11/13/2017 4:38:00 AM The Brutal, Honest Truth: Erika's story (Part 1)
Erika's senior year photo
Why we are telling Erika's Story
Never in the three-year history of this publication has a story resonated so strongly.
Something terrible was taking place in Hope, and the story would be written. The picture seen around the world, literally, was shared with us by the local police, and we shared it with the rest of humanity. And within a few days, we found ourselves in the middle of perfect storm that resonated from every corner of our lives.
But this story is not about us.
By Michael Dean Heritage of Hope CEO
Editor's Note: On Oct. 22 of last year, Erika Hurt was found unconscious in her car at the Hope Dollar General store with a hypodermic syringe in her hand and her 10-month-old boy behind her in a car seat.
A photo of Erika, taken and released by the Hope Police Department, spread around the world becoming the face of small-town opioid addiction. A year later, and Erika is in recovery and telling her story.
This story is about a lady, a family, a community, and a nation and their ongoing fight with addiction. Above all, it is about her courageous, constant battle of recovery. She hopes that by sharing her story, one life will be saved. This is same rationale given by the police department for sharing that damning photo in the first place. We also hope to help others understand the struggles, the physical pain and the mental gymnastics that addicts engage in to get what their minds tell them that they will die without.
During my recent talk with Erika, our first-ever meeting and her third interview of the day, she stated that it all began very innocently. A visit to the doctor for help with a staph infection that led to a prescription and many years of fighting an invisible demon.
"Back when I was 15 years old, I had contracted a staph infection somehow. I went to my doctor and had my doctor take care of it. He also prescribed me pain pills for it. So, that's actually where my whole addiction started, exactly where a lot of addicts' addictions start. So, I began taking these pain pills."
Her early life did not include the usual risk factor indicators one might associate with this later behavior. She had loving family members around her. She had no criminal history, other that a bracelet shoplifting incident when she was younger. She had never used illegal drugs before, not even alcohol.
"My childhood and growing up, I never came from drugs. Nobody in my family was an addict, or anything to my knowledge, so I didn't really know anything about drugs, or pain pills, or anything. I was very uneducated about it. I just began taking these pain pills, having no clue where it was going to lead me."
It would lead her to seeking more medicine and more potent ones as the effects could not be maintained. And she began getting them from other sources.
"I had a boyfriend at the time who was taking them as well. And you know, they say that it is a progressive disease, which is so true. It does progress. I went on to stronger pain pills, and more frequent use... everyday use and more pain pills at a time."
When she was 19 or 20, her supply line dried up. That is when she was introduced to heroin.
"One of my friends was providing pain pills for me, and she had run out. She told me she had something else, and I would like it as well. I had no clue what (illegal) drugs were, and she had called it "boy", a nickname for heroine. I had no clue what that was, but I started taking it. It went on for roughly two weeks before I actually realized what it was. By that point I was beyond physically addicted."
Coming Next in Part 2: Her addiction leads to dangerous behavior