shot Stacy West moved out of her parent’s house at the age of 18. She and a friend rented a house off Centennial Street in High Point. They partied a lot, and were usually game to try any drug their guests brought to the house. They smoked a lot of weed and used Special K, or ketamine a dissociative anesthetic that has developed a reputation as a “date rape” drug.

West met her husband, Scott, through drugs. Scott “was raised in the street life,” West said, in contrast to her own middle-class upbringing, where education and church were important.

“We married, and we calmed down on a lot of stuff,” West said. “I got pregnant. We got awesome jobs. We were going to church.”

But they fell back into their old partying habits. “The first time I got sick, it got to be that instant thing,” West said. “Get a pill.”

One time they discovered an out-of-state clinic where they bought 300 pain pills. They started selling the drugs, but ended up snorting most of the profits. The relationship was physically abusive and they would fight over drugs. Her husband cheated on her, and the marital dysfunction fed into their chemical codependency.

“I wanted it to work,” West said. “The only time we got along was when we were high. That’s sad to say.”

shot

Although she couldn’t see it at the time, a number of risk factors foreshadowed Misty Sanders’ addiction.

“I was raped when I was 14,” she said. “Honestly, both my parents have struggled with addiction issues. I don’t want to say that environment is everything. My father passed away in 2009. He was a heroin addict. My mom was an addict, but my mom conquered all her demons, and she’s doing phenomenal. She stood up when I was born and put all that behind her.”

Sanders’ father injected heroin the day that he died.

Soon after her father’s death, Sanders started going to the doctor for medication to manage the pain from four slipped discs in her back.

“Access to pain pills was ridiculously easy for me,” she said. “All it took was an MRI and an appointment with a nurse.”

When her use of pain medication spiraled out of control, her doctor cut off the prescription, and Sanders started buying pain pills off the street. She abused pain pills for about three years before she tried heroin for the first time in 2012.

shot

Like her fellow Trinity High School alum, Stacy West abused pills for about three years until she started using heroin.

There were other drugs besides. And as West and her husband submerged into drug use, their housing situation became increasingly precarious.

“We could never keep a house,” West recalled. “We had an apartment off English Road [in High Point]. We didn’t have electricity, and we were fine with that. That’s when we were using crack.”

shot

Even before she started using heroin, Misty Sanders lost her children.

“I think my in-laws’ and my husband’s decision to not let me see them was the right thing for my children,” she said. “That’s hard for me to say because I was a great mom.”

Paradoxically, Sanders could more or less manage adult responsibilities while she was abusing pain pills, but she was also coping with an abusive relationship with her husband. When the relationship ended, she found that the freedom from his judgment allowed her to use heroin more frequently.

“If there was ever a drug that was invented for me, it was heroin,” she said. “I’d been through a lot in my life. It took me to a different place. The pain pills didn’t do that. There’s no other drug I can compare it to. I’m not proud to say it: I’ve done every drug there is. Heroin is a different animal. It’s a whole-body high. It’s like everything is right with the world for those first couple seconds, but unfortunately that doesn’t last.”

Addiction presents an impossible contradiction.

“When I talk about chaotic substance use I talk about a feeling that wants to use more than anything in the world and at the same time wanting to get off more than anything,” Louise Vincent said. “I’m praying to get off and at the same time I’m on the phone with my dope dealer. It’s like being split into two persons. Or maybe that’s part of being bipolar.”

Deborah Forrester Dean, Amy Dean’s mother, reflected, “The problem with addiction is people who go through addiction don’t set out to be addicts.”

Stacy West swore to herself that she would never touch a needle.

“I started finding out it was cheaper doing heroin,” she said. “I was terrified of needles. At first my husband gave me the shot, and then I did it myself.”

shot

For the families of addicts, the disease can only be described as “a pure hell,” Deborah Dean said.

“It put a wedge between my oldest son and myself because he saw me as an enabler,” Dean said. “I saw myself as helping my daughter, who was not able to get her feet on the ground. I helped her with rent and utilities and car payments.”

Finally, she decided enough was enough when she found herself raising her daughter’s son.

“Just living on a shoestring I realized I was not helping her achieve anything,” Dean said. “Then I heard about the boyfriend who was feeding the addiction, and that became a bad situation.”

Amy Dean’s boyfriend beat her when he was high, and Deborah forced her daughter to take out a restraining order against him. But Amy went back with her boyfriend. They wound up getting arrested with drugs in Sanford.

Over time, with the help of other parents, Deborah Dean came to understand the contours of her daughter’s disease.

“I knew that she had nothing to do with what had taken control of her brain,” the mother said. “She needed help, and I couldn’t find it. That was frustrating to me.”

Stacy West has been the child who has stolen from her parents, and who eventually exhausted their patience and forbearance.

“They didn’t turn against me,” she said. “I felt like they turned against me.”

Of all the people who have provided support to Louise Vincent, her mother is the one who has been her rock.

