Heroin is a growing problem in Mid-Michigan, at epidemic levels in some communities.
Tuesday night a local group started working on ways to help stop it as News 10's Josh Sidorowicz sat down with the family of a recovering addict that joined the group so other families don't have to go through what they did.
Mason resident Aaron Emmerson was in high school the first time he tried heroin six years ago.
"It just made me feel like I was on top of the world," he said. "Quite a few people from my school were actually doing it, there was a pretty big epidemic."
Emmerson said the drug was easily accessible at his school and the peer pressure to try it just once was prevalent.
But after just the first time, he claims he became addicted and so he's spent the past six years fighting to get sober.
"It was the worst decision of my life," he said. "But I didn't realize at the time what it was going to do to me."
After several relapses, and trips to jail, Aaron says he is now six months sober and his journey has been a sobering experience for the entire family.
"He has a problem that thousands of people are struggling with," said Wes Emmerson, Aaron's father.
"But there's hope for people out there who are going through the same thing we've gone through."
That hope was evident Tuesday night with nearly 100 people attending the first "Families Against Narcotics" meeting in East Lansing.
The Honorable Donald Allen, Ingham County District Court Judge, said it was a great start for a group looking to offer support and solutions for a problem more common than people realize.
"It's extremely widespread and it hits in places like Okemos, like East Lansing," he said. "It hits in places you wouldn't think of as being a place where substance abuse would be rampant."
Allen is one of the board members for the group along with Meridian Township Police Chief David Hall, among others.
Allen said there's an 'overwhelming' link between drug use and crime in the community with more than 80 percent of the individuals who come in front of him in court being involved in some sort of substance abuse.
"You can't really deal with the offender without being cognizant they have a substance abuse issue," Allen said. "If you're dealing with the offense and not the root cause of the offense that person is likely to re-offend."
For Aaron Emmerson though he's grateful to be where he's at now and hopes his experience and involvement in the "Families Against Narcotics" group can help guide other families going through similar ordeals.
"I want to help people get clean, help people who are going through what I went through try to get on the other side like I did," he said. "That's my life now is trying to help others while I'm helping myself"
Emmerson also began a blog Christian-Recovery.com to document his experience.
"Families Against Narcotics plans to meet on the fourth Tuesday of each month at 7pm at the University Lutheran Church in East Lansing.
Okemos resident Phil Pavona started the "Families Against Narcotics" chapter because his son died from a heroin overdose in August of 2011.