The downward spiral

One woman’s journey to recovery

— Daily Freeman-Journal photo by Hans Madsen Josi Gilbert

Josi Gilbert had been through a lot in her young life. She grew up in Webster City and Fort Dodge, with four younger siblings. She suffered abuse by her stepfather, left home at 17 and was married at 18, became a mother and was divorced by 21. She was also addicted to methamphetamine.

Her addiction started with weekend partying – drinking with friends. Eventually, those friends introduced her to meth.

She began to withdraw from her responsibilities to spend more time getting high. She quit her job and dropped out of school. Her young daughter went to stay with her ex-husband.

“I was not a functional addict. Never could be. Some people are able to function with their addiction, but not me,” Josi said.

She tried to hide her drug use from her family.

“But Mom knew about meth addiction because of my dad,” she said. Josi’s father is serving time on a meth conviction.

“They noticed everything starting to go down the drain for me,” said Josi. “I lost almost 100 pounds. I looked sick.”

Her family was worried about her. They were worried about Josi’s daughter.

“They had her a lot, which I’m grateful for now. They took care of her. And then she went to stay with her father,” she said.

When her daughter returned from the visit with her father, things had gone from bad to worse. She looked for more ways to find the euphoria and rush she felt with meth. She had gone from smoking meth to shooting up.

The downward spiral continued as Josi lost her apartment. She and her daughter moved in with her drug dealer.

“I knew I was sick. I didn’t understand what it meant to be an addict – I just knew I was really sick,” she said.

She knew she needed to do something to keep her daughter safe. She placed a call to her former mother-in-law to come and take the child.

A few days later, people from the Department of Human Services knocked on the door to tell her they were placing her child with her mother-in-law.

“I was grateful because I knew she was safe now,” Josi said, “but I also used the move as an excuse to use more.

“Anything my addiction could think of as an excuse, I would take,” she said.

She would get her drugs from friends or boyfriends, but there was really no limit to what she would do to get high.

“I would lie, cheat or steal to get my hands on it. I would do anything,” she said. “I would sell my body and I put myself in horrible situations for it.”

“A lot of bad things happened to me. There were a lot of times I could have been really hurt or died.”

She had brief periods of sobriety and even attempted treatment on a couple of occasions.

“The first time, when they told me the addiction was a disease I would have to live with the rest of my life, I couldn’t handle it. I didn’t think I could fight the rest of my life.”

She left treatment after two weeks.

In the midst of her addiction, she had two more children with her boyfriend.

Her mother and grandmother watched as her life began to deteriorate more.

“Grandma came to see me and told me, ‘I might have to take these kids from you if you don’t try to get better,'” Josi said. “I’d already lost one child, I didn’t want to lose the other two.”

That’s when she reached out for help.

Tomorrow: Hope