In our region, more than 32,000 adults and 4,000 children, between the ages of 12 and 17, are dependent on drugs or alcohol. That's according to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
We talked to a man who was once part of that statistic. He told us recovery is a lifelong journey.
David Ray, 31, is now clean after more than 15 years as a drug addict.
"I'd realized I was either going to die or go to prison for the rest of my life," said Ray.
He told us he did pills, cocaine, and crack, and not even jail could break the cycle of addiction.
"Go to jail for a little while, go back on probation and I'm a drug addict so if you send me to jail for a week or two, all that goes on there is a bunch of talk about what you're going to do when you get out," said Ray.
He told us he'd get back with the same crowd. Many people he knew were doctor shopping and glad to sell him the extra pills.
Finally, two years ago he hit rock bottom, homeless and on the run from the law. He decided to turn himself in and get help.
"I'm a junkie, I need help," he said, "I can't do this myself. I don't know what to do, help me."
Ray enrolled in Sullivan County's Recovery Drug Court. He had about 20 days of rehab, followed by months of strict community service, drug tests and group meetings.
It's where Ray met his fiance and a network of support.
"I can't do this by myself," he said. "I need people I can reach out to sometimes when I'm having a bad day."
He told us expanding drug court programs would give others the same chance at recovery he had. He said it would also go a long way towards fighting the drug problem here in Northeast Tennessee.
Despite that, Ray said there's only one person who can help an addict.
"When I wake up, ultimately it's up to me," he said. "I wake up and make a choice."
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