Cocke County Stories
I started using drugs when I was 13 years old. It was something that was normalized where I lived. I received my first DUI at 15 years old. I have been in and out of rehabilitation centers and jail ever since. I was arrested in 2014 and faced either 16 years in prison or go to drug court. Through the process of drug court, I learned how to love myself again, be a productive member of society and decided to start my journey in helping others. I now have three years clean and spend my days working in a drug and alcohol treatment center trying to help others, like myself, find a new way to live. I have an amazing life today with an amazing fiancé and amazing friends.
As a family nurse practitioner and now as a pastor, I have seen the devastation caused by the disease of addiction. Families struggle to save loved ones. Our children die too young because of complications. Sometimes, multiple generations in one family are lost. Children are removed from their families at an alarming rate. Poverty, geographic isolation, cultural stigma and scarcity of resources compound the issue. Addiction is not bound to poverty. Even persons in positions of influence struggle in their own dark shadows. Law enforcement officials work hard to keep us safe as many crimes involve substance misuse. In an area that is already impoverished, work is hard to find because companies refuse to locate here. Those that do come cannot find workers who can pass a drug test.
The current picture looks bleak, but people are organizing to combat the problem. An anti-drug coalition is forming now. Multiple service providers are joining the effort. Faith-based initiatives are partnering with employers for placements and onsite education. Recovery support groups are available multiple times each week. Efforts to reduce stigma are encouraging people to seek help. Public education events help us to understand the disease better.
There is HOPE!
My life has been a rocky road because of opiates and their effect on me. It was my comfort zone for many years. I found peace there as well as an escape route with pills then powder then heroin. Abused as a child, the drugs numbed my pain, but it never truly went away.
I said I would never quit using drugs, but one year ago I knew I needed to make a serious change in my life. I tried and tried and tried again to quit. It seemed like all I did was overdose multiple times. The intensive care unit physicians at the hospital said they did not know how many more overdoses my body could take before the drugs would ultimately end my life.
I remember a time when I was just attempting to cover up something I never understood, never wanted to understand and never wanted to relive again. I can’t even imagine returning to that point in my life now. It’s going to be hard. This I know. I’m currently fighting an illness and have chronic pain daily. Even though I need pain medication, I won’t take them. When it becomes intense, I do my best to keep my mind busy.
Anyone can look at my life at an early age and realize why my addiction began. I knew I had to find a new outlook. I had to quit being a victim and begin healing because people needed me. I need to be strong, a good mom and not an addict.
The truth is I don’t know what to do with my life right now, but I’m learning along the way. I am still discovering who I am, and at times I’m terrified. It’s a new world to me and my family.
I’m glad I made the choice to try something I’ve never done before and do things I’ve never dreamed I could do. It’s been so rewarding to see what my life is like without drugs. I’m working very hard every single day to be a better woman.