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Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Heroin(e) Diaries

Addiction is everywhere. It does not discriminate against class, race or gender. It's in South Central Los Angeles and North East Maine. Northern Kentucky is also not immune. 

Yesterday, I talked about one of the 35 programs The Brighton Center uses to touch the lives of over 74,000 of our neighbors annually. The Brighton Recovery Center for Women is another one of those programs. 

In the heroin epidemic that is sweeping our region, they are at ground zero. They are fighting the battle. And they are winning. 

In an effort to put a face on addiction, is teaming with The Brighton Recovery Center for Women to tell the unfiltered story of addiction through the eyes of one of it's residents. The Heroin(e) Diaries will be a biweekly feature that will detail the road to recovery of Melissa. 

She is our neighbor. Her story is important. Here she is:

My name is Melissa. I am a 37 year old alcoholic and my alcoholism has a serious drug addiction. I could tell you how my childhood and teenage years played a part however you would have to come hear my lead at a twelve step meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous to know the entire story. Do know that my destructive actions and character defects began at a very young age. 

I got sober in 2007 and was active in Alcoholics Anonymous until 2011. Due to my drug use I contracted Hepatitis B & C, after completing the Interferon treatment I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and Thyroid disease. 

During the four years of sobriety I relied on a Higher Power which I call God and became aware of a spirituality that I chased. I wanted to be of service to God and others, yet something inside was missing, which led to a two year struggle again with addiction. During the years of 2011 and 2012 I fell apart physically, mentally and spiritually, however I continued to go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

I could pull together 10 days, 15 days or maybe 30 days of sobriety but nothing more. 

I never took any action to fill the emptiness inside of me. I ran to a needle and a crack pipe to fill the void. After many hospital stays due to the abuse on my body and my health problems my final debacle came in April of 2013.

I was left for a day in a basement overdosed on heroin. By the time I was taken to the hospital my body temperature was 72 degrees and my blood sugar was well into the thousands.

I was barely alive. 

After a five day stay in ICU I was released only to go back to dance with the devil again. Two days later I was found by the Fort Thomas Police in my car unresponsive from a 2 day crack binge. I again was in the ICU and I awoke to my sponsor and sponsor's sister. These two women have been by my side since 2007, with fear in their eyes and desperation in their voice I knew something had to change and a willingness of surrender came over me.

Melissa's story will continue as the Heroin(e) Diaries will run every 2 weeks on 


  1. I Love You Melly-Mel!!!! God's Grace is yours!!!

  2. Powerful stuff.

  3. Goosebumps, tears and gratitude you are her to share this. Many blessings Mel.

  4. Let me start by saying thank you Melissa for having the courage to speak up like this and put yourself out there.

    However, Winning the battle against drug addiction? You have got to be kidding me. Boone, Kenton and Campbell Counties together accounted for 60% of Kentucky's heroin prosecutions less than 2 years ago.Those same 3 counties rate of heroin overdose deaths is more than twice Hamilton County or Louisville. This seems like a far cry from anything that even resembles 'winning'.

    Are steps being taken and are things maybe pointing in the right direction? Yes, a little. But you wouldn't know it if you looked around in some parts of Dayton, Newport, or rural parts of Campbell County. What everybody needs to focus on is that this is an epidemic. People tend to pay attention to fighting symptoms (law enforcement/courts/community organizations) and not focus on the cause.

    At the end of the day, the biggest problem is parenting. Melissa even mentions "Do know that my destructive actions and character defects began at a very young age." Where were her parents and why did they not guide her in the right direction? This is no offense to Melissa because you cannot pick your parents.

    How do we fix the cause? I do not claim to know what the answer is to that question. All I know is that I have experienced the destructive path that Heroin can have on somebody's life as well as their loved ones through the trials and tribulations of a close family member and I found it ludicrous for one of the opening paragraphs to this entry state that anybody in Northern Kentucky is 'winning' the fight. If we consider what is happening now to be anything resembling a 'victory' then we might as well just give up now because we haven't even seen the worst of this yet.

    Don't put a positive spin on something until real progress is made. Giving people the impression that the fight against drug addiction is being won makes them take it off their radar and think that everything is ok. Guess what, as soon as you do that, it will come back and slap you in your face.

