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Area Health News, Happenings and the Trials & Triumphs of Your Neighbors
August / September 2019
d n a y r e v o c e R n o i t p m e d e R How one local woman freed herself from addiction Anna Fox, thirty days clean and attending her first sobriety convention
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d n a y r e v o Rec n o i t p m e d e R How one local woman freed herself from addiction
BY MARCUS HOFFMAN Over the past decade, our county, state, and even entire nation have been ravaged by a worsening opiate epidemic. 2018 was the 8th year in a row that drug-related deaths increased in our state, the vast majority of these deaths being opiate-related. While this epidemic has spread across the country, it has hit us here at home particularly hard; Maryland has the 7th highest opiate death rate in the nation, trailing only more rural states. We hear nearly every day about the importance of helping those with addictions and stopping the endless deaths, and yet the numbers continue to rise. As time has passed and addiction rates have worsened, we have reached the point where Maryland’s drug-related death rate is now twice the na-
tional average. Reading statistics and facts about opiate addiction has its place, but I thought it best to get into the mind of someone who has struggled with addiction themselves. Someone who is more than a number, more than her addiction. I had the opportunity to talk to Anna Fox, a former heroin addict. Anna is now a beloved member of her community, her church, and a mother of two beautiful daughters. Yet before becoming who she is today, she lived a life filled with danger, drugs, and crime.
This is her story.
Anna considers her childhood to be the starting point for her addiction. She grew up with a mother who worked two jobs, and Anna was often left alone starting at a young age. At 13, Anna fell into the wrong crowd of older teens who introduced her to hard drugs like cocaine. By the time she was 14, she had tried heroin for the first time. She didn’t know what it was, but seeing her older friends cutting up lines and desperate to seem cool and have fun, she tried it. “When I first tried heroin it wasn’t exactly like this amazing thing. I went to sleep for 20 minutes and when I woke up I felt numb… I liked this numbness - it felt like escaping.” For the next decade, Anna would continue to chase this numbing high in favor of reality. While the idea of doing heroin is terrifying to many, Anna says it didn’t seem that strange when these seemingly cooler, older kids were doing it. She also craved the ability to escape from her dissatisfying and often neglected young life. Anna is hesitant to say that her rough upbringing is solely responsible for her addiction, but recognizes that having a rough childhood can contribute to and feed long term drug abuse. During her first few years of “using” as a teen, Anna experienced few consequences for her actions. She didn’t have to worry about paying bills and was able to spend effectively all of her money on heroin, or as she referred to it, “dope.” Her parents were a little suspicious due to changes in appearance and behavior. They noticed her never having money despite having job, and hanging out with the wrong crowd of older kids. They also noticed her failing to take proper care of her hygiene, and loosing a lot of weight,but whenever they questioned her on it she was able to wriggle out of answering. “They probably only asked me about it three or four times, and each time I was able to just excuse it by saying that it was because I was tired or because I was working too much… Sometimes I think if they
had really pressed me on it, they might have been able to stop my situation from worsening - not that it was their responsibility.” Anna related to me that her parents even saw her “nod off ” a few times; nodding off is when a large dosage of opiates causes the user to suddenly fall asleep, often even without them even lying down. Despite seeing these sudden changes and potential “warning signs,” her parents failed to ever question or press her hard enough, and she continued using. Perhaps if awareness surrounding opiate abuse was more common back during Anna’s teenage years, her parents wouldn’t have let her slip through the cracks of addiction. For a long time, Anna tells me, she justified her heroin addiction by comparing herself to others. “For a long time, I didn’t shoot it up so I said to myself ‘at least I’m not shooting it up.’ But soon I started shooting up. Then I said ‘at least I’m not one of those people stealing for it,’ but next thing I knew I was stealing for it…The disease of addiction is so strong it just drags you in, without you ever really noticing.” When we see people addicted to opiates, many of us wonder how they could have ever gotten that way. How could they give up so completely on their health and safety? How could they give up on their family and friends… and community? How could they give up on themselves? Seemingly normal people travel down these dark roads by being seduced and chemically rewired by the powerful effects of opiates. The addiction slowly overtakes them, and the part of them that craves heroin creeps in and upends their decision-making abilities. Anna would steal whatever she could to help feed her addiction. She would steal items from her parent’s home, often taking items she where had no idea of their value. She would take these stolen goods to local pawn shops and get whatever cash she could to afford more heroin. She broke into people’s homes and even started robbing drug dealers. Anna was, by her own admission, completely out of control. Yet during this period of time she faced few consequences for her actions. She attributes part of this to her appearing to be a young, innocent looking girl.
Anna, her daughter, and her sponsor Cathy. Cathy is a local Kent Islander who lost her son to a heroin overdose. Anna and Cathy met in Celebrate Recovery, where they provide each other support.
