This is the sixth and final part of a series of articles focusing on educating the community about drug use in Valley County.
"It's the devil's drug, I really believe that," Misty Raup said.
It was a six-year battle that Raup wasn't sure she would overcome. She compared her experience with meth as a way to commit slow suicide. She was one of the few to overcome the strong and powerful addiction that took over her life.
Her hope pulled her through the dark and tumultuous transition from being chemically dependent on the drug. It's a hope she's willing to share, with the thought that maybe her story can touch and inspire others to break free from the dangerous and deadly lifestyle.
Raup said she grew up in a loving home and came from a wonderful family. She said that her path wasn't a predictable one. She was a 4.0 student, involved in sports and extra curricular activities, and attended church growing up.
She recalled having a few beers on the weekend with some friends for the first time at the age of 15, and smoking some pot. She said that it was the gateway that led to a darker path. She explained that the casual beer or joint wasn't out of the ordinary for teenagers in the area. It was curiosity that led her to try it out. She had no idea that substances would end up having a powerful hold on her life after she graduated from Glasgow High School and moved to Billings to start college.
She had bright hopes for the future. She remembered the first time she did meth, she was 19. Raup said that other college kids were also doing the drug. She was told that the drug would give her more energy, she would be able to complete more tasks, get more done. It was a way to get through the classes, to hold down a job and find a way to carry on with responsibility.
"I felt that way at first, I even lost weight and thought I was hot stuff, which was a big motivation to continue," Raup said. "I felt superhuman."
Unfortunately the effects created more problems. She explained that the drug has a way of throwing morals out the window. It was the winter of 1997 and the beginning of a long journey. She said she was in a relationship with the wrong kind of guy. She quit paying her rent, she tried to justify her spending habits by befriending dealers and getting some for free.
"After a while you despise yourself, you know you're in the wrong, but you don't want to feel the guilt, the sadness and the depression," Raup said. "It's kind of like a bad cycle of hell."
Her dad eventually came and rescued her from her situation in Billings, and brought her back to Glasgow. Here is where the battle really began. After losing most of her belongings in Billings she tried to start again. She was able to stay sober off meth for five months and went to rahab. Raup explained that she would go through stints of being clean – a few months here, a few months there – but the drug still continued to keep a powerful hold on her.
She tried to convince herself during her sober times from meth that marijuana and alcohol weren't going to hurt her. She continued the cycle and then would eventually get back onto meth.
She said that the impact of drugs had her running from her family and her friends. She felt so ashamed that she would hide from them when they showed up. She went through several homes and constantly fought to hold a job and face responsibilities. Today, Raup agonizes over the time she lost with her children and vividly remembered missing a ceremony with her oldest daughter in grade school.
The drug had worked so rapidly that in only four years' time her thoughts of college, thoughts of normal relationships had been lost. She found herself in another abusive relationship and said that she never did anything to get help. She felt guilt and said that the focus was always on the next high.
In October 2003, Raup found herself in front of a judge of the local district court. She was charged with criminal distribution of dangerous drugs. She had been arrested in January 2002 on the offense in Glasgow. The court stated that the she had failed previous efforts in rehabilitation, but she had family and friends supportive of her recovery. She was sentenced with a deferred sentence of four years on the conditions she would pay a fine, follow probation rules and undergo a chemical dependency evaluation. She also spent 20 days in jail.
While she found herself reaching for recovery the full ramifications that the the drug had on her weren't fully realized. It wasn't until June 2004, she finally realized what her life had become. She was charged with criminal possession of dangerous drugs. Valley County Sheriff Glen Meiers showed up at the scene and they removed her children from the home. She had fallen back into use. Her deferred sentence went back to court.
Raup explained that she called her dad to bail her out of jail. When she asked to come live with her parents she was told she couldn't. She wasn't allowed to live with her son, who was staying there. Otherwise, they would send him to foster care in Miles City. She explained that this was the moment she finally understood the hold chemicals had on her.
