UPDATE: Wisconsin family shares story of drug addiction to help - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Wisconsin family shares story of drug addiction to help others

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MADISON (WKOW) -- For two months, the Wisconsin Department of Justice has been pushing its "Dose of Reality" campaign. It's a rude awakening for families that drug addiction can happen to anyone. One Wisconsin family learned that hard lesson on their own but they're now sharing their story of recovery to help others wake up to the reality that drug abuse is a problem in every community.

Tyler Lybert started drinking at 11-years-old. He says he was trying to make friends and as drinking lost its appeal, he started turning to drugs. He was taking pills by age 15 and doing heroin by 16.

"Single-handedly I almost destroyed my family, I destroyed my life," Tyler tells 27 News. "I hadn't accomplished anything and I wasn't planning on accomplishing anything. I was an addict. All I knew was how to get high and how to hurt people to get high and how to steal from people to get high. That was my entire life for years."

Lybert's parents Sandi and Rick and his sister Ashleigh say they suffered from his decade of addiction. The Hartland family was nearly torn apart by denial and felt they had no one to turn to for help.

"I denied it because I didn't know what to do if we addressed it," says Sandi. "I didn't know where to go. We didn't know whom to go to, we didn't know who to ask and because it was drugs and alcohol, we were shunned by people."

The addiction nearly destroyed Sandi and Rick's marriage.

"I was extremely mad at Tyler because he just wouldn't stop no matter what I tried," Rick says.

Ashleigh says her close relationship with her brother and parents was destroyed as they focused on Tyler's problems.

"I was really close with him when we were younger and just watching him go from my best friend to somebody I absolutely hated," she says. "I hated him for what he was doing to our family. My parents fought all the time. I never wanted to come home from school because it was just always chaotic."

The Lybert's story is just one of many in Wisconsin, some ending far more tragically. State officials say 70 percent of prescription drug abusers get those medications from family or friends. The DOJ has been working for months to wake parents up to that fact and prevent drug abuse with the Dose of Reality campaign. It's a series of commercials and internet ads that use scare tactics to get parents to ask questions about the growing problem of drug abuse.

Wisconsin Department of Health Services statistics show drug overdose deaths doubled from 2004 to 2013.

"Prescription painkillers kill more people than heroin and cocaine combined, right here in Wisconsin," says Attorney General Brad Schimel. "Drug overdose is now far outpacing car crashes as a [leading] cause of death." 

Schimel tells 27 News he's heard from many who believe the commercials are too shocking, but he says he wants people talking about it because it's not a topic to ignore. He says nearly half of those who see the ads on the internet are clicking through to find more information, which is a good sign.

Another effort to get prescription drugs out of reach are prescription drug drop off boxes. As more communities are getting involved, more drugs are being collected across the state. Schimel says last September, the DOJ collected about 36,000 pounds and this fall a collection event brought in more than 44,000 pounds.

Schimel says there's still a long way to go to stop drug abuse. His department is engaging pharmacies, doctors and businesses to join in the fight and help people get better before it's too late.

There's hope in the stories of families like the Lyberts. After 10 years, the family gave Tyler an ultimatum. At 21-years-old, weighing just 80 pounds, he went to rehab for nearly six months and has now been sober for seven years. Now, they're sharing their story with parents and teenagers in Wisconsin, creating a nonprofit called "Your Choice" to make sure it doesn't happen to anyone else. 

The family holds public meetings all over southeastern Wisconsin and they also visit school health classes. Their goal is to prevent families from running into the same troubles they've experienced.

The once broken family is now coming closer together because of their struggle with addiction. It's a struggle that for Tyler, will last a lifetime.

"There's plenty of times where I've wanted to give up and wanted to go back to using but then I see the support around me, I see my family, I see how far I've come and all the things I've accomplished being sober and I can't give it up," Tyler says.

The next "Your Choice" event is December 14th at Lake Mills High School, from 6-8 p.m.

"More Info on Your Choice"

"DOJ's Dose of Reality Campaign"

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