When Mark, 41, recalls his childhood, the descriptions conjure images of an idyllic family where loving parents created a healthy, happy environment for their six children.
But the summers on Cape Cod and the stable family life were not enough to protect him from a drug addiction.
"He was a delightful child. He was the easiest child that I had," said Mark's mother.
His older sister, Theresa Barger agreed, saying that Mark was always a well-behaved student. His troubles in school stemmed from not studying.
"I was always happy and I still got hooked on drugs, because the power of the drug -- it keeps calling you back," said Mark, who agreed to share his story of addiction on the condition that only his first name be used.
First it was marijuana when he was 16. Later it was cocaine and, 11 years ago, he started using methamphetamine, he said.
He began using meth in San Diego and moved to Craig to get away from the drug -- a solution he referred to as a "geographical cure." Unfortunately, meth was here already and he quickly realized that he couldn't beat the temptation to use.
Mark said he is ready to come clean and unlike times in the past when he tried to quit, he said he's getting help from others and doing it for himself.
"I've had enough. I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired," Mark said. "The high is wonderful, but you don't go anywhere. You lose everything. I've lost everything."
One month, Mark spent $3,000 on his drug habit, he said. Another time he lost a brand new vehicle to someone who threatened to kill him. Mark handed him the keys, because he believed the man really would have killed him -- over meth. He's lost two teeth -- one from the drug use and one from his ex-wife who became violent when she used meth. He's also practically lost his family, he said.
One brother refuses to speak to him and he's only on speaking terms with his mother and another brother, he said.
"Basically I don't have a family. I'm hoping they'll see what I'm doing, that I'm making progress."
Although he's not in touch with most of his family, he said they all support his joining a rehabilitation program. They support the idea, he said, but he wonders if they really believe him since he's said the same thing before but didn't follow through. He admitted to being a good liar.
"That's what drug users do, is lie to cover up their habit," Mark said.
One of those times was in 2000. He took his 5-year-old daughter to his sister's house on the East Coast. Barger, had agreed to watch his daughter while he went to treatment in San Diego. When he got to San Diego, he fell back into his drug-using habits with the mother of his daughter and wife at the time and skipped the drug-rehabilitation program altogether.
Mark said he loves his daughter and he loves kids in general. His girlfriend, also from Craig, agreed, and said Mark is great with kids.
"The worst thing [about the drug] is the children that are abused by neglect," Mark said.
They're often malnourished he said, giving an example of one local child who told him he had raw Top Ramen for breakfast one morning.
"I think that was another pushing point in my recovery. I love kids," Mark said.
Barger said she knows Mark loves his daughter, but that his drug problem has made him irresponsible and had a negative impact on the child.
"The summer when she was 5 years old, I brought her to my pediatrician for a checkup. The pediatrician said she had poor muscle development and malnourishment," Barger said. "I think that speaks for itself. I think to say that she came to our house and that she had never seen a library and didn't know they existed -- that says a lot," she said.
Mark plans to enter a three-month rehabilitation program today.
Barger said she's glad he's acknowledging that he needs help.
"I do and I will continue to pray for him and his ex-wife and his child. I won't believe he's free of the drug and its grasp on him until he's been drug-free for a year," Barger said.
Mark is living one day at a time. He attends meetings and follows a 12-step program.
Mark's mother said he is also in her prayers.
"God doesn't make junk," she said. "I wouldn't give up on him. Never. There is always hope no matter what the addiction is."
Mark said he couldn't do it alone. He advises people who want to quit to call Narcotics Anonymous, go to meetings and get a sponsor. His girlfriend agreed.
"If you can't handle it at 4 a.m., someone will sit and talk with you. We know what it's like," she said.
Michelle Wallar can be reached at 824-7031.