'Took something drastic to turn it around': Franklin County man dodged jail to find hope
David Northrup, 28, was addicted to drugs for over a decade. It took a drastic event and being offered a second chance for him to enter recovery.
Now he can proudly say he's been clean for almost three years.
Reflecting on his life and struggles with addiction hasn't been easy throughout his recovery, but he is a stronger person for it.
"Addiction is my disease," Northrup said. "I firmly believe that it is a disease because there are things that I struggle with without the drugs. Those are the things that in recovery, you work on."
Northrup, who grew up in Waynesboro, was arrested in 2018 for his involvement in drug delivery. He spent 18 months in jail.
"I spent a lot of days in jail wondering what was next," he said.
Then he was offered to take part in Good Wolf Treatment Court. Participation meant the charges he was facing could be lowered.
The program, which welcomed its first participant in 2017, is an alternative to incarceration.
"The goal of GWTC is to assist substance abusers in the criminal justice system in becoming sober and stable members of our community while remaining crime-free," a news release notes.
Northrup was hesitant at first.
"I had doubts because I have heard about the treatment court program and how so many people are unsuccessful,' he said. "But then I had to ask myself, 'what is the alternative?' The alternative could have been prison time. I was not willing to do that. I kind of just took what was coming at me."
Treatment court was challenging for a user who relied on drugs for most of his young adult life.
"There were some very hard days where fear just took over," he said. "I think the biggest thing that treatment court allowed me to do was to be present in my own life. I have not been present in my own life since I had been 15. It's eye-opening. I believe that once you put the drug down, the only place to go is up."
Franklin County District Attorney Matt Fogal was instrumental in the creation of the program.
"Those of us in law enforcement here in Franklin County have changed our approach to drug treatment and recovery over these many years, starting with our focus on opioids and fatal overdoses," he said. "We have partnered with providers and the recovery community, and our community is safer and healthier because of this shift."
The work is frustrating and disappointing at times, Fogal said, because recovery is extraordinarily difficult for those who suffer from substance use disorder.
"It is hard work, all around, but when someone like David comes along, it puts wind in all of our sails," he said. "His journey and success to date has been remarkable to witness. We cannot and will not ever give up on people like David."
Through the program, Northrup learned what healthy support is.
"There are a lot of things that treatment court provided me: being able to buy my car, to work and save money, all these things came with it," he said. "It's hard some days, I think I'm my worst critic, but I can tell you that I have a group of friends and support that are there for me when I need them to be."
Support is a theme that Northrup continues to rely on.
"We need support, we need love, but we also need accountability," he said. "Sometimes we don't want those things when they're given to us, but that's part of growing and being able to be open and accepting."
And Northrup has grown a lot over the past three years. He currently works two jobs, is taking steps to move out of Noah's House - a recovery home for men in Franklin County - to find his own place.
"Noah's does a lot for me," he said. "Being here, I can find myself, I can be myself and also work on getting better. There's a lot of things that come with being on your own: more freedom, less accountability. Today, I want to know that I'm ready for that, so that's just something that I'm willing to take my time with."
Since arriving at Noah's House, Northrup has gone from participating in peer groups to helping coordinate them.
"It's a reentry program that we're running, they're peer groups to help individuals who have been incarcerated," he said. "For the biggest part of my recovery, it allows me to give back. I did a lot of damage in the community. So for me to be able to say, I'm being a part of something better now. It helps me with my self-esteem, my self-worth."
Northrup, who dropped out of high school in 10th grade, is now inspired to go back to school to continue to help others.
"That's part of the reason why I stay involved with the [South Central Community Action Program] program," he said. "I don't have experience with being a recovery specialist so I need to build myself up, get experiences talking in front of groups. These are just things that I'm willing today to put time into. It's just something that I want to be a part of the new me. I have goals, I'd like to go to college for human services or something along those lines."
Since entering recovery, Northrup has made efforts to rebuild relationships with loved ones.
"Family is starting to be one of my biggest supports," he said. "Just being a part of recovery and overcoming challenges in the past. It's all a day-to-day process to work through things."
Northrup understands that he can't change the past, but he continues to focus on a positive future.
"What I had to learn was that I played my part and to accept that," he said. "Is it hard because I wonder what people will say if they know? Yeah, it is. I had to learn to work on that. I think that for me it took something drastic to turn it around. I believe that it happened for a reason. Even through the bad days, I'm not willing to give up."
Carley Bonk is a Watchdog Reporter for the USA Today Network - Pennsylvania. Her coverage spans across the southcentral region of Pennsylvania. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @carls_marie.