    Drug addiction is at the point that cancer is wherein you can ask almost anybody if they have been touched by cancer in some way and they will say yes, I think the same applies to drug addiction. Everybody knows somebody by at the most, 2 degrees of seperation. Do not say this won't happen to me because you may very well wake up tomorrow and find out that your husband/wife/son/daughter/niece/nephew etc. has a serious drug addiction. Maybe then enough people will be be forced to face this epidemic head on that we can start to make real progress towards 'winning' the fight against drug addiction.

    1. It's typical that people want someone or something to place blame, however my parents and sister have loved me unconditionally through all my struggles.Tough love seemed to work the best. I explain more in part 2 of my story.

  5. The Brighton Recovery Center for Women has the template for success. Their program graduates over 80% of their women, and continues to check up on them over time.

    This is a better success rate than any other program in the fight against addiction.

    So while our community is struggling with this heroin epidemic, yes, The BRC is winning. It's our job to spread these success stories so that we can mobilize others to copy this success.

    Keep rocking it, Mel!

  6. These programs "graduate" at very successfull rates because that is what they need to do in order to solicit funding whether it be from private donors, Government Grants or Corporate donations. Following up with the women is great, but what are the relapse rates 6 mos, 12 mos, 18 mos, 2 years after graduation? The national average is between 50% and 90%, with the percentage growing the farther away you move from discharge.

    Focusing on the successes of 1 person or 1 organization does not demonstrate winning. It may for the BRC and for Melissa (and it should) but it does not in the scheme of the epidemic that we are facing in the streets, houses, apartments and trailers of Northern Kentucky.

  7. Asking for exact data, but offhand I think those rates are much higher with BRC.

    Focusing on 1 person or 1 organization does not demonstrate winning, I agree. But this epidemic hit so hard and so fast, it's hard to combat that.

    I believe BRC has the formula and by focusing on 1 person and 1 organization, hopefully that sparks inspiration in others.

    If you'd like to debate further, please email me personally or use your Google ID. Thanks for reading!


  9. I don't have a Google ID and I only have a work email which I will not use to debate anything with you. I will take the hint that you don't want me commenting on this thread anymore.

    I enjoy this site and this is one of the more thought provoking articles in a long time.

  10. Just trying to ignite a dialogue. I believe that real names create a more transparent discussion, that's all. Feel free to comment away. Again, I appreciate you reading!

  11. I am not opposed to transparent discussions and if that is what you want then do not make 'anonymous' an option to post under. Unlike many of the people who post 'anonymously' I have a reason for wanting to remain unknown. If you will recall in a previous post I mentioned a close family member who has and is struggling with heroin addiction and I would prefer my identity not be known for that reason. I would prefer to not start getting phone calls or messages asking questions etc. I hope you can understand that. And, you are welcome for reading.

  12. Great. Lets advance the discussion. As a person who has first hand knowledge of addiction, what worked for your family member? What didn't?

  13. Honestly nothing has worked as of yet, and I am not sure anything will until they hit their proverbial 'bottom'. Rehab (which by the way this person 'graduated'), jail, prayer and eventually losing contact with family has not proven successful in pushing them closer to reality. This has been an ongoing problem for the better part of 6-7 years so I am not entirely sure what will work. The scary and sad part is the realization that death will likely be the end.

  14. Great story. I have a friend that is losing the battle, and at the same time a friend that beat the battle. 2 years clean. She absolutely could not have done it without he help of Brighton.

    Thanks for sharing Melissa. Stay Strong, it can be done!

    Thanks for this article Mark! This was a great idea to share some local successes during this epidemic.

    And thank you to the Brighton Center. Without you, I would have lost a friend. Someone I call my sister.

  15. I owe Brighton Center my life, I have been sober since April of 2009. Call it what you want but because of that center I have an amazing life! I was addicted to Cocaine and Heroin for twenty years of my pathetic life and now everything is different, I have a family, I'm working toward my Masters Degree in Psychology, I have an amazing job that I enjoy going to everyday. Thank you Brighton Center for a brand new life!!!