Through overdoses and wake-up calls, Marion man tells the story of overcoming addiction | Marion

MARION — Joseph Barnaby is an extraordinary young man.

At 32, he is studying accounting at SIU and wants to be certified public accountant, but that is not what makes him extraordinary.

Barnaby also is a recovering addict. He has been sober for two and a half years.

“I broke my arm and I was prescribed pain pills for a couple months. I had never taken pain pills or anything else, for that matter,” Barnaby said.

He started taking pills recreationally, then finished a couple years in college at Southeast Missouri College in Cape Girardeau and at SIU.

Barnaby began using pain pills more often.

“They were all doing it, so I started doing it more,” he said.

Barnaby was back in college at SIU and began skipping classes. He ended up having to drop out. He said things got worse and he was using drugs daily.

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At first, he took pain pills. When they became hard to get, he switched to heroine. Toward the end of his drug use, Barnaby said he would take whatever he could get.

Barnaby couldn’t hold a job. He was begging his family for money to buy drugs. He even stole items from his parents to sell for drug money.

“I’ve overdosed multiple times”. Luckily, someone was there to call an ambulance,” he said.

Barnaby also did a couple unsuccessful terms in rehab at Gateway in Carbondale. He got to the point of being depressed and wondered if life was worth it.

He began looking at the lives of his high school friends. Some of them were doctors, lawyers and CPAs. Barnaby was a dropout living with his parents.

“It was the most devastating thing in my life, seeing my child addicted to drugs,” his mom Sherry Barnaby said.

Sherry Barnaby said the addiction affected her health, her marriage and her home. She had high blood sugar, blood pressure and frequent anxiety. She and her husband hid items that they thought Joseph might steal. She had clothes and jewelry disappear.

Sherry Barnaby feared he would end up dead or in prison.

Finally, Barnaby returned to Gateway for a third time. After going through the program, he went to a halfway house to get more time in a controlled environment.

“I think that really helps,” he said.

“I was the happiest mom in the world when he became drug-free,” Sherry Barnaby said.

Barnaby said on his worst days, he felt sick if he didn’t have something to take. He couldn’t get out of bed and lost weight. He would wake up in places where he did not know anyone.

He said when he was using he couldn’t walk up stairs and was constantly yelling at his parents.

Today, his life is much better and a “complete 180” from those days.

“It really gave me an appreciation for little things. I wake up early, have energy and am happy to be alive and have another chance at life,” Barnaby said.

He no longer associates with friends who do drugs. He got a new phone and deleted all those phone numbers. He spends time with his family and goes to class. He still feels the pain of using, but said it cannot compare to how he used to wake up.

He now has a normal appetite and eats three meals a day, adding that his current favorite meal is lo mein. He also has more money and nice things.

Barnaby also has goals, including becoming a CPA. He will have to work under a CPA for a year to qualify to take the exam.

As a CPA, he would be licensed to work in any state, but he knows every state has people who do drugs. Barnaby said anyone who wants drugs can find the almost anywhere.

He said avoiding drugs is probably the hardest thing he has ever done.

If you or someone you know is fighting addition, help is available by calling the Gateway Foundation 24-hour hotline at (877) 505-HOPE or visiting



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