Addict's Dramatic Transformation Inspires Hope
His viral "before and after" post gives him a platform to help others escape lives of addiction.
This story is part of a bi-weekly series that celebrates people who are reaching across a divide to "build bridges" with others. The Sparkt Bridges series is made possible with the support of UPMC.
To meet 41-year old Jason Wickline today, you'd never know he's been through a lifetime of heartache and hell. These days he's focused on a full time job in his hometown of Nitro, West Virginia, supporting his 9-year old son Krystian as a single dad, and planning his wedding to fiancee Shanna McClure.
Four years ago, Jason was a full blown drug addict, under arrest for running a methamphetamine lab, facing decades in prison and the possibility he'd never see his son again.
Jason's transformation found an international audience when he posted something he called the #CleanChallenge to his Facebook page, encouraging other addicts in recovery to share their before and after pictures and stories to demonstrate to others still in active addiction that there is hope. That was about a year ago.
Last summer and fall, Jason's #CleanChallenge post got caught up in the buzz over the viral social media #DecadeChallenge, where people of all walks were posting pictures on the cusp of the new decade to show how they'd changed in 10 years.
That's when Jason's story of transformation started to get national and even international media coverage, giving him the opportunity to become a bridge-builder with others who are where he once was.
Jason doesn't take lightly his sobriety or the breaks he's gotten. When he was busted for running the meth lab, he was facing up to 30 years in prison. A judge offered him to chance to go to long-term treatment and probation and he jumped at it, and got serious about working on the problems that lead to his decades of drug use, crime and jail.
"I realized it wasn't the drugs. It was me." -- Jason Wickline
"I was able to examine myself and actually get down to the root causes. And things I carried with me from early childhood, physical abuse, mental abuse, sexual abuse from an early age," explained Jason. "That was one of the reasons why I used [drugs] is because I was angry at my life. When I was able to look at these things and own them and realize they didn't have to define me, the anger I carried against those things went away."
Jason even looks at his short relapse, 6 months out of rehab, as a positive. "The shame and the guilt I felt after that relapse was the big dose of humility I think was really lacking in my recovery."
Now Jason spends his time reaching out to other addicts on line, through his church, Maranatha Fellowship Church , and volunteering with the non-profit More Than Addiction , co-founded by his fiancee Shanna and her friends who were galvanized to action by the deaths of friends and family to drugs.
"I try to ignite compassion in people," said Jason. "I think that goes a long way. It did go along way for me early on. There are people that understand, there are people that care and I don't have to be defined by the life that I lived. You don't either."
If you'd like to reach out to Jason, you can message him on his Facebook page .
The Sparkt Bridges Project is produced
with the generous support of UPMC.
Life Changing Medicine.