LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - For the last 19 months Travis Ellis has lived a life that is completely opposite of how he did for the first 22 years of his life.
Ellis was known as a frequent flier with law enforcement. Since 2011, he had been arrested 16 times.
"It started from an early age," Ellis said. "Both of my parents that raised me were addicted and they were active users until i was 14. It started off small with marijuana and then escalated to xanax and then meth."
The drugs Ellis was taking controlled his life, forcing him to learn at a young age the consequences of his actions.
"I never finished high school," Ellis said. "Two weeks before I graduated 9th grade I was walked out in handcuffs for probation violation. I had to eventually just get my GED."
The addiction would quickly grow and Ellis would soon learn that drugs took more away from him then his health.
"I missed birthdays," Ellis said. "I missed Christmases, and meaningful times with my family and friends that I can never get back. Years of stuff I can never get back with my kids from when they were very small. I continued to repeat the same things over and over again trying to get different results which is the definition of insanity."
The lifestyle of drugs would catch up with Ellis in July of 2014 and after a rough 24 hour period the repeat drug offender would need to make a decision that could effect the rest of his life.
On July 8, 2014, Ellis was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia after Lufkin Police stopped him for running a stop sign. After a short time in jail, Ellis was arrested again the following morning at a car wash after police searched his car and found a bag of meth. Both arrest were featured on KTRE. Ellis said it was the low point of his addiction.
"That time was when I hit my breaking point," Ellis said. "That time. I have a 6 year-old little boy and a 4 year-old little boy and they mean the world to me and I don't want to look at them behind bars until they are the age I am now."
Ellis had two options at that point. For him, he could have continued using drugs and become a habitual offender meaning he could spend up to life in prison or he could work on getting clean which meant go to drug court. 159th District Judge Paul White recalled having Ellis in his court and said there was a low chance of him making it through the program.
"He is what I call a bullet-head," White said. "People his age are like a bullet and they bounce off from one thing to the next and it is rare for someone his age to be successful in the program their first time. I didn't think it would work for him."
Drug court is an alternative sentence for many people on drugs. The court allows them to not be in prison but does have terms much like a normal probation. Some of the terms include daily drug test and multiple court visits in a week as well as group sessions with sobriety group.
"Drug Court is the most intensive, in my opinion the most demeaning program in America," White said.
Ellis knew the odds of him completing the program were not good and his back was against the wall.
"There was 99.9 percent chance that I would fail," Ellis said. "No one believed I would make it."
But Ellis did make it out of the program. A year to the date of starting drug court with Judge White, Ellis would walk out with a certificate showing completion.
"I have been sober for 19 months," Ellis said. "I was happy to be done but it was not a special day. I did not look for that one day. I looked for a whole lifetime of days that I would be clean. I am happy with ere I am at now. For the first year of being out I was only supposed to get supervised visitation, but for the last 8 months, I have got my kids every weekend. I have a life with them and I have been out for a year and three months."
Ellis is now engaged to be married and has a full time job. He also assist his friend Eric King by being a mentor at the sober house to other people fighting addiction.
"For someone who has really honestly hit their breaking point and wants something different like me, it's completable," Ellis said.
Looking over Ellis case in his office White said he believes Ellis is a case that others battling addiction can look at and know there is hope to overcome the disease.
"It is more than hope," White said. "There is empirical evidence that you can overcome disease and live a normal life. There is far more than hope and Travis is evidence of that. He's proved with his resolve with wanting to have a relationship with his children and wanting to be different and break the cycle of generations and that he could be the one and I think he will be."