. I did everything I was supposed to do. I helped with my brothers and sisters since my mom was sick a lot,” she said.

When she turned 17, she knew something was not right at home.

“I just knew I had to get out,” she said.

She packed up all of her belongings in a sheet and went to her boyfriend’s house. The young man was a part of her church and attended the same Christian high school. He left the church and she followed him.

At 18, they married and Josi soon became pregnant. Five months into her pregnancy, her husband left her. She followed him to Texas to try to save the marriage and her new family.

“But it didn’t work out,” she said. “So when I was nine months pregnant, I flew back to Iowa and moved in with mom in Webster City.”

She had her baby, a girl, in Webster City. She divorced her husband and began her new life as a single mother.

Even with the challenges she faced, her future seemed bright. She and her baby moved into an apartment. She began working and registered for college. She planned to study psychology.

Still, there was a lot of stress with the demands of work and college classes, let alone the pressure of caring for a new baby.

“It was a lot of pressure. I was tired, exhausted and stressed out,” she said.

Her mother offered to watch her daughter so that Josi could spend some time with her friends on the weekends. It was a chance to de-stress, forget about her daily tasks and have some fun.

“We would hang out and drink,” she said.

Then some of those friends introduced her to methamphetamine.

“Meth gave me energy and I could get everything done,” she said. She thought she had found the answer to managing her hectic life.

“I didn’t know much about drugs,” she said. “I was kind of sheltered. My father is in prison on a meth conviction, but I really didn’t understand the drug.”

“With meth you go really high really fast, but then you go really low when you come down,” she said.

She craved the energy rush that meth gave her. That meant doing more meth, more frequently.

“I had to to keep functioning as a mom and to keep working,” she said.

She eventually began to withdraw from her responsibilities. She quit her job and left school. Her young daughter went to stay with Josi’s ex-husband.

Now she could spend more time in search of that high, the euphoria she experienced with meth.

“I think that was the start of my addiction,” she said.

She was 21.

Tomorrow: The downard spiral