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Former meth addict: 'My addiction had a basement'

The latest graduates from James Valley Drug and DUI Court, Wesley Kelly and Tim Bingham, celebrate their accomplishments with Judge Patricia Riepel. (Libby Leyden/ Republic)

It took more than 34 years for Tim Bingham to have a desire to stay sober.

"Every day I test my recovery," said Bingham, 56, of Mitchell.

Bingham was first introduced to methamphetamine when he was 22 years old.

"I liked the feeling of the needle going in and out my arm. That is when I knew it was going to be a problem," Bingham told The Daily Republic this week while recounting his recovery story.

He worked multiple jobs in Sioux Falls to help pay for the methamphetamine, eventually resorting to committing crimes to pay for his drug habits.

Bingham spent 18 years in prison in three states, serving time for multiple felonies including grand larceny, burglary and possession of stolen property.

And each time he was released from prison, Bingham went back to using methamphetamine.

Bingham was released on parole in 2013 after serving two and half years in the state prison. He decided to move to Mitchell from Sioux Falls and start over in a place where people did not know his lengthy criminal history. By 2014, he had a job at Trail King Industries in Mitchell, had a girlfriend and was complying with his parole sentence.

"I was doing good for a while," Bingham said. "It was the first time I had ever successfully completed parole."

But while Bingham was trying to commit to his sobriety he lost his job at Trail King Industries. Then in November 2015, his girlfriend became pregnant and left Bingham.

Already a father to three children from previous relationships, Bingham could not cope with the news that his then-pregnant girlfriend was separating from him. He cashed in his 401k and purchased $5,000 worth of methamphetamine.

"I had every intention to commit suicide at that moment," Bingham said. "This is when I realized my addiction had a basement."

Bingham does not remember much about the week of Nov. 30, 2015, but he can recall sleeping in his car in front of Cubby's in Mitchell and a police officer knocking on his door. He was arrested on the morning of Dec. 6, 2015, for three drug-related felonies — his first arrest for a drug-related felony.

He was sentenced to four years of probation and was selected to attend the James Valley Drug Court. After 16 months in the program, he successfully graduated in August.

Through the assistance of drug court and attending outpatient treatment services at Stepping Stones in Mitchell, Bingham has successfully managed to quit his use of methamphetamine.

As of Tuesday, Bingham is 508 days sober. He credits attending regular Alcohol Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings as a "real foundation" to build his recovery life on.

Bingham typically attends one or two AA/NA meetings a day and meets with his AA/NA sponsor on Sunday mornings.

Bingham said he was tired of losing everything that was important to him and he does not want to spend the rest of his life being incarcerated. Bingham will continue to see his court services officer as he finishes his probation sentence for the next three years.

"I have a little bit of pride in myself now," Bingham said. "I want to be remembered for my recovery not for my addiction."