Anna with the officer who shot and arrested her in 2004 - Captain Timothy McDonald , Maryland State Police Centreville Barrack. They met in 2015 when he contacted her to set up a meeting about the opiate epidemic.
“People must have thought I looked sweet and helpless…I would go to gas stations and get men to give me money, pretending that I needed gas for my car. They had no idea what I was pulling on them.” Anna explained to me that as time went on, her appearance began to worsen due to her addiction. She developed track marks all over her arms once she started shooting up regularly. “Before I was addicted to heroin I would put makeup on my face every day as a routine, like many girls do. Once I started shooting up, covering up my track marks with makeup also became part of the routine. And I never looked in the mirror or had any moments like ‘what am I doing?’ or ‘how is this my life?’ I never had a moment like that because that’s just how powerful addiction is. I was completely sucked in.” As time went on and Anna continued stealing to support her habit, she created more and more enemies. She began to worry about getting jumped by one of the people she had wronged - or worse- potentially being murdered. “It got to the point where I couldn’t go anywhere without constantly looking over my shoulder,” she explained to me. The pressure of her increasingly dangerous and reckless lifestyle eventually caused her to crack… she finally told her parents that she was addicted to heroin. As one could imagine, her parents had no idea what to do. Awareness about opiate abuse was far less prevalent back in 2004 than it is today. They wanted her to stay at their home for the next couple of days so she wouldn’t use, but they both had to go to work. “I went to bed that night, in my parent’s home, feeling really free actually. I felt like there was a weight taken off my shoulders now that they knew. Maybe I would finally be able to stop using. I thought that things finally might be changing - and getting better for me.” When Anna awoke the next day, after finally having told her parents about her addiction and having made the decision to quit, the withdrawals started to hit. Unsure how to handle herself, she called her mom who told her to go to the emergency room. When she got there and told the receptionist that she was going through severe opiate withdrawal, she was actually turned away. “I couldn’t believe I came to an emergency room looking for help and they just turned me away,” she explained to me. “I don’t think that
would happen - things are a She was seemlittle help, while to get better. Afaway from the desperate to ing, Anna went Baltimore to get
anymore though little better now.” ingly left with actually wanting ter being turned emergency room, soothe her cravto the streets of her fix.
Just one day after coming clean to her parents, Anna returned to the streets, where she had often bought heroin before. There, she made runs for dealers. Undercover cops would pose as buyers on the streets of Baltimore, hoping to catch a dealer in the act. Not wanting to take the fall, dealers would get desperate addicts like Anna to make the deals for them, as a way to potentially avoid the police. Anna found herself being used by two brothers to make deals - both had warrants out for their arrests - one for attempted murder and the other for armed robbery. Anna spent a few days in Baltimore helping with drug deals and shooting up. On her third night there, she made three deals for the brothers and started to drive off with her heroin. The deals she had made for them were large, each one being over a couple hundred dollars. As she was pulling out, she heard the two brothers yelling and beating on the back of her car. They asked her to do one more deal for them, tempting her with a reward of getting more heroin. Always desperate for more, Anna agreed. This mistake would change her life forever. She arrived at the house with the brothers, only to be told to turn off her headlights and leave her car engine running. The two brothers went into the house for the deal while Anna remained in the car. Within a couple minutes, Anna saw two figures sprinting out of the house, past her car and into the darkness. Anna thought she was being robbed, a fairly common occurrence for dealers in the Baltimore area. When she saw another figure running towards her car in the dark, she panicked. She feared being robbed at gunpoint by a stranger. The man, shrouded by the darkness, screamed “Stop” as he ran towards her car. She slammed on the gas as the unidentifiable figure ran towards her
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car, before finally jumping onto the hood as Anna began to drive off. Unsure of what to do, Anna continued driving. Before she knew it, the man pulled out a gun and shot at her, narrowly missing her head and clipping her ear. After she was shot, Anna slammed on the brakes, and the man rolled off her car. Gunshot noises began to pour out behind her, hitting her car and narrowly missing her. Blood already pouring out of her ear, Anna drove off hastily, with gun shots continuously being fired from behind her. Anna had very narrowly avoided death - and she still had no idea exactly what happened. Who had jumped onto the hood of the car? Why would they go to such lengths to try to stop her from getting away? With bullet holes in her car, and blood pouring from her ear, Anna pulled into a deli nearby. She sat in the parking lot for a minute, frozen with fear and uncertainty. If she were to go for help, she didn’t know where she would hide her heroin. “Looking back, it’s unbelievable that I would even worry about that. I had just gotten shot, and my main focus was still somehow on trying to get high.” After some deliberation, she decided to hide her dope and go into the store to get help. There, the police were called to see what was going on. Soon she found herself being cuffed. She heard a voice say, “Ma’am, you’re under arrest for running over a police officer.”
