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A local man's battle with meth

Mike Spaulding seemed to have it all: his own business, a racing career and a devoted family.

But an addiction to methamphetamine put everything in peril - and now he is working to get it all back.

"I'm one of the lucky ones," he said. "My life was hell - but it could have been a lot worse."

During the ASPEN of Minnesota program, a video featuring Spaulding's story is shown to participants. Even if they have not yet been exposed to meth, they most likely will encounter the drug at some point in their lives, said Director of Programs Steve Andersen, a former police officer.

Spaulding, of Bemidji, began using meth a few years ago, first getting high while watching football games. Initially, he said, he snorted the drug and later began smoking it.

Meth began as a weekend party habit, Spaulding said.

But after a few months of occasional smoking on the weekends, Spaulding said he found himself using on Tuesdays and Thursdays just to get through the week.

"I needed it to function," he said.

In the video, in which he sits and tells his story to Andersen, Spaulding stresses that there is no such thing as trying meth once.

He recalled periods in time in which he would go 15 days without sleeping and then crash and sleep for two days straight.

He began skipping races, first with excuses to his sponsors, and later, with no phone calls at all. He just stopped showing up.

While he was crashing, he said, he didn't get up for anything, not even family functions.

And, all along he had excuses for all of it, Spaulding said.

He occasionally would acknowledge needing to change his life, but Spaulding said he never took the initiative to do so.

"I wanted help," he said. "But I didn't want to admit I had a problem."

In March 2005, he checked into Hazelden, a treatment and rehabilitation center in Center City, Minn.

Spaulding has been clean ever since, he said.

Once he received treatment, Spaulding said he prepared to re-enter his life without a job or money.

And, soon, without a house.

About two weeks after leaving Hazelden, Spaulding's home burned down. The fire was due to some ash that fell from his outside grill.

He said he was angry. He thought things were supposed to get better once he left treatment.

Spaulding said he later came to embrace the idea that he had nothing left - that it was a good thing.

Having nothing meant he would have to start completely over, building his life again from the ground up.