11/15/2017 4:06:00 AM The Brutal, Honest Truth: Erika's story (Part 3)
A recent photo of Erika and her son. Photo courtesy of the family.
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. She fell into trouble with the law, spent time in jail and in rehab. She was sober through her pregnancy and the birth of her son, but then the reason for her sobriety was gone.
"Before I knew it, if I didn't have the Suboxone, I found myself getting physically sick again. And that's when I started seeking out heroin again. I used on and off at first, and then it became an everyday thing again. I was going right back down the same exact path of stealing and lying and doing whatever to get the drug again."
Her family was unaware of her struggles at the time, and Erika did her best to maintain her life and juggle responsibilities. All while using again.
"At this time, I was trying my best to keep it a secret, because I had to also take care of my son. I also had to keep it a secret from my mom. I was doing my best, but it was exhausting. And then finally, Aug. 24th..."
She knew she could not continue to use and needed help.
"I had been telling myself a couple of weeks before that, I was like, you know I am going to have to go back to rehab. I'm not going to be able to stop this on my own. It's getting out of control again, and I kept debating on whether I was going to go to rehab or not. Well August 24th was when I decided to go ahead and check myself into rehab."
The rehab facility that would accept her was located in Florida, and she flew out immediately. Leaving the state was a violation of her probation, which she ignored. She thought that the benefits were worth the risks. However, she had forgotten a scheduled meeting with her probation officer only 42 days into the treatment. Such a short stint in rehab, according to Erika, is not going to be effective.
"I should have never come back home that early -- and my personal opinion -- a rehab that is that short is not beneficial. It takes a good long six months, if not longer, to recover from heroin."
What is telling here, in making the arrangements without permission and botching the rehab, is her mindset was still that of an addict.
"I was still criminally thinking and trying to beat the system and make sure my probation officer didn't know that I had left for rehab. I was just doing it all for the wrong reasons. I came back to Columbus, and again, with reservations to use. I kept telling myself that one day soon I will be OK enough to just use once."
And her emotional state was not conducive to a successful recovery.
"Again, I was so miserable. When I think back, I just think of how unhappy I was at that point. I did my best. I got a job three days after coming home from rehab. I did my best to follow the rules, to do what I could."
And it led to an urge to reestablish old ties that would reconnect her to heroin.
"Once again, I found myself messaging my friends, my old friends who still used. (I was) messaging them just to see how they were doing, trying to weave my way back in with them. And the next thing I know, I was meeting my friend and purchasing heroin again. I had purchased heroin."
This was on Oct. 21 of last year, a day before our paths would cross in the parking lot.