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March 09, 2018 10:00 PM

A Family's Journey Beyond Meth

Drug addiction can tear apart families and sometimes lead to an increase in crime in a community. 

We've seen it here in Sioux Falls and across the country with meth. In fact, one Sioux Falls family knows the drug all to well. 

While you may be sick of this task by now, Chris Stalheim considers himself blessed to be shoveling the snow at his mom's house this week.

"The things I do today is just living right and making amends and shoveling her sidewalk when she needs it shoveled and mowing the lawn and being a good son. Blessing to be a part of my family again," Stalheim said. 

Just four years ago, it was a much different story.   The Sioux Falls-native was addicted to meth. He'd been using and dealing the drug for two decades. 

"You know there were some things that went on, it didn't feel like my life. I remember one time thinking, this is a movie. I'm just a part of this movie that's crazy," Evelyn said. 

His mother Evelyn and other family members tried to intervene, but Chris, also a type 1 diabetic since the age of eight, says once he tried meth there was no looking back.  

"You know nothing else matters except getting that drug. It just takes you," Chris said. 

While the 44-year-old describes the high from taking the drug felt like "heaven," he also says it stole his soul for years. Chris would go through stretches where he used so much meth he didn't sleep for weeks. 

"You know a lot of times I would use until I ran out and if I couldn't find anymore than I would probably smoke some marijuana to try and come down and fall asleep. There were times after using it would take three or four days just to go to sleep. It's amazing to me," Chris said. 

Thankfully, he's been sober for four years now - ever since he was greeted by an assault rifle in the hallway of where he was staying. He says SWAT, the DEA and other federal authorities busted in and arrested him for conspiracy to distribute meth. 

"The most amazing thing was they threw me down on the floor and it was first time in 20 years that I took a, just a relief. I can still feel it today. I heard a voice, and I know it was God, say this was over. There's different stuff for you to do. It was crazy to be looking at 10 to life in prison and a $10 million fine and feel the most relief I'd ever felt in my life. It was just unnatural," Chris said. 

He finally had accepted responsibility for his actions and was ready to change. Now, he's a meth mentor at Keystone in Sioux Falls. Before that, he spent two years in a federal prison in Missouri. The whole time he had to be on dialysis because he was in such bad shape physically. Thanks to a treatment program and good behavior he is out and has no plans of returning to that lifestyle.  

"You know it took away every emotion. It also took away empathy, sympathy. I didn't care what I put my family through or my mother through which was a living nightmare for a long time. She spent a long time praying that I wouldn't show up dead," Chris said. 

It's a miracle he's still alive. Shortly after gaining his freedom, the diabetic facing renal failure was put on a transplant list for a new kidney and pancreas. This past October, way before he was expecting new organs, he received word he would be getting a new kidney and pancreas on the same day. 

"I see nothing but miracles, through my whole life. Even in my addiction I see miracles but I see them every day now. So, I like to say that I'm not only living my life for me now but I have another person that I'm responsible to and a family that lost someone that I now owe living a good life and doing the right next thing. That's what I strive to do every day. I get myself involved in recovery with me or someone else," Stalheim said. 

It's a complete 180 the family attributes to God and prayer.

"His arrest actually was a miracle. The transplant was a miracle and he is just a totally different person," Evelyn said. 

A relief for this mom who's tried everything to "fix" her son. What she learned, you can't fix it, all you can do is love. 

"You didn't cause it. You can't cure it. You can't control it. Just love them. If at all possible, love them unconditionally and just pray that God will turn it around," Evelyn said. 

And educate everyone around you to stay as far away from meth as you can. That's the new mission for this family. 

"I am very proud of him. Very proud of him. I would not want to walk this walk again," Evelyn said. 

Hopefully she won't have to. 

"I think you have to go to a level of pain and hopelessness that you don't ever want to return to. I still get emotional when I talk where my life was and I don't ever want to go back to that," Chris said. 

While Chris is now a meth mentor at Keystone, his mother and sister have also developed soft hearts for those hurting. They are now a part of the jail ministry through Ransom Church. 

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