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Anna and her two daughters, ages 13 and 6
During that one last drug run that Anna made, the dealers she was working with finally got busted. One of the brothers was arrested inside, and the other fled; the two men she saw running into the dead of night were one of the dealers and a police officer. The man coming after her, who she thought was trying to rob her, was actually a police officer shrouded in pitch black darkness. She was placed under arrest, and would spend the next sixmonths in prison. Just a few days before, Anna had wanted to get herself off heroin. Now, she had no choice but to quit. After years of using heroin and facing little to no consequences for her actions, Anna was finally facing consequences - including being sentenced for upwards of six years in prison. Just a few days earlier she was coming clean to her parents, and making an effort to quit. Now she found herself facing harsh repercussions. After years of legal troubles resulting from the incident and because of some leniency from a judge, Anna ended up only having to spend a couple of years in jail before being able to become a free woman. Unlike many, Anna’s story ended positively. She has no long term effects from having abused heroin and is now a happy mother of two and active member of our community. Anna says that being arrested and being sent to prison was hard, but in her case, finally facing consequences for her actions helped her clean up her act. For years, she hadn’t faced parental consequences for her actions; so you might imagine how being arrested would serve as a type of “wake up call” for the lost young woman. She also says that moving to a quieter, simpler place like the Shore made life a little easier for her.
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“I am so blessed to have the life I live today,” Anna told me, “and I love the Shore so much. Moving out here after everything that happened really helped me stay clean.” That being said, Anna is saddened by the heroin problems that our county has developed. Something that is much more of a problem now that it was even a decade ago. “This place didn’t used to be this way I don’t think, but things have changed.”
struggling with addiction not only need, but deserve, community support.
Five years ago she joined a local group called “Celebrate Recovery,” which mixes a conventional 12 step program with Christianity. While she had already been clean when she joined the organization, Anna says joining has helped her stay clean, as well as helping to address some of her underlying personal issues that led her to substance abuse problems in the first place. She is now an active member of her community, and mother of two daughters, aged six and thirteen.
You may wonder, then, what can be done to stem the rising heroin epidemic? There is no one single gesture that would put a stop to our nation’s heroin addiction, but instead a variety of acts that can help better our communities. Anna explained to me that many counties now have places you easily can get to for immediate treatment for your opiate problem. For example, in Anne Arundel County, if you come to a fire station and say you need help with your addiction, they will send a professional out to help you start your journey to recovery.
I had the chance to talk to the founder of the local Celebrate Recovery chapter, Cathy Timms. Cathy lost her son to heroin addiction a few years back, which led her to found this local chapter of Celebrate Recovery. Now the group often has as many as 60 or 70 attendees, making it a valuable resource for fighting addiction on the Shore. Celebrate Recovery has multiple groups, like the one Anna is part of that deals specifically with addiction, among others dealing with a variety of other personal issues. As the heroin epidemic rages on, there are many signs that people are trying to help. We see people across the country carrying signs detailing the number of overdoses, creating the “QAC Goes Purple” movement, or with people like Cathy founding a support group and setting up multiple local events. Anna worries that, despite all this effort, stigma remains, and little has actually gotten done. Anna’s sponsor, Cathy, told me that she has been part of multiple opiate-based awareness events - some of which receive little to no attendance. Cathy explained to me that she thinks people are worried about coming to these events because they don’t want to be labeled an addict, or the relative of an addict. While addiction is an awful thing to go through, and something nobody wants a loved one to experience, the level of shame cast towards addicts and their families is unprecedented. Compared to the compassion people generally receive when a loved one is suffering from other illnesses, the responses that people struggling with opiate addiction receive are deeply saddening. People shame addicts and their families at an alarming rate. Go into any small-town Facebook group and you’ll see someone make a post about someone overdosing- followed by dozens of negative comments from people casting blame, judgment, and even mocking these people. America has been shaming addicts for decades, only to see the addiction rate steadily rise. Instead of criticism and blame, which has been shown to fail time and time again, the people in our county
Cathy told me that making parents and the community more aware of the signs of addiction would be helpful, enabling loved ones to know when to step in to offer support sooner. Another possibility is making Narcan more widely available. Narcan is a drug that blocks the body’s opiate receptors from binding with opiates and has the potential to save someone’s life that is overdosing. While Narcan might not help lower the addiction rate, it does have the potential to save some of the dozens of lives we lose to overdoses. Some have advocated that more pharmacies stock Narcan to get it into the hands of the public more easily, a simple act that has the potential to directly save lives. Looking back over this story, it may appear pessimistic as I detailed the hard, tangled life of an addict; the rising rate of addiction across the country; and, the stigma many people struggling with addiction face. While many of those struggling with addiction pass before being able to recover, stories like Anna’s remind us that recovery is possible, even if the road to get there can be twisted and tangled. “If anyone who is struggling with addiction reads this I want you to know that it is possible to get help,” she told me. “It may seem impossible, and it may not even be something you want to do, but if you reach out for help - I know you can do it.” Need help or know someone that does? Continue reading for more information and area groups and resources.
