For Clayton Schoettle, it started with drinking and smoking a little weed — but after a while, that just didn’t seem like enough. Before long, the 2010 McClain High School graduate was caught in a web of drug dealing, deceit and death.
He was one of the lucky ones though. He said has been clean for three years now, is working as a marketing director for a North Carolina recovery center, and wants to let others caught in the cycle of drug addiction know that there is hope for a better life.
“I tried so many rehabs, but I kept going back to the same people and places and the same things,” he said. “I had to get away from people. I came down here (North Carolina) and it gave me a chance to get to know myself without all the outside influences.
“I want to find a way to be able to help people up there in Highland County and get them better.”
Schoettle said he came from a good, hard-working Greenfield family. But somewhere along the line he started running with the wrong crowd. He said he “took advantage of something that made me feel different.”
A friend had access to pain pills, and from there Schoettle’s drug use escalated.
By the time he was 16 he had overdosed for the first time. After that, he overdosed five more times.
He started going to rehab when he was 18.
“I was in and out of treatment centers. I could never get a grip on it,” he said.
He said by the time he was 20, he was heavily involved in selling drugs. It was a daily routine, he said, running back and forth from Dayton to get drugs, bringing them back to Hillsboro, Greenfield and Washington C.H.
He said he totaled three cars in Dayton, and was pulled over and searched by law enforcement more times than he can remember, but then came a wakeup call.
On a December evening he was involved in a car accident and charged with involuntary vehicular manslaughter.
“I pretty much OD’d at the wheel. I lost control and hit somebody,” Schoettle said. He said he had heroin, cocaine and a good amount of cash on him.
He said that through the grace of God and a good lawyer, the vehicular manslaughter charge was reduced to reckless operation, and an OVI charge was dropped.
That’s when he headed to North Carolina.
“I didn’t know if I wanted to be clean, I just knew I was tired of being sick and tired,” he said. “I was helpless. I was literally 135 pounds soaking wet… I didn’t know what to do. I had literally hurt everybody who came around me.”
In North Carolina, he got involved with a halfway house. After he was clean for six months, he started working there. Now he works for the privately owned Asheville Recovery Center.
Just this week, Schoettle said, he helped place 10 people in treatment. He said they come from all over the country. He said the miracle he has lived is proof that there is hope.
“I never thought that would be possible,” he said. “Nobody wanted me around anyone.”
Schoettle said he knows there are many people in Highland County going through what he went through. He said he thinks that often, they just don’t know what to do or where to turn.
“My message is … I was broken. My life was full of dereliction, pain and crime, and I was going nowhere quick. I was living a life of lies and crimes. I stole from my family. I just lived a dirty, low life. My quality of life was nothing.” Schoettle said. “I had to find something to help myself get better. I had to chase recovery just like I did addiction.
“There’s a bunch of people dying from this disease, but there’s a bunch of people recovering, too. That’s the story you never hear.”
For Schoettle, it was a 12-step program that made the difference.
Despite letting down everyone who ever cared for him, Schoettle said he has re-established relationships with his family. He said he now looks forward to going to work and having a career. He feels alive, he said, and it feels good to be present and a part of it all. He said he has a fiancee and a daughter that looks up to him.
But, Schoettle said, his point is not to brag about where he is now. Rather, it’s to show others struggling with addiction that there is hope.
“My main objective,” he said, “is to try to help those who don’t think there is a way out.”
Schoettle and the Asheville Recovery Center can be reached at 866-315-8998.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or [email protected]