It's not often that a man thanks the police officer who arrested him. But Madison Hurst of Byron does.
"I actually have to give thanks to Brian Sanderson and the sheriff," said Hurst, who has, by his own admission, been "in and out of jail all my life."
Hurst said he and Sanderson, an investigator with the 16th Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force, are planning speaking engagements to warn others, especially youth, of the dangers of illegal drug use -- dangers Hurst knows firsthand.
"I come from a long history of drug use," he said. "I cooked the stuff. I knew how it would make me feel later -- I always hated myself." But for years, he was powerless to do anything about it.
That changed a year ago.
"He came forward and turned himself in," said Fulton County Sheriff Walter Dillinger. "If he'd continued with drugs, he'd probably be dead now."
Hurst underwent the substance abuse program at the Wilbur Mills Treatment Center in Searcy and now sees himself as a changed man. "I thank God. I think God took the desire away from me."
Now he not only wants to help youth avoid the trap he fell into, he also wants to help other addicts break free from their addictions. In September he organized a local chapter of Narcotics Anonymous, a 12-step program patterned after Alcoholics Anonymous.
The recovery group meets every Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Salem Church of Christ, where Hurst is a member. He said the program is open to anyone with "a substance dependency and the willingness to become clean and stay clean."
Attendance at the support group's meetings is at about 12, he said.
"It's not that I want to change the world or anything, but man, it's got to be stopped," he said. "Kids don't know the consequences. It's a horror story."
Narcotics Anonymous includes discussions and group support for not only those with drug abuse problems but their families as well. As the name implies, the identities of those who attend the meetings are kept confidential.
Hurst said he has spoken a few times at the Fulton County jail, but he knows from experience that not every inmate who appears receptive to his words takes them to heart. He recalls looking forward to visits from a pastor when he was jailed and sincerely pledging to change, only to return to the wrong crowd and the destructive behavior after his release.
But the man who first went to jail at age 17 did change -- after 20 years. He attributes his change to God, who he said was able to accomplish what Hurst could not achieve on his own strength.
Now 38, Hurst intends to stay the course, warning non drug uses of its dangers and showing addicts the way out, knowing that at least a few, like him, really can change.
For more information on Nacotics Anonmous contact Hurst at 870-458-2103 or call the Salem Church of Christ.