Voted Best today for more info a Life Care Consultant Independent Living us on the web at www.ActsHeronPoint.org Know someone struggling with addiction? Struggling with addiction yourself? Here are some resources, local and on the internet, that might be able to help you.
501 East Campus Avenue ertown, MD 21620 | 410-778-8314 Contact a Life Care Consultant today for more info or visit us on the web at
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ontact a Life Care Consultant today for more info •CELEBRATING RECOVERY 7pm. First Baptist Church, 115 Idlewild St, Easton. 443-786-4501. visit us on the web at www.ActsHeronPoint.org •1st Mon– BEREAVED PARENT Support Group. 6:30-8:30pm. Hope
501 Easthow Campus Avenue Just you planned it. & Healing Center, 255 Comet Dr, Centreville. 443-262-4109. 501 East Campus Avenue MDtoday 21620 •4th Mon – ALL LOSSES GRIEF SUPPORT GROUP ages 18+. Contact aChestertown, Life Care Consultant for more info 410-778-8314 or visit us on the web at www.ActsHeronPoint.org hestertown, MD 21620 | 410-778-8314 12N-1:15pm. Greensboro Public Library. 443-262-4108. 501 East Campus Avenue Chestertown, MD 21620 | 410-778-8314
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•CELEBRATING RECOVERY 7pm. Next Generation Church, 10092 New Bridge Rd, Denton. 410-829-7020. •YOU ARE NOT ALONE- Family/friend support group of loved ones struggling w/opiate misuse. 6:30-7:30pm. QAC Health Dept, Nielsen Center, 205 N. Liberty St, Centreville. 410-758-1306. •1st & 3rd Tues – TOGETHER THROUGH CHAOS. A support group for families dealing with addition. https://www.facebook.com/ togetherthroughthechaos •2nd Tues – ALL LOSSES GRIEF SUPPORT GROUP ages 18+. 12N-1:15pm. Federalsburg Public Library. 443-262-4108. •4th Tues – ALL LOSSES GRIEF SUPPORT GROUP ages 18+. 12N-1:15pm. Federalsburg Public Library. 443-262-4108.
WEDNESDAYS Acts Retirement-Life Communities® is celebrating more than 40 years of strength asActsthe leader in service to seniors. Retirement-Life Communities® is celebrating more than 40 years of strength as the leader in service to seniors.
Acts Retirement-Life Communities® is celebrating more than 40 years of strength as the leader in service to seniors.
18, August / September 2019, Health Update
•CELEBRATING RECOVERY 7pm. KI United Methodist Church, 2739 Cox Neck Rd, Chester. 410-643-6520.
•ALL-BEREAVED SUPPORT GROUP 6-8pm. KI United Methodist Church, 2739 Cox Neck Rd, Chester. 410-490-3484. •CELEBRATING RECOVERY 7pm. Calvary Asbury United Methodist, 103 N. Church St, Sudlersville. 443-480-2038.
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Treatment Resources – Your local health department may be able to help with treatment resources: Queen Anne’s County – 410-758-1306 Kent County – 410-778-1350 Talbot County – 410-819-5600 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator – An online source of information for persons seeking treatment facilities within the U.S. and its territories for substance abuse/addiction and/or mental health problems. Personal information used in the search criteria is secure and anonymous. Visit www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov or call SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-662-4357 or 1800-487-4889 (TTY). Eastern Shore Crisis Response Services – 24-hour Eastern Shore Crisis Hotline at 1-888-407-8018. If you or someone you know is in crisis due to substance use or the health department offices are closed. Chemically Dependent Anonymous Self Help – www.cdaweb.net or 1-888-CDA-HOPE. MD Certified Treatment Locator – 410-767-6500 or 1-877-463-3464 or https://bha.health.maryland.gov/pages/index.aspx.
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MD Heroin Awareness Advocates – 301-471-1830 or https://www.facebook.com/mdheroinawarenessadvocates. Narcotics Anonymous Self Help – www.freestatena.org or 1-800-3173222. Parent & Caregiver Support – www.mdcoalition.org or 410-730-8267. Queen Anne’s County Sheriff ’s Department – www.queenannessheriff.org or 410-758-0770.
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