In the span of a couple years, he went from taking pain medication for a back injury to sticking a needle in his arm to feed his intense addiction to heroin.
Josh Page never thought that would be his life.
He grew up in Center Grove, played basketball and football, had parents who were involved in his life and was working a good job as a welder after he graduated.
But then he hurt his back. And he began spiraling.
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He started with taking the recommended dose of pain medication — one pill a day. But then he began traveling for work, and was getting two months of pills at a time.
One pill a day turned to two. And then more. He convinced himself he needed it.
He bought pills off the street. And then he went to his doctor and told him he thought he had a problem.
His doctor stopped his prescription, and Page told him he didn’t need help. He could beat it.
“I’d never seen how serious it could be,” Page said.
By 24, Page was addicted to heroin.
“I did it one time and that was all she wrote. It was euphoric. It was almost scary how good it feels,” Page said.
“You’ll do anything. You find a way.”
His parents sent him to rehab, but Page never got far. Withdrawal would hit, and he would walk away.
He knew he needed help. But he didn’t want it.
“I never really felt like I was doing it myself. I didn’t quit because I wanted to,” Page said.
Then came his rock bottom.
A neighbor of his parents was out of town, and Page stole his television, pawned it and bought drugs.
When his father asked if he had stolen the TV, Page freely admitted to it, told his father to call the police and waited to be arrested.
He knew what he was facing criminally. But he also knew he had overdosed twice in the last month. He woke up in the morning and didn’t want to use, but his body demanded it.
“I was going to die,” Page said.
In court, the judge looked at Page’s record, which included convictions for driving under the influence. He sent him to a nine-month program in prison targeted toward people suffering from addiction.
Page was ready. But when he got to prison, he found out that program wasn’t offered at the facility where he was sent.
He asked for help and went back before Johnson County Superior 3 Judge Lance Hamner, who decided to give him a chance. Page promised to complete a 14-month program through Wheeler Mission, and Hamner let him out of prison.
“That decision right there has put me where I am today,” Page said.
“He saved my life.”
Hamner knew Page’s heart was in the right place, and said the young man made him a believer.
“I wanted to give him a chance,” Hamner said.
More than two years later, Page is still clean, he is in school and wants to find a way to give people like him a chance.
One of the biggest unmet needs Page has seen is somewhere for people to stay after they leave rehab, when they are still in a vulnerable stage of recovery. Often, they don’t have family or friends to stay with because they burned their bridges trying to feed their addiction.
His goal is to start a halfway house in the Center Grove or Greenwood area, which are both severely underserved, Page said.
But he wants his program to be different. He’s seen people turned away for minor failings, such as smoking marijuana, which is nothing compared to the heroin they were shooting up before, or for not being a person of faith. Page was kicked out of halfway houses for not following the strict rules, he said.
He wants an option that can be there for everyone, because recovery looks different for everyone, he said.
Page went through a 14-month recovery program with Wheeler Mission, at one point living in a homeless shelter for a couple of months. But he knew he needed to be there, he said.
“Growing up in Center Grove, I didn’t think I would be in a homeless shelter, but it saved my life,” Page said.
“It’s funny how God gives you exactly what you need when you need it.”
He has a vision of a place that partners with the community, where people in recovery can go to heal, but also be educated, learn a trade and find a job. He wants to try a new approach, giving people more freedom to choose the way they want their life to be, because the approaches many programs take now are only right for some people and push others out, he said.
But he also knows he has a lot of work to do to get there.
Page is currently studying psychology and wants to get into nonprofit business management at University of Indianapolis. He’s going part-time and working full-time, and knows he has years before he can finish. But he is getting excellent grades and was invited into the honors program — a first for him.
“The way I see it, I wasted the first 10 years, what’s six (years) when you wasted 10?” Page said.
His credit is shot. He’s still paying medical bills for three hospital stays when he overdosed. Creditors call him and he has collection suits filed against him.
At 30, he’s making less money now, working as a clerk at a liquor store, than he was 10 years ago.
But he’s the happiest he has ever been, he said.
He gets his adrenaline rush now from mountain biking and playing paintball. He knows he hurt so many people while he was using, but he has spent years working to make amends, he said.
“What’s done is done. I can’t change it. But I can make changes, and go forward,” he said.
His recovery hasn’t been perfect. He’s messed up. Two months after he got out of Wheeler, he relapsed and took Vicodin.
But he immediately came clean to his mother, because he learned that he needed to be honest and then learn how to move forward. In the two years since, he relapsed three times by taking pills, each time after getting back together with friends he had when he was using.
The slip-ups are hard emotionally. He feels the pain when he admits to it. But he learns from it, he said.
And he has never put another needle in his arm, he said.
“I’m a long way from where I was. That is what matters to me,” Page said.
“I’m just grateful to be given another chance.”