11/14/2017 4:13:00 AM The Brutal, Honest Truth: Erika's story (Part 2)
Erika Hurt 2016 arrest mug shot. Photo courtesy of Bartholomew County Sheriff's Department.
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.
After becoming addicted to prescription pain killers, and then heroin, Erika began criminal behavior to feed her addiction -- a common companion to narcotic addiction.
"I started to steal for my addiction. At this point I had to have the drug. I was getting physically sick. I started stealing for my addiction, writing bad checks for my addiction, going to any lengths to support it."
Her addiction to the pills and these bad behaviors to support it went on for a full six years before she began intravenously injecting the heroin.
"It was probably around age 21, when I had a boyfriend who was addicted to the needle. That's when I was introduced to the needle. I started shooting up. He was also addicted to methamphetamines, and so I began doing meth at that same time as well. You know, it just got worse and worse and worse after that point."
Her drug use eventually led to the inability to hold a job and sent her spiraling deeper into the criminal justice system.
"I was unable to even work a job at all, because I was running around trying to do whatever I could to support my habit. That's when I also started catching charges and going to jail. I was racking them up pretty quickly. I had been put on probation through one county and was still racking up charges in Bartholomew County.
"Finally, with my last arrest in Bartholomew County, they held me on all of it. There were so many, it was just coming to an end. So, I ended up staying at Bartholomew County jail."
That incarceration was her first chance in almost seven years to maintain sobriety.
"Through this time, I got myself sober in jail. I was waiting on my court dates. When it was all said and done, I had been in jail for eight months. I had been convicted of all of my charges, and I was released. I was put on house arrest as part of the condition for my charges, and I continued to stay sober through that."
It was only a superficial recovery, however. No structured rehabilitation had taken place while in jail, so there were no tools or support systems to help her deal with the urges to use that would follow. Much like a dieter looking forward to a "cheat dessert," she longed to get well enough to use again on her own terms.
"At that point I was more like... I wanted to be sober, but at the same time I still had reservations to use one day again. I told myself that one day I would be able to use just once again. So I still had reservations in the back of my mind to use at some point, but I wanted to make sure I had all of my charges taken care of and everything before I allowed myself to use again."
She was living a restricted life due to the terms of her release and engaging in some positive activities that would keep her free from jail.
"I was on house arrest, and I stayed sober. I went to Tara treatment center. I completed that. I was working. I was doing everything I was supposed to be doing. The courts were pleased with me and everything. They didn't really bother me because I did what I was supposed to do."
And along the way there were plenty of reasons for her to stay sober.
"I ended up getting pregnant, and so I continued to stay sober. I got pregnant probably about two months before I got off of house arrest, and I continued to stay sober. See, I had these things, one after another that helped me stay sober. I had jail, then I also had house arrest that helped me stay sober. Then, I got pregnant with my son. It was just one thing after another that allowed me to stay sober."
But warning signs, in retrospect, were there to indicate that she was living a dangerous life. She was sober, but not happy, and already mentally defeated.
"I quit going to meetings once I got pregnant. I quit doing any kind of recovery-based program at all. I was just living life to live life. They talk about dry drunks, and I kind of felt like that because I was miserable. I was sober but I was miserable. I was going through a (bad) relationship with my son's father, and so I started to relapse long before I truly picked up a drug and relapsed."
The birth of her son occurred during December of 2015, and she even refused pain medication because of her history.
"I wanted to be strong enough to refuse it, so I did."
But with his birth also removed a barrier to using again.
"I would say probably about two months after I had my son, roughly in February of 2016, I ended up relapsing. I first relapsed on Suboxone. My brain was tricking me, and I was telling myself, 'It's just Suboxone, and it's not a drug. I'm still sober if I am using that.' I relapsed on that first."