It was around this time Raup had a spiritual awakening. She asked for a Bible in jail and said she cried out for the Lord. It was then that she realized that she could accept forgiveness from the childhood God she once knew, she decided to commit her life to a path far different than the one she had been living. She left jail a different person.
She left for treatment and spent months away from her children. She said that losing custody of her children was huge and it was what finally had convinced her she was in trouble, she said all the other troubles and nothing else had weighed in as much.
This is where she said friends and family from Glasgow helped her stay strong. Even after she appeared in the local papers, after people were aware of her issues, they showed support. She was visited in the jail, sent cards and letters and in general she felt loved by the community when she had fallen to her rock bottom. She said for her, the system finally worked.
"There was a lot of forgiveness in Glasgow," Raup said.
This time she went through treatment with a passion to win the battle. She said it was the little transitions that were difficult. Cleaning her room, getting up early in the morning, paying her bills and becoming a responsible adult again. In the beginning, she was so focused on the damage she had done the change wasn't easy.
She said she had a great support team. She was living in a halfway house and taking parenting classes to get her children back. She explained that she was the only participant that showed up for the 12 classes, out of a class of 20. Raup also became very close with a group of women for fellowship during this time.
An even more terrifying responsibility was finding a job. Looking for work with serious felony charges was discouraging. She walked into the Salvation Army in Butte for a job and was very honest with her background and told the supervisor that she understood if they didn't want to hire her, but she'd still be interested in volunteering. After the interview on a Friday, they called her to let her know she was hired on Monday.
Raup met her husband during the transition. He was also hired on at the Salvation Army. They married in November 2005 and ended up working with him for several years.
She said that the job helped her give back to the community. She got involved with the community outreach, involved as a youth pastor and was able to focus on others. They served in homeless shelters, recreation centers, after school programs and with the rehabilitation centers. Probation officers began to refer people to her for help, they wanted her to succeed.
"I learned if you work hard, and you really want something and believe in a higher power than yourself, you can do it," Raup said. "Giving back, it was important to get out of yourself for recovery."
Her work with the Salvation Army started as the social services director and office manager. Her experiences on the worship team, the women's ministry and as a youth pastor ended up leading her to more training. She went to the College for Officers Training through the Salvation Army and was selected to be commissioned lieutenant, with her husband, in June 2011.
Raup said that her life had made a full swing. She said that had she not been served papers, had she not lost custody of her children, she may have never found a way out of her addiction. Her work with the Salvation Army took the family all over the country. Their moves from Tacoma, Wash ., to the Los Angeles area, however, became a stress and they stepped down. Her husband now works in Colorado for Halliburton, and she took a position this past January working for a CPA (Certified Personal Accountant). They now live in a suburb of Denver.
She said that she changed herself completely to break free from the drug. While in the midst of addiction, Raup would get angry and deny confrontations from friends and family who told her she needed help. She said that the friends she knew from the lifestyle have died, are incarcerated or out of touch, possibly still using. Her only hope was to change everything.
"You have to change who you are on the inside and out," Raup said.
Raup left the area in hopes of staying away from friends who were using. She changed how she dressed, how she acted and the way she thought. She said that the change was good, and now she's likes who she is.
"I still struggle, I still make mistakes, but I have different outlets," Raup said. "There is a purpose for everything, and some of those experiences have brought good things."
Raup's oldest daughter recently graduated early from high school and is now looking forward to college. Her younger son and daughter, she reports are doing well in school. Raup herself has gone back to school through Liberty University online to finish up her bachelor's degree in 2015 in business and accounting. Her dream job is to be a finance director for another nonprofit organization.
She said that she has learned what relationships are. She has herself back, and she has worked hard to regain the relationships that were a struggle in the past. Her parents struggled through her struggles. Raup said their support was priceless. Her dark times are now like a nightmare. Everyday isn't easy in recovery, but she speaks of a strong sense of who she is and of her life being been turned over to God.
"I'm really, really grateful today for all the blessings I have," Raup said.
Anyone looking for help with chemical dependency can call Eastern Montana Community Mental Health Center in Glasgow at 228-9349. A 24-hour crisis line for counseling is available for need of immediate and urgent services.