Recovering addict hopes for brighter better, future
Editor’s note: This is the first of a twopart series that explores the impact drug addiction has in Huron County. The following article explores how 22 years of drug use has affected the life of a 30-yearold Bad Axe woman. Her name has been changed to protect her identity.
BAD AXE — “I wish I would’ve known what I know now at 12,” a 30- year-old local Bad Axe resident confessed about her drug use.
“I used to dream of owning a home, having a career, going to school, having a family,” she said. “Now I’m 30 years old and I have nothing to show for it.”
“Lindsey” started doing drugs at the age of eight. She would carefully tuck her prescription medication inside her teddy bear, saving it up to consume it all at once.
“There was nobody there to tell me not to,” she said. “I raised myself.”
Shortly after birth, Lindsey’s parents tried to kill her, and she was adopted by an uncle. Her uncle abused her emotionally and physically, which eventually led to Lindsey’s placement in the foster care system as a ward of the state.
“I wish I would’ve been truthful with CPS so I would’ve gotten out of it sooner,” she said of living with her uncle.
While in a group home, Lindsey developed friendships with much older children of 17 and 18.
“They were my role models,” she said. “I was angry … I was trying to stay numb.”
It was difficult growing up in foster care, she said. Lindsey has lived all over the state, in cities such as Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Gaylord, Jonesville, Sandusky and Bad Axe.
She stated that she has experimented with “everything,” including prescription drugs, marijuana, cocaine, heroin and meth.
When asked why she decided to try heroin, she said, “The people who were doing it looked numb, high and happy.”
Of the single time she’s ever used meth, Lindsey said, “The longer I was on it, the worse it felt. … But never again am I touching that stuff, ever.” She used the drug for 10 days.
She confessed that, at times, she’d purposely put herself into a panic attack before seeing a doctor so that the doctor would prescribe her Xanax.
“It doesn’t matter what it is, I’ll just take it. When it’s right in my face, I’m weak,” she said.
Lindsey is no stranger to loss. A few weeks ago, a friend of hers died in an accident in Caseville, and, not long ago, a friend of hers died of an overdose.
“I tell myself it’s not real to this day. I just rationalize it as they’re not in my life anymore,” she said.
Currently, Lindsey said that she knows more people in Bad Axe who don’t use drugs than people that do.
Of her friends who use drugs, she said, “they care enough to help you feel numb.”
Lindsey recognizes the effect her past drug use has had on her life. While staying with a friend in Flint, she found herself in the midst of a drug war.
A man came to her friend’s house asking for Lindsey. When he wouldn’t leave, she consented to go with him to another house down the street. She had suspicions that it was a drug house, but she hadn’t been entirely sure. Not long after she got there, the house was attacked by a rival drug dealer who lived down the street.
“I’m too social,” she said later. “It’s how I meet the wrong people.”
During the shoot out, Lindsey was shot in the leg.
Another girl in the house held Lindsey’s hand and called an ambulance while the men living there were hiding the supply of drugs outside. After a long wait (nearly half an hour), the ambulance arrived. Lindsey later noticed that the ambulance station was located just down the street.
Eventually, Lindsey returned to the Thumb area. After completing a recovery program in Sanilac County during January of 2012, Lindsey found herself homeless. She had used up her allocated 45 days in the program, and she needed shelter.
A man offered her a place to stay, and she accepted, on the condition that there were no drugs in the house.
When she got there, she found out he’d been lying.
“It looked like a candy shop to a dope head,” she said. The man kept up a steady supply of a variety of drugs. “As soon as I picked my head up, he gave me more.”
After a few days, Lindsey was able to escape. She wandered around town, “dope-sick,” until she found a friend who took her in and cared for her. She had too many drugs in her system to get a detox, she said, and because she didn’t have insurance, she couldn’t get into rehab.
Her drug use has also impacted the few family connections she has.
“The first time I met my brother, I was high on dope,” she said.
One time, she called her brother in tears, asking for help. She stayed with him for a few days before going to the hospital for a detox. She wanted to continue with her detox in the psych ward to ensure that she got clean, but they wouldn’t let her in. As a last resort, she threatened to stab herself in the neck. The hospital admitted her, and from there she was able to get into a rehabilitation program.
Lindsey has been trying to recover since February of 2012. She decided to seek help because she doesn’t want to keep being numb.
“I don’t want my kids doing what I did … I can be successful … I don’t want my kids saying, ‘oh, if I get hurt, I can just get high or get drunk,’” she said. “I want my kids to be something I wasn’t.”
“It’s scary. I second-guessed myself. Getting clean meant I’d have to dig deep and feel emotions I didn’t want to feel,” she said. “I get so mad at myself because I feel pain. … I feel like I could be stronger than that.”
“Sometimes, I think I allow this pain to happen for an excuse to go use,” she speculated. “I think it’s because I don’t respect myself. If I did, then I’d expect respect back.”
Ultimately, Lindsey said she believes in herself and is optimistic about her recovery.
“On my non-using times, I’m so much more proud of myself,” she said. “You can look in in the mirror and be happy with who you are. You can know you’re doing good and being good.”
Lindsey said she doesn’t think her friends who use drugs are very supportive of her trying to get clean.
“If you’re with friends, you don’t feel like you have a problem. It’s when you’re sitting there all by yourself that you start to think, ‘hey, maybe I do have a problem,’” she said.
“People don’t feel so guilty when they have someone to use with,” Lindsey said matter-of-factly.
“I’m trying to surround myself with positive people. …It’s like I have to jump over this cliff. All your using friends are on one side, and all your new friends are on the other. It’s hard to let go of the people who cared about you when you were using,” she said. “Can’t they all just jump over and be on one side and be happy together?”
Lindsey wants others to know that drug users are people too.
“People judge us and they don’t realize that we’re people just like them, that we want good, but we hurt and we don’t know how to deal with it,” she said, backing up her statement with stories of hospital stays in both Flint and Deckerville. Lindsey said that when she was hospitalized in Flint, “rehabs came to show they loved me. In Deckerville, all the people with money, not one showed up. And at that time, I wasn’t using,” she said. (Lindsey referred to people who were in the process of recovering from drug abuse as “rehabs.” She also called the people she knew in Deckerville who did not use drugs “people with money.”)
She recounted in another story that a person she just met watched over her one night as she overdosed. “Just because he cared,” she said. “We’re goodhearted people. Yes, they might steal from you, but they’d jump in front of a bullet to save you.”
Lindsey has high hopes for her future. She plans to attend college in January with the aim of attaining a degree in social work. That goal, she knows, will not be obtainable if she is not able to stay clean. It’s a constant struggle, and she sometimes is unable to resist the temptation to make herself numb.
“I don’t deserve this. If I really want good, I have no excuse at all not to become somebody,” she said.
She hopes that sharing her story with others who are struggling with drug use will encourage them to seek help, as she is doing.
Lindsey said that her advice to people who are either using drugs or thinking about using drugs would be to surround yourself with people that love you and truly believe in you.
“Prove to the world that you’re better than that, that you aren’t what they believe you are. Say, ‘I will amount to something.’”
Read next week’s Huron County VIEW for details about how local teens view drug use and what health workers are doing to help area addicts.