Drugs, prison and now a career: 38-year-old college graduate | local news

When Adam Gilson was 14 years old, he left his home in Tomah, Wisconsin. He was taken in by a 30-year-old drug dealer. That’s when Gilson started selling drugs, too.

“They put an undercover cop in my high school. They did a full sting operation when I was 16 because of their suspicions.” “It was a general investigation.”

Gilson sold the drugs to the undercover officer and was arrested. That was in the year 2000.

Fast forward 22 years through drug addiction and jail time, and Gilson is slated to graduate from Chippewa Valley Technical College with an associate’s degree in substance use disorder counseling.

“I’ve been through a lot, but I still wouldn’t change any of it because it wouldn’t put me in the same position I’m in now, or the position I’ll be in in the future,” he said. “My path will be different, and I am very content and happy with what my path is now.”

Gilson, 38, tells the story of his traumatic upbringing that led to substance abuse and imprisonment. But he does not blame others. He tells excerpts from his life as truth with a little emotion. He owns it.

After his first arrest, the district attorney offered Gilson a “lucrative deal” to disclose the source of the drugs.

“My dad asked how dangerous the people I work with were. I said, ‘Very dangerous.’ I better accept my consequences,” Gilson said. “So, I asked them to take me to jail.”

Gilson was waived in adult court and before he turned 18, he was found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison. He got his GED in jail, and two years later, he got out.

But drugs lured him back to using. He remained in an active addiction state for another nine years doing almost anything he could find.

“I used a lot of stimulants and designer drugs like ecstasy, cocaine, and narcotics,” Gilson said. “My real problem started when I turned 27. I tried methamphetamine. I literally tried it once, and I didn’t stop for two years. I used it every day, all day.”

Then he was stopped by Iowa law enforcement. He had two 9mm handguns in his possession. And he had a felony under his belt of selling to an undercover officer 11 years ago. He was a criminal in possession of firearms.

“They charged me federally. I was tried in federal court, and I ended up with seven and a half years in prison. I served six years.”

While in prison, Gilson applied for a residential drug use program administered by the Federal Bureau of Prisons offered to eligible, voluntarily registered prisoners. The nine-month program is knowledge-based, which Gilson said he’s been working with since other programs haven’t.

However, he said that imprisonment may affect his success on the programme.

He said, “I’ve done all the treatments before that and nothing helped.” “The software there was just right for what I needed. I still use it to this day.”

Getting out of prison gave Gelson a new lease on life. Going to college was high on his priority list, and he began attending Western Technical College in La Crosse. He knew that his past would become his future, but not as some might think.

Gilson traveled to Eau Claire to scope out CVTC—a college he heard had a reputation for its substance use disorder counseling program. That’s when he reached out to Troy Bruns, program director and coach.

Gilson was worried that he would not be accepted because of his past. He sat outside Bruns’ desk for two hours, waiting to discuss the matter.

“I waited for him and said, ‘Hey, I have a really extensive criminal history. I didn’t know if I would pass a background check, Gilson said.

Bruns replied that getting trained would be a struggle. But Gilson had a plan. If he was really that good in the program, would Bronz see him when the coaching opportunities started?

Bronze agreed.

Throughout Gilson’s tenure at CVTC, he was on the president’s list and would graduate with honors.

Bronze was impressed by Gilson’s design.

“He’s genuine, considerate, loving, and eager,” Bruns said. “He has spoken openly about his past from the very beginning.”

Bruns said he’s had a few students with criminal backgrounds, which could give them more understanding of what their clients go through. But Bruns said that if the felony is recent, it may be difficult to find an internship.

With Gilson’s good grades and coach support, he secured a coveted training place at LE Phillips-Libertas Treatment Center in Chippewa Falls – a service of the Hospital Sisters Health System and one of the only treatment facilities of its kind in western Wisconsin.

With graduation approaching, Gilson planned his next move. He accepted a position as a counselor at Exodus House in Hudson – a service of Lutheran Social Services. The facility offers gender-specific programs for men, substance abuse counseling and group therapy, evidence-based programming, and one-on-one counseling.

“Either they’re moving from prison back into the community, or they’ve been on probation and struggling to get the program going in hopes of getting back on track and avoiding revocation and incarceration,” Gilson said. “It’s a great demographic for me because I can relate so well to their stories and struggles.”

Gilson said he has a lot of experience with the system not working for him and that makes him want to try harder to make sure what he does helps others.

“The difficult thing is that in our field, there will be more failures than successes, and that’s just a fact,” he said. “It’s just the idea of ​​helping one person at a time—to get them to a better place than they were. A lot of times you don’t get that reassurance that you helped them because they don’t come back and tell you. But I know I’m making an impact. It’s the best I can do.”