LEWISTON — Dustin Hibbard and Lucas Martin had similar upbringings, but their journey through life led them on vastly different paths.

Hibbard joined the Army and later entered law enforcement, while Martin became a seven-time felon with substance abuse issues.

“For years and years prior to (Martin) going to prison, I was that cop chasing him around,” Hibbard said.

Both of the men experienced six of the 10 most common adverse childhood experiences — or ACES — which are known to affect the way a child’s brain develops. The presence of ACES oftentimes leads to different emotional, mental and psychological conditions or reactions later in life.

While Martin’s actions ended in “transactional consequences,” Hibbard’s experience was transformational. The difference in their journeys is one had a support system that urged him to do better.

“If you take nothing else from our conversation here, please remember that a little bit of an investment in a kid can go a long way for that permanent outcome for them,” Hibbard said Thursday during the LC Valley Resilience Conference at the Red Lion Hotel in Lewiston.

The men were among about a dozen speakers who talked about adverse childhood experiences. Martin and Hibbard now work together to help people battling with substance abuse.

Martin had his first alcoholic drink at about 14 years old. To remedy his hangover the next day, a family member offered him another drink, telling him it would make him feel better.

At the age of 16, Martin met his biological father for the first time. After they attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, his dad purchased him a 40-ounce beer and later showed him how to turn cocaine into crack.

Martin racked up five felonies and two misdemeanors in his teens. By the age of 19, he had committed his first felony as an adult after he kicked in a door on a police car.

For much of his life, he couldn’t find a place where he felt accepted. He lacked a stable environment and positive role models.

Martin later experienced a bout of homelessness and lived behind the former Safeway in Lewiston. He often committed thefts. He wanted to get better, but didn’t know how.

“My addiction was more powerful than I was,” Martin said.

Hibbard, on the other hand, had a mother and father who divorced when he was 4 years old. He, at first, lived with his mom, who used drugs, bounced checks and would get into physical altercations. His mom was sentenced to a year in prison and, after getting out, was sentenced to three years in a state penitentiary.

In his teen years, Hibbard stole things, smoked marijuana and got into fistfights. He befriended a drug dealer, whose parents later become a second mom and dad to him. They urged Hibbard to start down a more positive path.

“As we grow up, we see these different paths we can take,” Hibbard said. “At about 17 years old, I said, ‘I can be like my mom or the exact opposite.’ There was no middle ground.”

That’s when Hibbard decided to join the Army. The sheriff at the time told Hibbard he’d hire him when he was done in the armed forces as long as he kept on a straight path. It gave Hibbard, who is now a sergeant for the Lewiston Police Department, something to strive toward.

“All of these people invested in me and knew the potential I had,” Hibbard said.

But for Martin, that wasn’t the case. Although he wanted to better himself, he had nowhere to turn. His mother raised him to know right from wrong, Martin said, but he decided he was a burden to his family and removed himself from their lives.

“When I started using meth, the whole world changed for me,” Martin said. “After a short time, I no longer saw any good in life.”

After a three-year prison sentence, Martin decided it was time to change. But, just two hours after he left the parole office, he found himself at a meth house using drugs.

He turned himself in and learned about the First Step 4 Life Recovery Center in Lewiston, which provides assistance to those with mental health or substance abuse issues.

The executive director sat down with Martin and helped him make a life plan, so he could figure out what his goals were. Further assistance from ChangePoint Behavioral Health helped him go down the right path.

“These people gave me the opportunity to do better and be proud,” Martin said. “Today, my mistakes don’t haunt me. It’s painful to talk about and remember them, but I don’t perceive things the way I did before.”

Martin has since celebrated 19 months of sobriety. He owns his own business and is the vice president of the First Step 4 Life Recovery Board.

But his success didn’t happen instantly.

“After living the way I had on the streets and then in prison, in my first couple of weeks of getting clean and sober, it was hard to fix three meals a day and do my laundry,” Martin said. “Even that felt like an accomplishment.”

After another run-in with Hibbard, in an incident where Martin was found not at fault, the two reconnected in a positive way. Martin convinced Hibbard to also join the First Step 4 Life Recovery Board.

They now work together for a common cause: to help those around them who struggle with addiction.

This article first published in the Lewiston Tribune.