“Your hardest times often lead to the greatest moments of your life. Keep going. Tough situations build strong people in the end.” — Roy Bennet
When Jason Wickline a recovering addict saw his son, Krystian, being taken into custody by Child Protective Services, he knew that he needed to turn his life around before it was too late.
Four years ago, the police arrested Jason in his Mount Hope, West Virginia, residence. The single dad was also charged with child neglect, and he will never forget the day Child Protective Services took his son away.
“As they were walking Krystian to the car, he turned around to look at me and said, ‘Daddy, I love you and I’ll never forget you,’” Jason, 41, told TODAY Health. “He was four and thought he would never see me again.”
“I was bawling my eyes out,” he added. “I had no idea what was going to happen to my kid at that point.” When he was arrested, the single dad was in the throes of active addiction, which he has been struggling with for much of his life.
“I struggled with drugs most of my adult life (17 years) and started using regularly around age 20,” Jason said. “My addiction really kicked in after a back injury when I was prescribed opiate pain killers.”
Though Jason was “terrified” when the police arrested him, he also felt relieved. “I knew my life was never going to be the same again,” he said. “I knew that insanity I had been living in was finally over.”
So when a judge offered him the opportunity to go to long-term treatment to stop being an addict, he grabbed at the chance. Jason stayed there for 13 months, and not long after, he appeared in court for his sentencing.
Jason thought he’d be going away for a long time, looking at 6 to 30 years of jail time. But instead, the judge sentenced him to just 30 months of probation, but he’d have to meet these conditions – stay sober and find suitable housing. Jason swore to fulfill both.
And he kept his word.
Jason’s dramatic change led him to regain custody of the now 9-year-old Krystian. Last July, he shared before-and-after photos of his transformation on Facebook, and they recently went viral.
“Post a picture of what you looked like in active addiction and how you look today! Trying to spread hope to those who are still struggling.. We DO Recover!! There is life after dope!” he wrote on his post.
When Jason looks at his old photos, he sees nothing but am “an empty shell” – a hopeless case.
“I’m 5-foot-8 and I weighed 120 pounds,” he said. “I was a dead man.”
But today, his life looks a lot different. Jason makes it a point to attend regular meetings and volunteer at treatment programs to help other people who are battling addiction. He says he has never felt more alive.
“I surround myself with positive people and I try to give back whenever I can. I want people to know that this is possibility. If I can do it, anyone can,” he said.
Jason’s relationship with Krystian is also at its best.
“The other day he came to me and asked for a PlayStation for Christmas,” he said. “Then he goes, “But if I don’t get one, I still have the best present in the world. You.’”
A former addict, Jason’s story is now an inspiration to others who are struggling with this disease.