‘Look at you! What’s WRONG with you?’ Ants were crawling under my skin. I lay on the cold cement floor of my jail cell.’: Woman overcomes felony charges and drug addiction, ‘You CAN recover’

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I woke up on Christmas morning. My legs felt like ants were crawling under my skin. My hair was one big matted dreadlock and drenched in sweat. I had just fallen asleep when I heard the guard yell, ‘Breakfast! Line up.’ I stumbled out of my jail cell and walked down the steps to get in line. I felt my boney arms as I held myself to try to keep from shivering. The correction officers all gave me the same disgusted look. When I got back into my cell after picking apart my breakfast, I turned the radio on and looked out the tiny window. It was snowing.

It was Christmas, and I was locked up.

I grew up in Duluth, Minnesota. My family wasn’t poor, but we didn’t have much money. I have one older sister, and I wanted to be just like her. My parents worked hard while we went to daycare. But this wasn’t just any daycare. We were on a farm. Some of my favorite childhood memories come from running around that place. Whether it was collecting the eggs from the coop in the morning and forgetting to take them out of my pocket before I sat down on the bus, pouring our milk and coleslaw down the cracks of the deck so we didn’t have to drink or eat them, grabbing long pieces of grass and holding them against the cow’s electric fence to see how strong the shock would be, or taking the golf cart out for a joyride. It was always an adventure.

Courtesy of Maddie Miller

By the time I was in sixth grade, my sister had entered her freshman year of high school. She and her friends took me to the mall with them one day and I saw how they would take something off the rack, bring it into the dressing room, and then put in on under their clothes and walk out. I wanted that rush. I stole swimsuits and bras and underwear. Then one weekend, my sister was going out of town and he pulled me aside. ‘Do not go to the mall,’ she told me. But I did not listen. The next day, I was caught and charged with the theft of five hundred dollars’ worth of merchandise from JCPenny. I was put on probation and labeled as trouble.

Courtesy of Maddie Miller

In 2006, I was a freshman in high school. I started to lean away from my friends. They were the cheerleaders. I was the chubby fat friend. I did not belong, and I felt that with every part of me. I was teased and called names by the football and hockey players. I wanted to be accepted so badly, but the more I hung out with the cheerleaders, the more I was made fun of. I wanted to disappear into the background. My best friend, Megann, meant everything to me. Five-foot-one with dark brown hair and bright blue eyes, she had this infectious laugh that made you want to be near her all the time. We started smoking weed and drinking. Our other friend, Rachel, joined, and we became part of the party group. Pain pills were present during these parties and they intrigued me. I wanted to be thrown into oblivion.

Courtesy of Maddie Miller

Megann’s mom was sick and was admitted into a nursing home for rehabilitation. Megann, Rachel, and I would visit often. We would roll around in wheelchairs and chase each other down the hall. We would use the community computer to log into our Myspace accounts. I had an eczema spot on my shoulder that I was scratching, and MRSA entered my body. Big abscesses started forming below my armpit. It became so painful I could barely move. By the time I told my mom, they had to bring me to the emergency room. I had an open wound the size of a quarter, so deep you could see the muscle tissue. I was given an antibiotic and ended up being allergic to it and was put into toxic shock. Once they stabilized my blood pressure and I became more coherent, I remember the moment Dilaudid entered my IV. It felt like a warm pot of honey was being poured down from the top of my head, slowly taking over every muscle in my body. That high was it. I wanted that forever.

Courtesy of Maddie Miller

After I was discharged from the hospital, I had lost 30 pounds and took on this whole new confidence. Megann’s mom was sent home also, but with a full bottle of oxycontin and we took off. I was dating an older guy and my mom put a restraining order on him. I was furious. I wanted control over my life. I wanted to be in charge. But in reality, I barely knew how to survive. One night, as I was getting ready to leave, my mom, said, ‘Don’t get caught with Nick.’ I exploded into a rage, I grabbed her by the hair and pulled her to the ground.

My sister was quickly behind me and pushed me to the ground and sat on my chest as my mom called 911. I remember trying to push my sister off me and fighting her and she kept repeating, ‘Look at you! What is wrong with you!’

