Today, 28-year-old Cody Ramsey of Cross Lanes, West Virginia spends most of his time supporting others through sobriety.
As a peer recovery support specialist supervisor of a behavioral health agency and a program director of a sober living facility, he keeps busy managing employees and new residents, all while playing the roles of husband, father, and occasional rider of his beloved side-by-side.
But Cody’s life didn’t always look this way. Just five and a half years ago, he found himself at a crossroads between overdoses, drug rings, and addiction, and the hope for a better future.
Coping With a Life Under Pressure
Cody’s journey of addiction began around the age of 14. His biological father left when he was three, and he had spent the past few years living in an abusive household strained by the effects of poverty.
When he met a girl who lived nearby, it opened a door of possibilities he soon entered to escape a harsh reality.
“The adult she lived with was a meth addict,” says Cody. “I would sneak out to smoke and hang out with her, then sneak back in and go to school the next day.”
That was Cody’s first introduction to drugs. His parents soon transitioned the family from home to home through states across the country, further shaking the ground that was already unstable beneath him.
“From 3rd to 11th grade, I didn’t attend the same school for more than a year at a time,” says Cody. “I was helping to raise my sisters and was basically my mom and adoptive dad’s therapist.”
Working to Make Ends Meet
Around 16-years-old, he followed his family from Florida to West Virginia.
He started skipping school, drinking, partying, and selling weed. When drugs were offered at a restaurant he worked at 36 hours a week, he saw another opportunity for escape—and he took it.
“There would be what we call a ‘pill plate’ that the employees would pass around in the back,” recalls Cody. “You could choose from meth, heroin, or pain pills. I was just trying to work and get through life paying my own school tuition and trying to graduate on time.”
Eventually, Cody dropped out of school.
Soon after, he switched from weed to meth as his source of income.
“I was selling meth all day, every day and nonstop partying,” says Cody. “I experienced extreme weight loss and ‘dehydration hat,’ which is what we called it when your brain is so dehydrated that it feels like you’re wearing a tight hat around your head.”
Between using meth, selling meth, and spending time at trap houses where addicts hung out, he had little time for actual sustenance.
“I drank a protein shake and ate a meal bar every day, and that was basically the only things that kept me going,” says Cody.
Cody sunk deeper into the lifestyle that comes with using and selling drugs. Around age 17, he started ‘car hopping’ to check for valuable items or money left inside of unlocked cars. He soon moved into a trap house where he began experimenting with opioids on top of methamphetamine.
And although running drugs brought in large amounts of money each week, he only managed to keep small amounts at a time. He’d use his earnings to buy more drugs or purchase items that sustained his lifestyle as a dealer.
“The lifestyle makes you money, but the streets take their cut each and every time,” says Cody. “Tuition is never free.”
Eventually, law enforcement raided the trap house he lived in. At 19-years-old, his life became about hiding drugs, protecting drug money, and standing guard to watch as cops raided his home.
Rock Bottom Hits Hard
At 21-years-old, Cody became a father. He was still using and selling drugs, but promised himself he wouldn’t bring business or substances around his daughter.
“Every time I would visit her, I would be dope sick by the end,” says Cody. “I was in the middle of a fierce custody battle with her mother and my addiction interfered with the ability to be the father she needed.”
As years went by, Cody realized the substances he used began to slip in their potency. And the long-term effects of addiction started to take their toll on his body.
“The drugs weren’t doing what they used to,” says Cody. “I had a mini-stroke in front of my entire family at a Christmas party. I lost function in left side of my body and it took me 45 minutes to walk 10 feet.”
After seven overdoses, nine friends lost to drug use, and years of painful experiences, Cody made a choice that shifted the trajectory of his life forever.
Sobriety Brings Clarity and Hope
Cody called a friend and arranged a flight to Florida, where he spent 60 days at a rehab facility and got clean.
As of May 2022, he’s maintained sobriety for more than five and a half years. With a GED (General Educational Development, a high school diploma equivalent) from the Mountaineer Challenge Academy under his belt, he’s employed at two locations aimed at helping others recover from addiction.
Reflecting on his journey, he shares a few lessons he’s learned along the way.
“People think having a child should be enough to quit drugs, but I had a kid for three years before I got clean,” says Cody. “Until you’re ready to make the decision to get clean on your own, it won’t work.”
He says early education and support offered by programs like GameChanger could’ve provided the intervention he needed as a teen struggling to find his way.
“As a child you look to the adults around you for guidance, and I had no steady role model for these life lessons,” says Cody. “Early education on the dangers of drug use, ways to deal with trauma, and proper coping mechanisms for stress would’ve served me when I was young.”
For those considering experimenting with drugs or those who have found themselves in the throes of addiction, he has a message:
“Hollywood paints a picture of this lavish lifestyle that comes from selling and using drugs, but what it really looks like is being surrounded by addicts in a trap house littered with dirty needs, and everyone around you is either high or desperately trying to find a vein,” Cody says. “At a certain point, the scales won’t tip in the favor of the high. Addiction grabs you and it doesn’t let you go.”
With more than five years of sobriety under his belt, he can confidently say there is hope on the other side of addiction.
“You only get one life, and destroying it with drugs isn’t worth it,” says Cody. “The life I have clean is 20 million times better than life I had using.”
Learn more about GameChanger
GameChangers’ Opioid and Substance Misuse Prevention Program was born out of collaboration between GameChangers and theHazelden Betty Ford Foundation. The mission leans on student-peer leadership to encourage children to make smart, healthy decision about opioids, alcohol, and other substances.
To learn more or seek help, visitgamechangerusa.org.