In and out of treatment and trouble, addict calls the drug “life-consuming” –
By Patricia Beech –
Kelleyanne is a local heroin addict who began using drugs recreationally when she was 14 years-old after her doctor prescribed 60 Percosets a month for pain related to scoliosis.
At 19-years old her drug use amped up following the death of her infant son. She and the baby’s father began using every day “to escape the pain” of loss, but within a short period of time, she says, “It stopped being about escaping the pain – I just wanted to be high all the time, it was all I thought about – to get high, to get high, to get high”.
She is currently serving time at the Ohio Reformatory for Women.
In the weeks following the death of their son, Kelleyanne and her boyfriend decided to make a move. They chose Florida as their destination.
It was 2010 and the Sunshine State was the nation’s capital for the illegal prescription pain medication trade. That year Florida doctors prescribed more narcotics, dubbed “hillbilly heroin”, than all other 49 states combined. Ninety of the top 100 ocycodone-purchasing physicians in the nation and 53 of the top 100 pharmacies supplying the pills were located in Florida.
“There was an absolute pollution of pain pills and narcotics in the state at that time, and a pain pill there was three times cheaper than it was in Ohio,” said Kelleyanne. “My drug addiction skyrocketed.”
After three months of unrestrained drug abuse, Kelleyanne decided to go home. She had reached a turning point. She would ask for help.
“When I got home I told my Mom what was going on, but I don’t think she necessarily knew the extent of my problem or how to handle it,” she says, adding, “She did the best she could, she was very supportive, but at the same time she was so uneducated about drugs, she had no idea what to do.”
Difficult as it was to quit without the advantages of professional rehabilitation, Kelleyanne successfully stopped using – for a while.
“I stayed clean for almost a year before I relapsed, and I did an excellent job of hiding it for a long time,” she says. “I was in college earning a 4.0 GPA, I was working two jobs, I was dating a very upstanding guy – from the outside looking in, it appeared that I had everything under control, but I was high on heroin the whole time.”
Why did she relapse? She says there was “no reason”for it.
“I was celebrating my 21st birthday when two of my friends came in and their pupils were itsy-bitsy, and I said, “I want to feel like you”.”
Kelleyanne admits that she had a choice in that moment not to use drugs.
“Yeah, absolutely, I had a choice, I chose to do it. I wasn’t dope sick,” she says. “I think my judgement was impaired because I was intoxicated and I think that played a role in my defenses being down, in a sense, I was already using, and when I saw those two people in that state it made me vunerable.”
For several months she attempted to keep her drug habit secret, but her family and her boyfriend became suspicious. They confronted her and she was forced to take a drug test.
“That’s how they caught me,” she shrugs. “So, I agreed to do outpatient rehab.”
“I could go outpatient, fail the drug test, but it would keep my Mom and boyfriend off my back because I was still walking into the facility, and they couldn’t report my drug test results to either one of them. So, I used it for a while to maintain my drug use.”
Consequently, her addiction deepened and her relationship with her boyfriend began to unravel.
“We split up, and that’s when things got crazy,” she pauses and adds, “He was just fed up, and I couldn’t blame him. I have nothing but great things to say about him. He tried his best, but I couldn’t stop using.”
Hurt and angry, she lashed out.
“I started to cook meth, I started to use a needle, I started to have absolutely no care whatsoever. I surrounded myself with people who a judge I went before called ‘some of the most notorious criminals he’d ever encountered’. He said he was ‘dumbfounded that I had anything to talk to these individuals about’, but it wasn’t about talking or comraderie with any of those people. I just wanted to be as high as humanly possible.”
That summer her mother found needles in Kelleyanne’s home. She called authorities and had her daughter arrested, hoping to force her into rehab.
Two days later Kelleyanne was on her way to a rehabilitation treatment center in the southern United States.
She calls her 24-day stay at the rehab center “phenomenal”.
“I genuinely felt that I could take on the world while I was there,” she says. “I completed the program and came home, and three days later the sheriff showed up at my front door with a secret indictment for compliticty to burlary.”
Kelleyanne was arrested and jailed.
“I was knocked off my high horse, very quickly,” she says, “I was humiliated. After everything I had learned and conquered while in treatment – and three days later to be on the front page of the newspaper for complicity to burglary – I was devastated.”
She was sentenced to five months in jail, followed by three months in a STAR rehabilitation program which, according to Kelleyanne has “a success rate of next to none”.
Six weeks after completing the rehab program she began using again.
“There was a guy that I had started hanging out with who was using as well,” she says. “I kind of felt like I was always going to be stuck between a rock and a hard place – I came up with a lot of lousy excuses for using.”
Two months later she was stopped by her probation officer. After failing a drug test, she agreed to enter a Cincinnati treament center, but it was short-lived. She was sent back to jail after testing positive for morphine though she adamantly denies using the drug.
“It was a huge ordeal,” she says,. “To this day, I have no clue how it came up positive, they tested me again, and they all came out clean. I have no idea how it happened, but I didn’t use while I was in that facility – especially considering the fact that it was downtown Cincinnati, and there were plenty of people standing on the street corner selling heroin. If I’d wanted to get high I could have.”
She spent five more months in jail before being released. Three days later she had a job. Eight months later she began dating a co-worker.
“It was so much different than any other relationship I’d been in because instead of being mad and mean, he was sad and soft-spoken,” she says. “I was clean, I wasn’t using, but I was drinking, he didn’t do drugs at all, and he didn’t drink, so when I moved in with him, I didn’t drink either, it just wasn’t something that we did.”
But, one month later Kelleyanne relapsed.
“I only used a couple times,” she says. “He was devastated but, I was honest with him about it, and honest with our coworkers about it, I was honest with my mother and with everyone in my life.”
Kelleyanne’s determination to fight her addiction turned to despondency less than two months later when her live-in boyfriend unexpectedly died.
Once again, she turned to drugs.
“I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to get out of bed without getting high first,” she says. “I started to use again, and two weeks after he passed away, my probation officer showed up at my house to drug test me, I failed, so he arrested me, and I’ve been here in jail since then.”
She doesn’t flinch at the statement that she seemed to be always just looking for an excuse to use.
“Oh, absolutely,” she says. “Subconsciously, my addiction is constantly in the back of my mind waiting for an excuse. People are faced with troubles all the time, and they don’t turn to heroin – it’s a mental illness and it’s life consuming, it has taken me to my darkest places.”
(Look for Part Three of this addict’s story in the Wednesday, July 5 issue of The People’s Defender.)