Published on Thu, Apr 28, 2011
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Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of articles on drug use in Lake Stevens. As I was researching for this article, I was touched in many ways. As a mother, my heart ached for the parents struggling with the affects drugs have had on their families—those suffering from abuse as well as those left home to pick up the pieces and continue to live day-to-day. Tears flowed from my eyes on several occasions while writing this piece.
As a journalist I was happy to see that in our schools heroin and other drug use is not as prevalent as I had first assumed and that our schools offer tools to students and families who are affected by the disease (which I believe it to be) of addiction. However, there are children and families still suffering.
I also felt relief knowing that police, including Lake Stevens and Snohomish County, are doing all they can to keep drug use to a minimum and continue to make great strides in getting dealers off of our streets and out of our city.
I want to thank Shea and her family for being brave enough to share their story. My continued prayers are with their family as they muddle through this long journey.
“My future, I write this sitting in rehab. It’s my second day and it’s very overwhelming and hard. I know I can leave at any moment and knowing this makes it hard not to walk out. First things first, I need to get clean. This will be a very long process. Early recovery lasts from one’s last use up to two years later.”
The harsh reality of these words written by 19-year-old Shea, is promising but also the sad truth for many families as they watch their children suffer from the affects of heroin and other drugs. Shea and her family are considered one of the “lucky” ones. Shea actually decided to go to rehab and get clean after years of abuse.
This decision didn’t come easy and after only six short years of moving from “softer” drugs to actually shooting heroin, Shea had to hit rock bottom before realizing that if she wanted to continue to stay alive and actually become a wife and mother someday, she needs to give up the drugs that had very literally taken over her life.
Shea’s story begins, as with many young kids out there, when she stepped into her teenage years and first started drinking alcohol.
“When I was 13 I began drinking a lot. Me and my friends did not know what we were doing and could have really gotten hurt,” she said. “I smoked marijuana since I was 15 and took Percocet since age 15. While smoking heroin, I also smoked meth for a week.”
While there are many reasons that kids begin their journey into drugs, most of the time it starts with alcohol or marijuana and moves on from there. For Shea, boredom and curiosity were the reasons she started to explore the world of drugs. Shea’s mom, Rhonda, sees a deeper reason for Shea’s choices.
“As with most drug addicts, the reason for the use, is not the drug itself. It is merely a medication for feelings and past or current life struggles one does not want to face and move on from,” Rhonda said. “Shea was dramatically affected by the divorce of her father and I when she was 10 years old. Along with not coming to terms with that she has also developed overwhelming anxiety and depression. She has refused to take medication prescribed to her for any meaningful duration so therefore she has remained untreated.”
Rhonda continues, “Her romantic life has been enveloped in a relationship that although fulfilling at times has also brought great unhappiness. Aside from these, it is the crowd of kids she feels comfortable with that have zero goals themselves other than to get drunk or high on a daily basis.”
Looking back in time, Rhonda remembers her daughter as a confident child full of joy and looking forward to a life full of happy memories, the life most parents envision when their child is young. The realities of Shea’s drug use kept creeping into their lives. Shea was even expelled from Lake Stevens High School during her junior year for drug possession and from there dropped out of college.
“Prior to Shea’s serious drug use, she was a very different daughter. She has always been fun to talk to, full of opinions and intelligent. As a child she always seemed wise beyond her years. Even her friends turned to her first for their troubles and even asked her for advice when drug addiction started to take over their lives,” Rhonda explained. “Currently, Shea has become untruthful and manipulative. She looks like my daughter but a much darker entity has shadowed over the light inside her.”
The signs were all there and looking back Rhonda can see them more clearly. She encourages parents to trust their instincts when it comes to their children. If something is not right about your child, she warns, chances are there is something going on.
“She was constantly gone all day long and would say she would be home at a certain time and would repeatedly stay out much longer. Literally, her words never mirrored her actions. She would claim she needed money for gas repeatedly which ended up being for her drug use. She was appearing and acting sick to the point I thought she had mononucleosis. It ended up being from heroin withdrawal when she went too long between using,” Rhonda said. “It wasn’t until finding out the truth of her addiction that any of the craziness made sense.”
Shea’s fall into drug abuse grew rapidly. Only five months ago did she begin using heroin. However, the abuse started with alcohol, quickly moved onto marijuana and from there meth, Percocet and then heroin. She went from smoking it to injecting at a fairly quick pace, all the while her family was suffering with constant worry about whether or not Shea was even alive.
“After I tried the drugs, I liked how I felt and it began to be just what was normal. When my friends and I were bored we would get drunk, high or both,” Shea said. “I moved onto heroin because I was very depressed and was taking Percocets. Eventually the percs had no effect on me. I was already so familiar with the ever-popular heroin scene, that I knew what would get me that high no matter what.”
Life at Shea and Rhonda’s home became a series of constant ups and downs, which included sleepless nights, pleading with God to keep Shea safe and continued worry about whether they would ever see their daughter and sister again.
“Shea’s drug use has affected each of us in different ways. Drug addicts are very selfish people. They break promises, lie and deceive on a regular basis. I have been absorbed with learning everything I can about what to do and not to do as a parent to a drug addict,” Rhonda said.
“I have had to separate my heart from my head. My son, Shea’s younger brother, refused to speak or acknowledge her when she came home. He still has little to say to her. This will improve if Shea’s actions match her promises in the future,” Rhonda said. “Shea’s little sister, largely shared little emotion until the night her sister came home. It was then she was inconsolable and admitted how much she missed her sister while she was gone. My husband, her stepfather, has been a great support to me. Our prayers every night, at dinner and at bedtime were for God to keep her safe.”
Shea’s story including her hope for recovery and statistics regarding drug use locally will continue in next week’s Journal.