I was charged with 5th-degree assault and booked into juvenile detention. When they searched me, they noticed I had another spot of MRSA on me. I was put into a cell and given antibiotics. But surprisingly, I was given the medication I was allergic to. I lay on the cold cement floor of my jail cell asking for help. The nurse came to look at me, however, they believed I was just withdrawing and gave me cranberry juice. After a day or two, they finally took me to the hospital. When I was finally released from juvie, I was sent to an outpatient adolescent treatment center, eight hours a day, Monday through Friday. I was enamored with the kids I met there. They were trouble and I was attracted to it.

Courtesy of Maddie Miller

In June of 2010, I sat in my old Honda Civic in a parking ramp. My dress and heels made me feel glamorous as I smoked an oxy 80 off of tinfoil. The sweet taste lingering in my mouth as I blew out a hit. I got out of the car and walked into my graduation ceremony. I successfully completed high school with a daily addiction to oxycontin. Later that summer, oxycontin disappeared, then opana came around, then heroin. I became engulfed with my obsession with heroin. One hot summer day, Megann tied off my arm and shot me up for the first time. The needle was my soulmate. It took all my feelings of worthlessness and made them vanish.

In 2012, I had the worst year of my addiction. I was charged and convicted of numerous felonies. I stole my dad’s guns and pawned them. Nine counts of felony theft of firearms. I stole and pawned all my boyfriend’s mother’s jewelry and possessions. Felony theft with restitution at $12,000 dollars. Multiple theft charges, possession charges, and misdemeanors. Spending Christmas in jail withdrawing was one horrible consequence. Seeing my parents come and visit me was worse. I was a shell. There was no soul left in me.

Courtesy of Maddie Miller

The next three years were repetitive. Steal, get caught, go to treatment, come home, relapse. Repeat. It did not stop. I could not make it past ninety days sober.

In August of 2015, there was a knock at the door. I was living with my grandma. There were two investigators at my door looking to ask me questions about recent thefts. I told them I was going to treatment the next day. They gave me their card and left. I got on the phone immediately and called New Beginnings in Waverly Minnesota. I had been there twice before and knew what to expect. They had a bed open for me. I decided it would be best for me to drive myself to treatment, an escape plan if you will. I got into my old beat up mercury sable and started to make the four-hour trip. I called my probation officer and left a message. When I arrived at the little town of Waverly, I pulled into the single gas station in town. I did one more shot and then grabbed my spoons and syringes and put them in my trunk for safekeeping.

Within twelve hours of being admitted, I was laying on the floor withdrawing and obsessing about the needles just a few feet from the building. I packed my bags, got my keys from the nurse, and bolted to my car. I knew they were calling the cops. Once I got home back to Duluth, there was one thing on my mind: get heroin.

Courtesy of Maddie Miller

My probation officer ended up putting three warrants out for my arrest. A few weeks later, I totaled my grandpa’s explorer after I nodded out from heroin and rear-ended an SUV.

In the first week of September of 2015, I was admitted into a small hospital 45 minutes north of Duluth. I was the first opiate detox they had ever done. But I was not ready to go down easily. I had my dealer bring me heroin to my hospital room for multiple days.

I was in the bathroom of my hospital room, shower on, cigarette in one hand, needle in the other. I was hooked up to an IV and I could not find a vein. I tried shooting up into my IV and the machine started beeping. As a nurse was knocking on my door, I took the needle out, found a vein in my foot, and pushed the plunger down. That was chaos. That was the very definition of being out of control. The next day, I walked back in the doors at New Beginnings without my car. September 6th, 2015. The most important day of my life.

Courtesy of Maddie Miller

Today, I live a relatively normal life. I am a mother to a three-year-old boy who gave me purpose to keep fighting. I am a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist working with people struggling with substance abuse. I have an amazing relationship with my family. I have a car, an apartment, and I pay my bills with money I earned. Five years ago, I would not have even imagined living a life completely free of alcohol or drugs was possible. But I am here, and I am doing it. I will tell my story of redemption anytime someone asks. I will spread that hope. I will spread the message you can recover from heroin addiction. And I will make damn sure to help anyone along the way. Here’s to the moments, the ones that pieced me together, or torn me apart. Each of equal value in the equation of this thing we call life.”

Courtesy of Maddie Miller

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Maddie Miller. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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‘This is addiction. This is ‘just one more time.’ ‘Just a little hit.’ It’s a 3 a.m. phone call we knew was coming, but prayed never would.’: Family mourns loved one lost to addiction, ‘drugs don’t love you, your friends and family do’

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