A Tennessee couple has gone viral after sharing their inspiring story about life after drug addiction.
On July 26, Brent Walker took to Facebook to share a “before” and “after” photo of himself and his wife Ashley.
“This is my wife and I in active meth addiction,” Walker captioned the side-by-side photo. “The first photo was taken around December 2016, the second one was taken in July of 2019. This December 31 will be three years we have been clean and sober and living for God. I hope that my transformation can encourage an addict somewhere! It is possible to recover!”
The candid post, shared as part of an online #CleanChallenge, quickly went viral, receiving more than 140,000 shares and 19,000 comments from well-wishers thanking him for giving hope to those affected by addiction.
“It blew our minds,” the now 30-year-old said in an interview with TODAY. “I had a bunch of people who told me that our story has encouraged them to get help and check into rehab.”
The Cleveland, Tenn. resident revealed he was only nine when he began smoking cigarettes. Walker was drinking and smoking marijuana by the time he was 12, while the rest of his teen years were spent experimenting with drugs like acid.
It wasn’t until his brother died 10 years ago that Walker says his drug use escalated to a serious addiction. After a night of partying, his brother, 19-year-old Jess Marshall was too drunk to drive home, and asked Walker to give him a ride. When Walker declined, saying he had to wake up early the next morning for work, his brother drove himself home and was involved in a fatal car accident.
“That is when I went to the hard drugs and tried meth for the first time,” Walker said. Shortly after, he met his now-wife Ashley and the two began using together. The tumultuous relationship was filled with periods where Walker would spend time in jail.
After serving two years of a 10-year prison sentence, Walker and Ashley rekindled their romance and continued to use drugs together. It wasn’t until he barely passed a routine drug test for his probation officer that he decided to get clean.
“It scared me,” Walker revealed. “I said to Ashley, ‘I want to build a life’ and I asked her to come with me and she said, ‘Yeah I’ll go.’”
The couple quit using cold turkey and relied on one another to stay sober. “We just fed off each other,” he explained. “If I was having a bad day and craving she would help talk me out of it and vice versa… We blocked and erased every friend we had who did drugs.”
The couple struggled in the beginning to find a place to live and were forced to carry all of their belongings in grocery bags. After 30 days of sobriety, the pair married and began forming a new community at a local church.
The pair both went back to school; Walker earned his GED and works at a steel plant, while Ashley earned her nurse’s assistant certification and works at a local hospital. They both have plans to continue their education and become a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technician and registered nurse.
“It got a lot easier,” Walker said. “After the year mark we didn’t even think about (using drugs) anymore…. Whenever I was an addict I thought that because I had ruined my life there was no way to turn it around. It just had to stay that way.”
Now, he wants people to know that recovery is possible and wants to spread a message of hope to everyone struggling with addiction.
“You don’t have to live like that forever,” he said. “You can have a better life.”