Pubdate: Sun, 29 Jan 2006
Source: Hendersonville Times-News (NC)
Copyright: 2006 Hendersonville Newspaper Corporation
Author: Scott Parrott, staff wrier
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Christmas Day, 1990. Steve Dalton spent the morning celebrating the
holiday with his wife and mother-in-law. He swore he would stay clean.
But around noon, the cravings became too much.

Dalton stormed out the door, telling his wife, Genee, he had too much
on his mind, he needed to work.

He raced to his orchard in Edneyville and found the meth he stashed
beneath one of the apple trees.

He snorted one line. Then another. Tears rolled down his cheeks as he
knelt in the dirt.

In that moment, he knew.

"The drug had me," Dalton says.

And it changed him.

Dalton once tended apples. By 1990, he stashed drugs in the

He once looked like an athlete. He stood 6 foot 6, weighed 280 pounds.
By 1990, he "looked like death." Skin and bones. Sixty pounds lighter.

He once cared for people. He earned a badge for helping others in
fourth grade. By 1990, he carried a .357 everywhere he went.

He once was a good husband, who married his high school sweetheart. By
1990, he pitched plates across the room when he did not like the
dinner she prepared.

Kneeling in the orchard, Dalton realized he had a problem. But it
would be another couple years before he checked into rehab.

And when he did, the people behind the counter could not believe the

"They said, 'There's no way, meth's not been around since the '60s in
this area,'" says Dalton, now 42.

But they soon found out.

Man-made Epidemic

Dalton, who kicked meth 11 years ago, turned out to be on the front
end of what would become an epidemic in the mountains and across North

Methamphetamine, a highly addictive illegal stimulant, knows no
boundaries, striking every class, every race, every age, from the big
cities to the small towns.

"This is a drug that does not discriminate," says Henderson County
Sheriff George Erwin. "It does not know color, it does not know
religion and it does not know socioeconomic status."

It knew Dalton, and Dalton knew meth. Only too well.

He recites the background of an All-American kid.

"Grew up in a perfect family, grew up on a farm," he says. "Went to
church, taught right and wrong. You'd never predict I would become an
alcoholic and an addict."

"Parents used to get told, 'This is a great kid. He'll grow up to be
somebody one of these days.'"

"Played sports. Popular guy. I was on the state championship baseball
team, 1982, Edneyville. Fourth in the state in basketball. Escort at
homecoming. Student council. College prep classes, the whole nine yards."

And then he reaches the point, when in ninth grade, he took the first
step on what would prove a slippery slope.

"I drank my first beer, a little pony Miller. I'll never forget it. I
used to think, well, that didn't change me. I'm OK. So I started
drinking a little bit through high school, after ball games and stuff
like that."

When Dalton left Hendersonville for Appalachian State University, he
tossed back more and more beers. Still, he never touched drugs.

Dalton studied in Boone for two years. His parents called him home to
Edneyville when a sign-stealing prank landed him and some college
buddies in the Watauga County Jail.

And then in 1985, his father, Porter Dalton Jr., was diagnosed with
terminal cancer.

"My daddy was my hero," he says. "He was who I played ball for, who I
made good grades for."

"The only way I could deal with it was with what I had learned to do
- -- to drink more and more. To make a long story short, that one pony
Miller eventually led to a fifth of liquor every day."

Dalton plummeted. A friend convinced him to snort cocaine. Within
months, he found meth.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin