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Riggenbach Tells Of Beating Addiction

September 12, 2018
BY CHAD TURNER - Staff Writer ( , Wetzel Chronicle

Many who utilize Facebook were perhaps recently surprised to see Wetzel County native Aaron Riggenbach candidly post about his former heroin addiction. For some, this might be skeletons to keep in one's closet. For Riggenbach, this is his purpose.

Since Riggenbach shared his story, he has received an overwhelming positive response. His Aug. 15 Facebook post, which has received more than 500 shares, features three photos: a mugshot from the height of Riggenbach's addiction, a mugshot from the day he was sentenced to one to 15 years in prison, and a photo from July 28.

"The most recent picture shouldn't exist at all," he stated, explaining how he can recall "shooting up heroin and immediately going into seizures."

Article Photos

A current photo of Riggenbach after beating his addiction.

Riggenbach remembers waking up in a hospital bed, after an overdose. He remembers waking up in a hospital bed after a suicide attempt.

Despite those darkest days, Riggenbach has found peace through his faith in God.

Riggenbach said he once believed there was not a God. He feels like God reached out to him during those years, but Riggenbach said he ignored the signs.

However, after a chapel service in jail, he felt convicted. He said he had ignored God's signs previously, "because I was living a life God did not approve of."

"If I found out that God existed, then I would have to repent and completely change my ways."

After this realization, Riggenbach "started to really work on myself daily." He read the Bible every morning, day, and night.

One night, prior to bed, Riggenbach was telling God how he didn't want anyone to travel the road he has travelled. Riggenbach said he hasked God "to show me His will for me."

The next morning Riggenbach woke up and reached for his Daily Bread devotional.

"I flipped to that day's date, and I could not believe my eyes. The title to that day's devotion read in big, bold letters: "TELL YOUR STORY."

"This was the second time in my life that God had spoken to me! I ignored him the first time, and look where it got me. I was not going to deny Him twice!"

Riggenbach found himself writing to Judge David Hummel, volunteering for the drug court program. Judge Hummel accepted Riggenbach's request. Riggenbach then followed his faith. He began telling his story at recovery meetings, drug court classes, churches, and schools. He was also approved to write letters to addicts in jail for community service hours.

Riggenbach never thought to post his story to social media until a "brother in recovery" participated in a #cleantimechallenge - posting a photo during addiction, followed by a present-day recovery photo.

Riggenbach is now telling his story through a different form of media: newspaper print. He explained how his addiction, which began with pharmaceutical drugs purchased off the street, began to slowly take over his life. His increasing drug tolerance led him to take more and more pills to achieve the same high. Before Riggenbach realized it, the addiction had become costly in more ways than one. He searched for cheaper alternative drugs, such as heroin.

The heroin use led to using needles and forgotten responsibilities. It is at this time Riggenbach experienced overdose, and it was at his lowest when he attempted suicide.

It was time to make a change.

Riggenbach stated, "I'm 30-years-old and waking up in jail asking myself how this happened." Instead of dwelling on why he was in jail, Riggenbach focused on what he could do to get out. He observed repeat offenders and noticed how they never took things seriously, which led to them being incarcerated time and time again. Riggenbach quickly took note of the pattern.

It was at this time he found his faith in God. He mentioned he looked around and noticed that family members and friends who had been attending church were usually not the same types of people that end up in prison. "People who have a good relationship with God are good at following rules and usually don't end up in jail," clarified Riggenbach. That's when Riggenbach was encouraged to pursue a faith in God.

The narrow road certainly hasn't been easy. Riggenbach admitted changing from his old habits was extremely difficult, but he said he knew it was the right thing to do. Furthermore, he lost some friends along the way. He knew being around bad influences would make staying sober that much more difficult. He said he was accused of acting better than everyone else, but he was only trying to get his life in order.

Riggenbach graduated from drug court approximately three years ago, but he said he had to work hard to get to that point. He said he went "above and beyond" what was required by the court. He was originally sentenced to prison without the option of going to drug court; thus, he had to prove he was a worthy candidate, allowing him to share his story.

Riggenbach explained the drug court success rate is sometimes low because inmates are given drug court as an alternative to prison sentence. The inmates don't take the court seriously enough, which leads to failure. Failure in drug court then leads to the original prison sentence. Riggenbach said drug court enrollees have to be willing to change before the program can begin to have any positive affect.

As Judge Hummel, himself, has commented before: "The common denominator to success is maturity." Simply put, if you want to get clean, you have to work towards it and stay dedicated.



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