EAU CLAIRE COUNTY, Wis. (WEAU) -- "I have struggled with drug addiction for about 20 years. So, I started using when I was 13, and found recovery about two years ago," said Sarah Ferber.
"I didn't really get in trouble until a year and a half ago, and it was the height of my addiction using both meth and heroin," said Alison Frase.
"The first hit I took, man. I knew I was done. It got me," said Brian Cole.
Former drug users who know the meth problem firsthand are now on the other side hoping to help others.
Brian Cole spent most of his life behind bars. A cocaine user who once said he wouldn't use meth.
"It's called the one hit wonder for a reason. You take one hit, and you wonder what happened to the next 30 years of your life, if you live that long," said Cole.
He became a meth addict, and he got others addicted.
"I turned my own wife onto meth by cutting it into pills she was smoking because she got on my about doing meth, and she became and addict. You don't care," said Cole.
Cole said while in the Chippewa County Jail in 2009, he found religion. He wanted a different life.
He's now a pastor, and shares his story with students and community members.
Alison Frase was arrested about a year and a half ago.
"I started committing crimes to support my habit," she said.
She said she was facing seven felonies ranging from theft, identity theft, and bail jumping.
"I was actually a nursing student at the time. Ultimately, I ended up dropping out of school," said Frase.
She also lost her daughter. It took nine months to get her back.
She also recently graduated from AIM Court (Alternative to Incarcerating Mothers), and she hopes to go back to school.
"We are real people, and who we are when we're using isn't who we really are. There are people out there that will support you," said Frase.
Frase said she found support through Chippewa Valley EXPO (Ex Prisoners Organizing).
Sarah Ferber now leads the group, which is meant to offer peer support and guidance.
"You can find support from people who've been through what you're going through," said Ferber.
Ferber also participates in the More Than Meth forums alongside law enforcement officers.
"You'll cross paths with it. You'll cross paths with individuals that are involved in it. Understanding what it is and who these individuals are is important," said Sgt. Falk.
Field Operations Supervisor with the West Central Drug Task Force Sgt. Andrew Falk said meth presents a big and unique challenge.
"In terms of the total damage done by a drug and how it effects the community in various different ways in our area, meth is the thing that is the most damaging and is the drug that we certainly spend the most time on and resources on," said Sgt. Falk.
Sgt. Falk said utilizing users as resources is just one component in the fight.
"Those of us that are closest to the problem are closest to the solution, and we can share what's worked for us, and hopefully use that knowledge to create new programs or offer support to each other," said Sarah Ferber.
Ferber and Chippewa Valley EXPO also particpate in the Methamphetamine Response Committee created more than two years ago by Eau Claire County District Attorney Gary King.
"This is an issue that we're going to see for the next several years," said DA King.
The committee meets monthly, taking ideas and forming strategies on combating meth.
"We live in the community, too. We want to see the problem solved. Our kids are raised here. We work here, so whatever we can do to help combat the problem and help solve some of the issues is very important."
DA King said incarceration isn't always the best solution, which is why the county looks at various options based on an individual basis.
"We are now seeing some very positive examples of people who were really at that most critical level where everything was literally going in the wrong direction, and they found a way to turn things around and have been successful in their rehab," said King.
Frase, Ferber, and Cole said change isn't easy, but they're trying to prove it can be done. Offering hope to others that they too can get their lives back.