Zach Parker didn’t sleep for four days when he arrived at the Texas Dream Center.

His bones felt like glass. He couldn’t think, couldn’t feel. He had no appetite. He was aggressive, shut off from those around him — and himself. All he wanted, all he could think about was the next high from the methamphetamine he had been using nonstop.

In one word, he summarized his first week in rehabilitation: “horrific.”

“When you’ve been on it that long and you start to detox and come off of it, it hurts. All you can think about is getting more,” he said. “I guess it would be better to say it’s more like really bad agitation. It’s agitating to not have it.”

The 33-year-old Parker, Oklahoman, is a former rodeo circuit rider. He has a quiet demeanor and a deep love for horses. He’s been at the Texas Dream Center for nine months and is about to graduate from the year-long Deport program, which he calls “life changing.”

“I was kinda skeptical at first. I was like ‘nah, it’s not gonna be for me.’ But I fell in with some of the other guys, got to talking with them, and seen how it’s changed some of their lives and hearing some of their stories, and so I thought I would actually give it a chance,” Parker said.

“So I did. And this is where I’m at today.”

Parker works full-time for Winters Metal Buildings, a general contracting company in Paris.

In his spare time, he visits his family back in Oklahoma and rides his horses. Due to the Dream Center program, he said, he’s in a completely different place than he was nine months ago.

‘Not an easy job’

The Dream Center is a religious-based rehabilitation center for men in Deport, run by Dr. Ray Evers and his wife, Pat, a nurse. Participants spend a year living at the center, with a six-month aftercare program.

The center has 73 graduates and 30 men currently enrolled. There are seven full-time and one part-time staff members. An outside counseling agency works with the center, as well as two psychiatrists. Evers said he and his wife also are working to launch a women’s program in Clarkesville that will open in about three weeks.

Evers said running the program in Deport was no easy task.

“Most of our guys are homeless, or right at the point of being homeless; they’ve burnt every bridge with their family, the families have done everything they can to help them; and they’ve stolen everything, done whatever it took to survive,” he said. “This is not an easy job. But we want to help those in drug addiction get set free, and get their lives back on track.”

The Dream Center offers individualized treatment, combining curriculum, biblical teaching, therapy and work programs for each person. Some men, like Parker, are court-ordered to the center. Others come on their own, or hear about it through word of mouth. Regardless, the men all agreed the only way to end addiction was to want the change for yourself.

Evers said the staff believe the only way to lasting freedom is through a relationship with Christ, hence the program’s Bible-based approach.

Matt Patterson, a supervisor at the Dream Center, said he was in 11 different rehabs before ending up at the Dream Center in August 2015. He credits the religious nature of the program with helping him get — and stay — clean.

“That’s my only explanation. This was my 12th rehab, and none of them were successful in changing me, except for this one,” he said. “And that’s the only difference between those and this one, is that Jesus Christ is here.”

Patterson said the program emphasizes a heart, mind and body transformation. After graduating from the center, he decided to stick around.

“I really enjoy helping people, seeing the change in people, seeing God do miracles with these people,” he said. “It’s rewarding, and I believe it contributes to me staying straight.”

Meth is area’s most common drug

While meth abuse has existed for decades, national data shows usage is increasing nationwide. According to a 2018 study in the Drug and Alcohol Dependence Journal, meth use increased among treatment-seeking opioid users from 18.8% in 2011 to 34.2% in 2017. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has an early warning system, which tracks drug trends in sentinel sites across the country; five of its 12 reporting sites reported increases in meth overdose deaths in 2017, including the Texas site. The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported 964,000 people age 12 or older had a methamphetamine use disorder in 2017 — a number significantly higher than the 684,000 who reported having the disorder in 2016.

Deputies in Red River Valley sheriff’s offices say they’re doing what they can to combat meth usage, but are limited by staff and funding issues. They attest to increasing methamphetamine use here, with Red River County Sheriff’s Investigator Fred Booker saying three to four people a week are arrested for meth possession — at least every other day, by his estimation.

“Meth use is on the rise, and it will stay on the rise,” he told The Paris News in July. “I think it’s an epidemic; it affects all walks of life. We’re a small department, way underfunded.”

Treating meth addiction

Meth addiction is particularly hard to treat, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“Addiction changes the parts of the brain that affect our ability to think, to control impulses, and to understand consequences. Meth exceeds other drugs in its disruption of cognition, especially attentional control — or the ability to focus and ignore or inhibit distractions,” NIDA wrote in a congressional testimony.

The most effective treatments for meth addiction are behavioral therapies, according to NIDA. One type, known as the Matrix model for meth addiction, has shown signs of success. Developed in the 1980s for treating cocaine addiction, the Matrix model is a 16-week program of group and individual therapy and addresses relapse prevention, behavioral changes, family communication and healthy environments. Another treatment, Motivational Incentives for Enhancing Drug Abuse Recovery, uses an incentive-based approach. According to NIDA, MIEDAR participants were twice as likely to stay clean for eight weeks as the participants in normal treatment.

The Dream Center is the only full-time rehabilitation center of its kind in the Paris area. Alternatives include Community HealthCore, located at 25 First St. NW in Paris, which offers outpatient drug rehab and day treatment; Lakes Regional MHMR Center, located at 395 N. Main St. in Paris, which is an outpatient drug rehab and community mental health center; or the Kiamichi Council on Alcoholism, which serves the Paris area, located at 308 E. Jefferson St. in Hugo, Oklahoma. Hunt Regional Outpatient Behavioral Health in Commerce also has outpatient drug rehab and mental health facility.

Narcotics Anonymous groups are available in Paris. The New Roads group meets at 500 Hickory St. in Paris on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. Paris Regional Medical Center also has a group Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6:45 p.m. and Saturdays at 9 p.m.

Worth the pain

Men at the Dream Center, like Parker, said the price of recovery was worth the pain of withdrawal.

“From the way it was when I came in and the way I thought about it, until now, (the Dream Center) has completely changed my life,” Parker said. “It was worth every bit of what I went through to get where I’m at now. Absolutely.”

Macon Atkinson is a staff writer for The Paris News. She can be reached at 903-785-6963 or macon.atkinson@theparisnews.com.

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