WELCOME - Garth Weir is not shy about sharing the story of his downward spiral caused by alcohol, drugs and mental illness. After a short time back in the area, he is just grateful to those willing to give him a second chance.
"I used to own the bar in Welcome for three years, Mr. G's," he recalled. "I also ran a DJ/Karaoke business. ... I used to be a firefighter and EMT. But I lost it all."
Garth admits the addiction and mental illness were always there, but it was the stress of trying to run two businesses that brought them to the forefront.
Garth Weir, right, poses with his father Dennis Weir at the Fox Lake baseball diamond complex. The Weirs helped create the facility, before Garth left the area to deal with his addictions and mental illness. “I still haven’t seen a game here,” he said.
"There was a car crash, and I was hospitalized," he said. "I remember being in the hospital and being angry at God because I was still alive. I'd lost my businesses, then lost my vehicle. I didn't think I had anything to live for."
At the time, he was still a firefighter and EMT, and was also helping develop the Fox Lake baseball diamond complex, which neighbors the bar he used to own.
"I needed to resign, because I couldn't deal with car crashes anymore," he recalled. "It was also hard to be putting up fencing and looking at the place I used to own."
Garth was admitted for alcohol treatment, and during that time he suffered a mental breakdown.
"I was committed by the county to St. Peter," he said.
Garth also had to serve time for charges of driving while impaired and theft.
By 2007, Garth had recovered enough to attend college in North Dakota.
"I was studying processed plant technology," he said. "I was hoping to come back and work at one of the ethanol plants."
But the abuse of his body and several car accidents have caused Garth several health problems, and he was still waging the war on addiction.
"I started studying psychology, to be a drug and alcohol counselor," he said. "But I started having psychological problems again. I ended up back in treatment, and was later discharged to a halfway house."
During his struggle with alcoholism and drugs, Garth lost three friends due to alcohol abuse; two died in accidents while impaired and one committed suicide.
"Alcohol kills," Garth said. "It kills in many forms,"
Once discharged, Garth again attempted to complete his education,
"I had three duffel bags and a bus ticket," he recalled of his return to the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.
But he managed to pull off a 3.5 grade point average, and it was during that time that he got a special opportunity to meet one of his idols.
"I have a brother in Scotland, and I got a chance to meet Susan Boyle," Garth said. "I remember her going on 'Britain's Got Talent,' and how everyone laughed at her when she first showed up. I know what that feels like. But then she sang and shut everybody up.
"Now Simon Cowell's her manager. But she still lives at her mother's house. We learned where she lived, and we actually went to the door and she answered in her robe with a coffee stain on it and her hair a mess. But she's just like us. She answers her own door, and she signed her book for me."
Despite knocking an item off his "bucket list," Garth still has work in front of him, as he is set to graduate in the spring with a bachelor's degree in drug and alcohol counseling.
"The rest of what I have is online classes, so I chose to come back to be closer to my family," Garth said.
A stroke of bad luck struck when he lost his wallet and all the money he had planned to use to rent an apartment and develop a new life in Fairmont.
"That was everything I had," he said. "I came back and I had no money and no place to stay."
That was when Garth learned you can always come home.
"So many people helped me," he said. "The people at Human Services helped me fill out papers for emergency funding and food aid. Krueger Realty helped me get an apartment. My car broke down, and Moores Auto fixed it for me, even though they knew I had to pay them back later. The Legion's rummage sale helped me get furniture for my apartment, and they said I could pay them back when I had the money. They all knew I needed help, and a lot have gone out of their way to help me. It's comforting and touching to know they are willing to help you, even though you've had problems."
Meanwhile, Garth is hoping to get an internship for drug and alcohol counseling. His main goal is to open a halfway house after he gets his degree.
"There is hope. There is a way," he said. "If I can go from being committed to a state hospital to graduating with honors, anything is possible."
Garth credits his family and friends for their support throughout his decade of struggles, including his father, Dennis Weir.
"I haven't drank or smoked anything for 26 years," his dad said. "I know how hard it is and what he's going through."
"I have a lot to live for now and a lot to offer," Garth said. "Everyone does if given a chance."