WOODLAND PARK, Colo. - Nate Wilson says he's grateful to be "a positive part of the community, instead of a drain on it."
Wilson first started taking drugs in high school, eventually moving to harder substances like meth and heroin. But these days, he's 10 years sober.
He says he's noticed an increase in the prevalence of substance abuse and mental health issues as he's grown up. Having spent most of his life in Woodland Park, he witnessed many of his own friends go through the same issues, often with their lives ending from drug-related deaths or by suicide.
"You can see he passed away June 1st, 13 years ago," Wilson said as he walked by one of his best friends' gravestone. "It's so shocking to see someone one day before they die and then all of a sudden they're gone."
Wilson said losing his friends only pushed his addiction further as he tried coping with harder drugs. The drugs and grief took a toll on him.
"I tried taking a box cutter to my throat," he said. "There was a culture of death and suicide, and so seeing my friend do it almost gave me permission to do it."
After 13 stints in jail, two DUI convictions, two felonies and five suicide attempts, Wilson said he had to get sober.
"So if I didn't have the guts to kill myself, then I had to have the guts to live instead," he said.
Wilson says his journey for sobriety has been hard but ultimately rewarding. He got married and moved into a house with his wife and two kids back in November of 2017. He's learning to eat healthier while exercising regularly to stay disciplined.
"I just want people to know that even when they do come out of addiction or come out of hard times, that they're not damaged goods," he said. "They can still thrive and do anything that they want with their lives."
Part of his therapy has been writing a memoir that he says is slowly growing a following.
"If there is anyone out there struggling, just give it a shot and give it time too," Wilson said.
Wilson currently leads an addiction recovery support group in Woodland Park on Tuesday and Thursdays at 5 p.m. They meet at 701 Gold Hill Place in Woodland Park Basecamp. Wilson says he is also working on setting up a recovery group in Colorado Springs.