HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A Hendersonville man celebrated one year of sobriety with the two first responders he credits with saving his life.

Garrett Schnabel said he “hit rock bottom” Aug. 24, 2022, and if it weren’t for Hendersonville police officer Ashley Witte and Sumner County recovery responder Taylor Schweighauser with Volunteer Behavioral Health, he likely wouldn’t be alive today.

“Meeting those two definitely saved my life for sure,” Schnabel said.

Witte told News 2 she and Schweighauser responded to a call that day to help locate a suicidal man who had just been released from the Hendersonville Medical Center.

Witte said her main focus was on finding the subject, and when they located Schnabel at a nearby gas station, he opened up about his ongoing battle with substance abuse. Schweighauser came up with a plan to get him help the next day, ensuring he was safe until then.

“When we met the next day, [he was] kind of a different person a little bit,” Schweighauser said. “Being able to get a shower and eat, he was able to really tell me what was going on.”

Schweighauser connected Schnabel with resources, and he admitted himself into rehab that day. After completing his rehabilitation program, Schnabel moved into a sober living home for several months before ultimately celebrating one year of sobriety.

“I know I got very lucky with how everything turned out for me. I know there are many different ways it could’ve played out,” Schnabel said. “I could have died that night; I could have gone to jail.”

Schnabel told News 2 he didn’t realize a recovery responder job like Schweighauser even existed before last year; now, he believes every department should invest in a similar program.

Witte told News 2 since Schweighauser began working with the department one and a half years ago, she has taught other officers how to respond to mental health crises and has also been able to assist on calls related to domestic violence and ones involving juveniles.

“We go out to a call. Could we take somebody to jail? Yeah. I’d rather get them the help they need,” Witte said. “You can take anybody to jail. It’s not necessarily going to help the case. Getting somebody into a program to help is the saving grace.”

Schweighauser said success stories like Schnabel’s are rare, but possible, which is why she believes it’s important to share his story.

“It’s hard to make sure that people are getting the resources and things that they need during this time, and they just don’t know where to turn, so hearing someone in this population go through all this and be at his worst day come out a year later a strong person, a better person, is the only thing I can hope and ask for,” she said.

Schnabel told News 2 he’s looking forward to achieving more of his goals in the coming year, including continuing a career in the film making industry.

“If I stick with my recovery, move forward, keep doing the next right thing, I will be able to stay in my family’s lives, have a good job, and achieve all the things that I want to achieve,” Schnabel said. “That’s kind of been my drive lately. I’ve gotten out of the depths, and now I just want to go up.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health and/or substance abuse problems, help is available here.