I live in a county that was recognized nationally recently. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for a great reason.
My county has been recognized for having the most drug overdoses in Alabama in the last few years, and we are in the top 10 of those counties in the nation. Makes you wanna shout, “We’re number 1!”, right?
WRONG! I am appalled that this is so close to where I live. Growing up, I was exposed to the “simple” drugs, like marijuana and alcohol, and there were rumors of harder drugs like cocaine and ecstasy, but we never heard of or even had access to prescription drugs, nor did my crowd seek it out.
I believe it was because the drugs 30 years ago weren’t quite so available or dangerous. In the 90’s, meth started becoming a thing I heard of (and I was a grown up by that time so I was really out of the loop), but by the mid 2000’s, as a chiropractor, I was hearing of the big daddy drugs, like Oxycontin and Xanax and Somas and others that were extremely addictive. I was seeing some patients that would “nod” in my office, and was just heartbroken at the situations they were in.
Several years ago, a local MD was arrested in our town, and it was discovered that he had prescribed over 12,000 narcotics over a 2 year time, which average out to about 400 prescriptions a day 5 days a week.
We can point fingers and place blame, but the problem of drugs and the ripple effects are here and now and devastating to my county. Let me share an experience I had this past week.
I was leaving my office on my off day, running errands, and saw this thin, youngish woman walking through my parking lot. For once, I had no where to be at that exact moment, and a voice in my head said, “Go ask her if she needs a ride.” It was 96 degrees, she had this huge pink bag she was struggling with, and just looked pitiful; she also looked like I could take her down easy if she pulled anything on me in my car, because I outweighed her by 300 pounds and she was not in the best condition, that I could tell.
I stop as she’s leaving the parking lot, and ask if she needs a ride somewhere, thinking I would just drive her down the road to a gas station or something of the like. Nope, she climbs in telling me she needs to go to Nauvoo, to her “Papa’s” house, and she is going to Detox as soon as she gets some clothes….
I won’t describe our whole conversation, but I did offer to drive her straight to Detox, knowing I could get her in the hospital and help her out there. Nope, she needed dry clothes and she was trying to sell her laptop, which I guess was in her pink bag. I said, “I am sure the Detox will give you clean clothes and help you out” but nope.
She said she needs to call her DHR worker, and I dial the number she knows by heart, on my phone, because she has a flip phone that looks older than my kids are, and I ask to speak to her worker (she has given me the name, and her name by this time, let’s call her “Jane”), and I explain to the worker about the situation. I listen to the conversation between Jane and her worker, and hope that the worker really will come get her from where I am taking her, because I am headed to Nauvoo for the first time in my life.
So let me tell you about Jane. She is skinny, bruised over about 50% of the parts of her body I can see, which is a lot, and never stops moving and is constantly twitching and touching her hair and her face. She mumbles most answers to the questions I ask, except for the fact that she’s 28, has an 8 year old daughter and a 4 year old son, both in foster care, but she doesn’t even know where her 4 year old is right now, although his name is tattooed across the left side of her neck. She also says that she wishes she had never given him that name; I told her that it was a great name and that I was sure he was being taken care of. Let’s hope that is true.
She smells like my birth mom. My birth mom didn’t stink, but she had a very unique odor of chronic cigarette smoke and mustiness. It is a smell that I have grown to associate with my birth mom, and smelling it on this young lady brought back memories and sadness. It makes me think of what life must have been like for Chris during this period of her life; she was an addict until 1993, and AA and NA was the only way she got clean.
Did I mention that she never stopped moving? Touching her hair, muttering to herself, looking in her purse for money, and I just keep watching her bag, thinking if she goes for it, I will ask what she needs and if she tries anything I will just hit her. Yes, that thought went through my mind.
I called my husband and calmly told him I was taking a young lady I had picked up in my parking lot to Nauvoo; he matter of factly said “Okay” and I was a little surprised. When I asked him later if he wasn’t concerned, his response? “I figured you wouldn’t have picked her up if she looked like trouble and I trusted you to make that decision.”
She was so upset and discombobulated; she wanted cigarettes and to get to her papa’s house, telling me there was no power or water there. She told me she was going to walk all the way there if I hadn’t picked her up. I was like, “Girlfriend, it is 10,000 degrees out, you’d die”, and she tells me she has done it before.
I ask her if someone has been mistreating her. I ask her what her drug of choice is. I ask her if she has any drugs on her, because I don’t look forward to that conversation if I get pulled over with her in my car.
She said that meth and pills are her drugs of choice, her parents have never been parents and her papa has helped her. She was coming from a motel when I picked her up in my parking lot.
So we get to Nauvoo, and for the first time in my 47 years I am in the town, turning where I have seen the Slick Lizzard sign every time I have driven to Haleyville, which is more times that I can count. She tells me to let her out by the Dollar General, because she can find someone to get her cigarettes, and I object, saying, “You can go in and buy them” and she said that she has no ID and they won’t let her.
So, yall, she smells like my Birth MOM. She could have been my birth mom 30 years ago. I stop at the DG, and make her buy some food; not sure what the regular drug addict’s choice is, but she picked up a gallon of Milo’s sweet tea, a pack of ham and hamburger buns, and I bought that and 2 packs of cigarettes. She smelled like my B-mom, and I know that my B-mom would have done the same thing.
So we head out into the deep woods of Nauvoo, making a few left hand turns and coming to a trailer that looks extremely abandoned, trash in every square foot, and she gets out.
She doesn’t look at me. I am pretty sure she didn’t thank me. I watched her go in the trailer. I should have waited and given her a ride back into town. I looked her up on FB and couldn’t find her. Everyone under 30 has a FB profile, right? I think her habit is so far gone that she doesn’t.
So I had a first hand encounter with my county’s drug problem. What on earth can we do to MAKE THIS BETTER??? This poor girl has no chance. I realized even as I was speaking to the DHR worker on the young lady’s behalf, that I have the advantage of being listened to and respected; I spoke with the voice of someone who is in charge and used to having things done my way. This poor girl…no one is on her side; she’s just a druggie.
She isn’t, though. She is someone’s daughter, even if they ignored or neglected her. She is definitely someone’s mom, 2 someones, and she doesn’t even know where one of them is. She is a human being, loved by God and in need of His Salvation. I called a friend who works in the Detox unit and gave her a heads up; I hope this young lady makes it. I told her of a program that is a year long that is in Tuscumbia, Christian based, and it would get her out of Walker county.
Because I think the main issue for drug addicts that want to get better is this: they come back to the same playground and the same playmates that started their problems to begin with. If I had the funds, I would start a program that only served out of towners, even do like a “drug exchange student” program, swap out people so that addicts would have the means to go to a new place where they really could start over without drugs.
I have gained and lost 100s of pounds over my life, and I believe food addiction is a real thing, but I still function, love my kids and am a wife to my husband, and I am a productive member of society. This poor girl made me feel like I was moving in slow motion.
I am going to increase my prayers of redemption for our county and country, for the people who have no one to be in their corner, for the ones who don’t know where their children are and sometimes just don’t care. And for this young lady, I am praying God puts her in my path again, so that I will be resolved to do more, and so should you. It starts with just one. Because what if she was your daughter? I am old enough to be her mom. Do I think she started off wanting to be tweaking in some lady’s van not knowing what to do next? When I asked her how old she was when she first did drugs, she said 12.
That is my middle son’s age. What if she were mine?