A local man, who managed to break free from his heroin addiction, has a message every family should hear.
Josh Steenburg always liked the chase. He was born in Canada and grew up wanting to be a professional hockey player.
But off the ice, his addiction sidelined his dreams.
"I'm a full-blown heroin addict,” said Steenburg. “I can't stop, it's too powerful.”
That's what he told his mom three years ago before walking into rehab.
He grew up in Richmond and started smoking pot in high school. After graduating, he got a job offshore working on oil rigs. He said the money allowed him to take his addiction to the next level.
"I went over to my friend’s house one time and I heard them talking about these cocktails,” said Steenburg. “I thought a cocktail was a drink, it wasn't. It was a certain mixture of pills."
He said there was a point when he was taking 55 pills a day. But he couldn't afford it, so he started stealing. He eventually landed in court and later rehab.
But just 14 days into rehab, he relapsed and after the death of a friend he turned to something stronger.
"At that point heroin overcame my life,” said Steenburg. “I like to use the metaphor that I was a puppet, heroin was the master."
According to the Center for Disease Control, heroin related overdose deaths have more than quadrupled since 2010. And like Steenburg, three out of four new heroin users say they tried prescription opioids first.
"This whole thing was fueled in the last 20 years by the prescription medication boom for opioid medication,” said Matt Feehery, CEO of Parc Memorial Hermann Prevention and Recovery Center.
As more doctors prescribed pain killers, he says pills began to end up in the wrong hands.
"Families need to be vigilant in wanting to help their loved one find a way to help,” said Feehery. “They've got to intervene"
Steenburg’s family did just that.
"I didn't want to believe any of it at first," said Jennifer Steenburg, his mom. “But when I saw it in writing, me and his dad, we fought and we fought. I love him, he's my kid."
He then entered the rehabilitation program at PaRC.
Although it wasn’t’ easy, he recovered. And even after graduating from the program, he still comes back.
Steenburg is now back on the ice and stronger than ever,
"Very rarely I've ever seen a heroin success story, it was unheard of,” he says.
Steenburg will celebrate three years free from addiction in August. He's a licensed realtor who dreams of opening sober living houses someday. His greatest gift now is giving others hope.