A SECOND CHANCE
Justin Weatherbee’s mother endured 36 hours of labor before giving birth to her son in September 1989.
Weatherbee said he’s been cheating death ever since. After battling drug abuse and addictive habits for 20 years, he has spent the last three years sober.
“Addictive behaviors were prevalent in the beginning before I ever put a substance in my body,” Weatherbee said. One night when he was 12, he was offered marijuana, Weatherbee said.
“I smoked, then I played the guitar, and it was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard in my life,” he said. “From that point on, I was going to try every single drug just to see how music sounded with it.”
He was 16 when he was introduced to methamphetamine. “That got tough quick,” he said.
Weatherbee recalled driving to Evansville high on meth.
“I’d been up for six days,” he said. “I’ve got meth in the car. I got to a roadblock, and I was trying to figure out where to put it. I look up, and I see a cop car completely get run over by another car.”
Thinking he witnessed someone die, Weatherbee said he called family members and even told an employee at a gas station what happened.
His only coping mechanism at the time was doing more drugs, he said. At 19, he was introduced to heroin. At 22, he began shooting a combination of heroin and meth.
Weatherbee said the worst part of his drug use was lying to his fiancé, Christina Scott. Weatherbee and Scott have been together for seven years. They were together for around two years before she found out about his drug use in May 2016.
“I lost the ability to control whether or not I was going to lie to her,” he said. “My arms would look like they’ve been beaten by hammers, and I’d still tell her I’m not shooting dope.”
During this time, Weatherbee was working at treatment centers and was able to keep his drug use a secret. Scott recalled being in class at WKU when she had a feeling that something was wrong.
“I’m a very visual person, so I noticed little physical things,” she said. “His hands would shake when I asked him certain questions, his hair was thinner, his eyes were not the same. It felt like looking into someone else's eyes. He was not the Justin I knew.”
Scott grew worried when Weatherbee wasn’t answering his phone as she was calling to check in on him, she said. “I did a welfare check and called it off because I thought I was overreacting,” she said.
After thinking about what could be going on with Weatherbee, she redialed for the welfare check. “We found the drugs before we found him,” she said. Scott said she remembers the vivid scene of her boyfriend overdosing to this day. After checking the apartment, they found him in a car outside.
“He was in a Western outfit with his boots halfway on,” she said. “He was in the driver seat of someone else's car, just completely out of it.”
“When we first met, he told me he was an ex-heroin addict, and I thought it was cool,” Scott said. “He was dark and mysterious.”
She said the romanticization of hard drugs in books and movies contributed to her naiveté.
Scott was eventually diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder from the event. Weatherbee said one time he awoke to her holding onto him in his sleep, shaking him to make sure he was breathing.
To get by, she said the two pretended things were fine. Scott was in her last year of college, and the couple even rented a house together. It was all a facade, she said. “Everything quickly went back,” she said. “He had a psychiatrist that would prescribe him whatever he wanted.”
Weatherbee was taking meth, heroin and benzodiazepines, an addictive, psychoactive drug often used for treating anxiety.
“If you walked into a hospital and asked a nurse what they would give somebody to kill them, it was exactly what I was taking,” Weatherbee said. Weatherbee overdosed for a second time in January 2018.
“I called for a welfare check while I was in one of my painting classes,” Scott said. “The next thing I know I’ve got a strange number calling me. I answer it, and he’s in jail.”
Weatherbee said being in jail was the only thing stopping him from using drugs.
Weatherbee detoxed in jail for seven days before being sent to Liberty Ranch, an addiction treatment facility in Kings Mountain, Kentucky.
“I fought it really hard for seven days, and on that seventh day I got down on my knees and said I’m done. I’ll never go back,” Weatherbee said. “I’ve not missed a day or a night of prayer since that seventh day of asking God to keep me clean and sober.”
Weatherbee attributes his recovery completely to finding a higher power. Though he makes this clear: it’s not religion.
“They told me religion was for people who are scared of hell, and spirituality is for people who have already been to hell and don’t want to go back,” Weatherbee said. “I could get with that.”
Weatherbee left Liberty Ranch in February 2018, and has dedicated his life completely to God, intent on being holistically healthy.
Weatherbee and Scott are now both active in CrossFit and promote self-care and therapy.
“We both have our own therapists, and we go to couple’s therapy,” said Scott, who is working toward becoming an art therapist.
Weatherbee has worked as a counselor for two years since his recovery. He continues to write and play music, as well as advocate for drug use awareness. “Anything I have now, all my successes, are from doing the right thing,” Weatherbee said.
His advice to anyone trying to overcome addiction: “Find your higher power.”
Weatherbee said after multiple overdoses several car wrecks, he owes his life to God and helping people.
“I made it through that, I’m not going to be hateful every day and miserable,” he said. “I’m going to choose to be happy and serene and be as humble as I can because I owe it to the world.”
Weatherbee with his mother and father at age 3.
Weatherbee at age 2 playing with his father's car keys.
Scott checks on Weatherbee after an hour-long workout at Crossfit Old School. Crossfit has become an integral part of Scott and Weatherbee's weekly routine as Weatherbee overcomes his battle with addiction. "It's just really good to see our Crossfit family throughout the week and, of course, good for Justin because structure is so helpful for him,” Scott said. “Working out helps both of us release our stress."
Weatherbee and Scott perform cool down stretches during their weekly Crossfit meeting. The couple has been involved with Crossfit since 2019 and continues to attend four times weekly.