Former Addict Helps Those with Substance Abuse Problems in Kentucky

Former Addict Helps Those with Substance Abuse Problems in Kentucky

In Somerset, Kentucky, a 24-year-old wife and mother shares her experiences with people entering rehab as part of her recovery from drug addiction. Ashlee Steele, a former cheerleader, was just 15 when she began experimenting with Ecstasy. "Addiction is not picky," she said. "It grabs whoever it can get hold of."

Her parents found out about her drug use and sent her to rehab, and she stayed sober for several years. But once she started experiencing the stress of young adulthood, she turned to prescription drugs—which can be just as dangerous as heroin and other illegal drugs.

"At first I did it just to get high," Steele said. "I could take an OxyContin, get my whole house cleaned, and not be tired. It seemed like the perfect thing to do. I was like superwoman…But then it turns into a physical addiction," she said. "You don’t get high anymore. You have to take it just to be able to get out of bed…At first I could function high. That’s when it gets dangerous."

"It takes over your whole life before you even know what’s going on," she said. "I was using it for a year before I realized I was addicted." Steele started buying the drug off the street. "I’d go to the same people over and over…If you really want it, it’s everywhere. There’s always someone who knows somebody who can get it for you."

Tricia Neal of the Associated Press writes that when Steele started abusing OxyContin (an opiate-based painkiller that has similar effects to heroin), she was working at a day care center and her husband had a good job. But her addiction nearly ruined her family’s finances.

"I drained $6,000 from our savings account in two months, and I got rid of our Volkswagen without (my husband) knowing about it," she said. "I was willing to lose our brand new car. I would do anything. I wasn’t getting it to get high anymore. I needed it just to feel normal and to function in society."

Steele was able to hide her addiction from most people, and she’s not even sure whether her husband was fully aware of her problem. "He didn’t know, or it wasn’t talked about," she said. "It was the big pink elephant in the room that nobody discussed."

Steele said she finally realized she needed help when she was faced with staying in a hospital with her young daughter, who needed surgery.

"I told my husband that I couldn’t go with her to the surgery because I would either be high or I would detox, and either way, I wouldn’t be able to be there for her and make the decisions that needed to be made," she said.

Steele said drug addicts can’t quit on their own: "I tried 100 times," she said. "You can’t do it."
Steele credits individuals at the Oasis Center at Eagle Heights Church with much of her success in overcoming her addiction. A group called "Celebrate Recovery" meets there, and Steele said, "there’s no way I would have been able to stay clean without them."
"There’s strength in numbers," she said.

She also took suboxone, a drug that alleviates and prevents withdrawal symptoms, making it easier to wean off the drugs. In order for suboxone treatments to work properly, patients should take it for no longer than two weeks, and they should be treated in a clinic, Steele said.

Steele’s husband supported her throughout her recovery. "He’s been amazing," she said. "I could have lost everything." The couple is now expecting their third child.

As part of her recovery, Steele now shares her experiences with others who come to the Oasis. The number of individuals attending the Celebrate Recovery meetings has grown from five to more than 60 in just three months, she said.

"It’s not something I’m proud of, but it’s something I did," she said of her addiction. “I would have been dead if I hadn’t stopped."

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