“When I thought I should throw it all in, that woman has really believed in me and been a champion for me,” she said. “She’s made mistakes and sent me to places that f***ed me up. But she did it because she loved me and thought at the time that it was the best thing for me. She has always believed that I am smart enough, that this was a sickness, this is not what I wanted to do, this is not something that I did because I did not love her or my children. She’s the person who gets the late-night phone call when I want to say, ‘F*** it, I can’t do it anymore.’

“I hope I die before she does,” Vincent continued. “I tell her that. I don’t know what I’ll do without her. I’ll be a mess.”

shot

Stacy West found out she was pregnant when she detoxed from heroin the second time. Her mother took her to an abortion clinic with an offer to pay for the procedure. They looked at the ultrasound together.

“I can’t do this,” Stacy’s mother told her.

“I don’t see how I can have this child,” Stacy said.

“We’ll make this work somehow,” her mother said.

After detoxing, West went back to using pain pills, and then snorting heroin in small quantities.

“It wasn’t too long that she was born — she was healthy, thank God,” West said. “The opiate roller coaster happened again. I started using needles, and I started buying methadone off the street.”

12 COMMENTS

  1. The war on drugs has been a failure since the 80’s and sine the early 90’s when I became a cop I have seen drugs grow. I don’t know who is to blame, the Courts, the Federal Government or local Police but we are way past the point of losing the war on drugs. We need to work on education on the street and schools and get serious about punishing dealers, the court system is a joke and that I know. I feel for people have seen them go from good people to drug burnouts that look half dead. The state governments cut mental health funding and drug abuse programs and what do we get, more drug abuse. The system rather fund someone to stay in jail then to help them on the street, strange world I guess.

    • The legalization of opiate pain killers in the 1990. These pills are the same as herion and Dr. We’re prescribing them like candy after the pharmaceutical companies told them they were safe.

  2. I believe this fight will continue to be ongoing. And we are losing too many lives at an alarming rate. We have to see major changes in our Health Care and Mental Health Systems. It is disturbing to know that “experts” know that addiction is a disease, yet resources are so lacking. Education and Information to the American public is paramount to helping to stamp out the stigma.In 2012 when my daughter died, she was the first of at least 8 other young adults in the High Point and Winston-Salem area to die. The heroin was pure, therefore lethal. The only thing and DEALER is interested in, is the money. Where is the interest in saving lives?

  3. in my opinion heroin is the devil itself and those who use said that they were addicted the first time they used it i i had a daughter who was addicted for four years and got clean for six then chose to go back using and overdosed on feb 16 2014 and died i dont understand ???? people i know are dying every day from this epidemic and it need to stop

    • Just as a side note and to give some insight on major policy issues which are being ignored at the Federal and all State levels; In the President’s SOTU speech, was there even one mention of what is or has been done regarding the major drug deaths (Epidemic( throughout this country or the statistics? in every city and State? Was there even one mention regarding policies proposed or being dicussed regarding the Rights of Grandparents, Children, Extended families? There are numerous commited Americans working tirelessly to bring awarenes and change in these areas. Thousands, if not millions of people are needed to support them and be a voice for change that could impact the American Family and our Nation. If you’re a voice for even one child, you can be a voice in support of stopping death and injustice in our own Country!

  4. As much as we spend in High Point for our fine law enforcement org, we also blindly support a few orgs that make it so much easier for many folks to be supported in the non self supporting ways to which they have become accustomed.
    Charity offered becomes an other side demand when too much is offered for too little effort in return.
    Our federal government has even made it more possible to be assisted for the mere addictive and non productive multi generational lifestyle that seems to be growing in the face of our weakly effective “war on drugs”: enablers and punishers both as they are.

  5. It goes without saying that ours is an overly medicated society. We have not been taught (well) that with proper diet, exercise, etc., we can function at a much higher level than we believe. I dealt with opiate addiction for a time after chronic pain and I also experienced the onslaught of drugs in the ’70s and lost several friends…very good people with wonderful hearts who were so very funny and had so much to offer in this journey we all experience. I miss them terribly because there was something truly outstanding about each and every one of them. In other words, they made this world a much better place because of their presence. I hope those who experience this burden concerning drugs, myself included, can do our part to help remove the stigma and ignorance concerning this very serious problem. (Seriously, every one of these persons I knew who died prematurely because of drugs was a very exceptional person…with a beautiful heart and mind…makes you wonder.)

    • Rhonda Williams; It does make one wonder. I know personally and through an online Support site for parents who have lost their children to addiction, that most, if not all have a similar depth of spirit. Those who have, or so it seems to a casual observer, become addicted appear to have characteristics in common. These characteristics, life events and brain chemistry, along with possible other factors should be examined. The Mental Health and Medical Health Professions are a failure in the are of addiction.

  6. Ive lost 2 friends to heroin overdoses, I thought they both had it licked, I dont understand but I have never tried it or never will, but Iam sure its just so addicting that it takes over, so sad

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.