SUFFOLK, Va. - It kills thousands of people each year, but one local man was able to break his heroin addiction and is now using music to inspire others in their own battles.
Nic Robertson sings and plays guitar for his rock-reggae band called Of Zion. Their music fits right in at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, but underneath the laid back vibe is a history of hard times.
"Of Zion is a collection of people who all have similar stories of some kind of struggle," said Robertson, who began using heroin in 2012. "It was a really dark time in my life."
The 34-year-old told News 3 he started using drugs as a teenager, but didn't try heroin until after getting pain medication during a stint in the hospital.
"I got out and I remember telling my friend how I liked the feeling. He actually bought me heroin that day and I tried it and I was instantly in love with it," recalls Robertson.
From there, heroin became part of Robertson's everyday life. He said he would get high between work and performances with his band, then called 'Prophets of Zion'.
The deadly drug took him to the brink. "About four years in I overdosed and some friends came to my house and they were like, 'we want you to get some help'," said Robertson.
Robertson found that help at Youth Challenge of Hampton Roads; a faith-based treatment program in Newport News. He enrolled in the 14-month program and quickly began experiencing withdrawals, which he said lasted several months.
While support from others, especially his father, kept Robertson clean, he said music served as a release. "Music was kinda the only thing I had," he said. "I changed every aspect, from friends, everything and music became therapy."
Having graduated the program in January, Robertson still lives at Youth Challenge helping others who are struggling with addiction. He also leads worship for the treatment center.
Still, Robertson is taking what he's learned outside those walls. With new members, Of Zion's rock-reggae style now caries an inspirational message.
"It's a real good way to express ourselves and then try to help other people with messages of hope, love," said Robertson, who continues to move further from his old life as an addict.
Robertson told News 3 dozens of people he knows have died of overdose...including the friend who introduced him to heroin. He said he's lucky to be alive.
"There is hope. I'm so big on that. Don't be afraid. Don't give up," said Robertson.
Of Zion is scheduled to perform at the Suffolk Peanut Festival in October.