Methamphetamine abuse is everywhere. Even young men and women brought up with strong Christian values are not immune from its allure and its far-reaching damage.
That is the story -- and tearful warning -- and one Payson father wants to share his family's ordeal.
To protect the family, the names have been changed.
"It's everywhere. It starts with alcohol supplied by adults to minors," said John M., the father of a meth user.
He said these children, after they're introduced to alcohol, work up to experimenting with different drugs, but it's usually meth because it is so easy to get up here, "Or it used to be. The police have done a really good job of making it harder to get."
He said about 18 months ago, he noticed a change in his oldest child, Tommy.
"He's always been a follower. He's a young adult now, in his early 20s. After he was introduced (to meth) he stopped coming home nights," John said. "He had a temper and was detached. He always wanted to be away. Then suddenly he was having problems at work. I learned later he was avoiding their drug tests."
He said the company his son worked for had a policy of getting its employees into rehabilitation if they had positive drug tests.
"As soon as these people (abusers) hear the word rehabilitation the first thing they respond with is resistance, saying it doesn't work. It's just a bunch of do-gooders. Well, it does work for people who hit bottom," John said.
Tommy was fired from his job, but his family didn't know about it. John talked to people he knew and found he could help his son get another job if Tommy was in the union. So, the family paid the dues and he was hired by a company doing roadwork, making $32 per hour with full benefits.
"But he stopped showing up. So, he lost (that job)," John said. "The drug is so powerful, it can take a young man making good money, and he'll steal gas and live out of his vehicle. Then they start stealing from the family."
He was trying to sell our things to people we knew," John said.
There was a break-in at John's office. Soon after, things started disappearing from the house, and he discovered that several checks had been ripped out of the middle of the company checkbook. It turned out Tommy had taken them and forged his mother's signature for about $1,500.
"It's not the money. It's seeing the other children sad and confused and the loss of trust within the family. There's a separation, a break in the family," John said.
His younger children, some more than others, didn't want to have anything to do with their brother. Tommy's troubles have also created conflict in John's relationship with his wife.
"We can't let that happen. We've handled it with prayer and talking and knowing there's still hope. ... I believe drugs are part of Satan's plan to break the family apart and destroy their spirit until they believe there's no way back," John said.
"Then as a parent you have thoughts of putting a bullet through someone's head," John admitted, tears brimming in his eyes, "These people prey on these kids who are weak spiritually, with low self-esteem. And you can't help wondering what you did wrong."
Tommy is living in the Valley now, "ripping off stores and restaurants to eat and stealing things his supplier wants."
"It's amazing how physically and psychologically dependent it makes these kids. It's more addictive than cocaine or PCP. I asked one of Tommy's friends why it's so powerful and he said, ‘You feel like you're superman. Nothing, nobody can stop you. You can go for days.' My biggest fear is that he's going to have this superman attitude when a cop stops him, and even though Tommy won't be armed he might pick up a pipe or something and the cop will have to take him down."
John said two years ago, Tommy was a young man who would do anything for anyone. Now, he's become someone who steals from his own family.
"It comes to the point where you know it has to end. You want him to go to jail," John said.
That point came when his son, and his son's girlfriend, went to John's father, stole food from him and took a credit card and charged $580 for gas.
Tommy's addiction has changed the way John relates to his other children.
"We're talking with them more. Expressing our love verbally. Doing homework with them. We have family counseling evenings to talk about finances, answer their questions," he said. "You need to let your kids know you trust them, but don't get caught giving into everything they want. Kids need boundaries. With Tommy I always sensed he wanted to wander. He wanted to be with his friends instead of the family. I didn't act on it."
John said his son's plunge into the world of drug abuse is always on his mind.
"We haven't given up on our son," he said. "He may not think that. Yes, he's going to jail -- he better go to jail. But we would always accept him back."
John said he hopes by sharing his family's story, people will realize that the trap of meth addiction is out there more than their children are telling them and it can happen in any family.
If parents suspect their children are using drugs, "rather than go into denial, face it and nip it in the bud," John said, blinking back his tears. " But my biggest hope is that we'll get our son back."