Addict’s long battle against meth was hard to win

“Meth became my family, my lover, my best friend. It was the driving force in my life.”

That’s how a 48-year-old Greenbank woman describes her 13-year addiction to methamphetamines, a synthetic narcotic that nearly cost her her life.

The slender woman, who hasn’t used drugs for eight years, recalled her life on meth during a recent interview. She began using the drug when she was a 27-year-old widow with three young children at home.

With tears in her eyes, she recalled how much her family suffered.

Susan, who prefers to withhold her last name, remembers her life on crystal meth, what she lost as a result of the addiction, and the struggle to get her life back again.

“I don’t think I will use drugs again... I am a different person now, but I have to remember the person I was then,” she said.

Like many addicts, she believed she could quit any time.

But soon she discovered what drug counselors and law enforcement officials are correct when they claim about meth is a highly addictive stimulant that takes hold with one use, and can be fatal.

Because tolerance occurs within minutes, chronic users binge on meth, taking it more and more often in order to sustain their highs. Methamphetamine can snorted, smoked, taken orally or injected.

Susan said she began injecting meth intravenously from the start. Faint needle tracks, are still visible on her arms.

Susan said she was high all the time, except when she was in jail. In the beginning, she enjoyed the experience of being high.

“I wanted to use meth until I died,” she said.

According to the Island County Sheriff’s Office, meth users experience a short but intense rush of euphoria. Other affects included increased activity and decreased appetite. Users often perform meaningless repetitive tasks. A dangerous stage — called “tweaking” — occurs when a meth user hasn’t slept for days and becomes anxious, paranoid and sometimes violent. Law enforcement officials report an increase in criminal behavior among meth users.

Susan’s tolerance for the drug increased almost immediately after she started using it. She’d use it five or 10 times a day.

She had a circle of friends who were always willing to supply the drug. If money was short, she was willing to sell anything to get it, even her children’s toys.

Several stays at rehabilitation centers failed to quell her addiction.

“It (meth) became the driving force in my life,” Susan said. “I neglected my children, stole from my family, lived on the streets and spent time for jail.”

As Susan slipped deeper into addiction, her oldest daughter was forced into taking responsibility of the younger children.

“My eight-year-old began taking care of all of us,” she said. “She would say, ‘Mama you have to eat, you need to rest.’”

During those years, Susan said she was arrested a few times, spending an average of two months a year in jail. Family members cared for her children when she was in jail.

Two friends of hers were murdered for drugs and few dollars and others died of overdoses. Her husband died as a result of his own drug addiction. Susan’s welfare checks and his Social Security payments kept the family in a home, and helped fund Susan’s habit.

Once her children were grown, the SSI checks stopped. Susan became homeless.

“I was homeless for five years, living on the streets and in tent cities,” she said.

In the end, it was one of her daughters who saved her life. She found her mother on the street in San Diego, gave her a pack of cigarettes, a pair of shoes and arranged for her to stay with her brother on Whidbey Island. She also told Susan she would not see her grandson again unless she cleaned up.

Her brother cared for her for weeks, letting her rest and eat while helping her detoxify. One day, he gave her a bicycle and said, “I found you job. This is your transportation.”

She doesn’t ride a bike to work anymore, but is still working at that same job. She gets there now in the first car she’s ever owned.

Although healthy now, she carries a reminder of her meth years. Four years ago she was diagnosed with Hepatitis C.

“But I’m not giving up,” she said. “I’ve come too far. I am doing everything I can to stay healthy now.”

She now has a close relationship with her children and three grandchildren. She plans to move back to her hometown, San Diego, to be near her children and grandchildren.

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