FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Nate Moellering, like many others, never looked like someone who was a drug addict, but he dealt with the same struggles many others have faced.

He was introduced to prescription opioids in high school when he had three separate shoulder surgeries from playing football. He quickly learned the pills didn’t impact his physical pain, but helped his mental and emotional pain a great deal.

He began to experiment. It started with marijuana and other pills and quickly snowballed. Everything helped his inner demons that worried about what other people thought of him, and what he didn’t like about himself.

“I remember in the same year, I went from a scholarship college athlete to living in a homeless shelter in Indianapolis and doing heroin on the train tracks with someone right above tent city,” Moellering said.

He’d ultimately overdose a handful of times. His final two overdoses occurred in the same 24 hour period. Both times, first responders had to bust down doors just to get to him.

To put it frankly, Nate got so low that he had lost the will to live.

“I felt so bad about myself and I felt so hopeless that it was worth risking death in order to just not feel this pain anymore,” Moellering said.

But the tides started to change for him after that final overdose. Officer Mark Gerardot with Fort Wayne Police Vice and Narcotics decided to go to the call out where Nate had OD’d, despite having worked a full day plus overtime.

Gerardot met Nate, and rather than taking him to jail for using illegal drugs, he made a different call. He sat and talked with Nate for two hours about his life and how he’d reached that point.

“I looked at Nate like I was looking at a lot of human beings at the time, which is this is one of my fellow people on the planet and how do we just turn our back on it and walk away from somebody who’s come to this point in their life,” Officer Garardot said.

Having recently been in touch with an individual who was running a treatment center, Officer Gerardot connected him with Nate and got him to a treatment center in Florida. That person went on to become the owner of Fort Wayne Recovery.

Nate figured he had nothing else to lose, so he gave it a try and quickly started to make progress in rehab. He stayed in contact with Officer Gerardot and kept him up to date on how he was doing.

They formed a bond you don’t often see: a police officer and someone on the other side of the law becoming friends. Officer Gerardot would go on to attend Nate’s wedding, and they’re still friends to this day.

“If I spent my whole career, and I only helped one person and it was Nate. The difference that has made, has made my whole career worthwhile,” Officer Gerardot said.

“It means the world to me,” Moellering said of his friendship with Officer Gerardot.

Not only did that night make a difference in keeping Nate alive, it made a difference because of what he would go on to do.

Nate’s time at the rehab center in Florida led to a job offer. Nate’s current position is the Community Outreach Director for Fort Wayne Recovery and Allendale Treatment.

He uses his past as a tool to show people that there is a way out of the darkness. He shares his story wherever he can. He and Officer Gerardot have even done speaking engagements together to show other police officers their success story.

“I think everything I went through was for a reason, and that reason was so I could help somebody else and that’s the whole point of doing this story,” Moellering said.

He knows the chance of helping someone dealing with addiction is higher when they’re getting help from someone who’s been in that same spot.

“They’re not a bad person for struggling. They may have done some bad things, but it’s never to late to turn it around while you’re still breathing,” Moellering said.