The Starting Of My Life: Household On The Journey From Heroin Addiction To Restoration – WYSO
The WYSO series "Recovery Stories" offers you discussions from the heart of Dayton's opioid crisis. Today we meet 31-year-old Sarah Clay from Urbana.
In 2007 Sarah met her husband Justin.
“We worked together in a factory. We got along pretty quickly. We moved in and I was pregnant within four months, ”says Sarah.
Her family grew to four children. But soon everything changed when the couple became deeply addicted to opiates.
Today Sarah is recovering and Justin's mother Kathy Stewart is helping to take care of her children.
This summer Sarah regained custody of her three youngest children. She says she has more hope for the first time in a long time.
As Sarah recalls in this conversation with her mother-in-law Kathy, Justin died less than a year after she finally got clean.
A copy of their conversation follows, which has been edited for the sake of length and clarity.
Sarah: When Justin got his cancer diagnosis, we were already using [heroin]. He came to a really dark place where I think he just gave up. I remember dealing with overdoses and he asked me, please don't call next time. And that was a difficult thing because I couldn't have done it. When did you realize Justin and I had a problem?
Kathy: The children reported that they had not eaten anything or that they had to prepare their own meals while the parents were resting. And that was unusual because I know Sarah that you were an excellent cook and prepare meals every day. So that was worrying. How can you explain the overwhelming power of drugs to displace child care?
Sarah: At first it was almost like a pick-me-up. I remember once saying I was a good mother when I was high because I could run and play with the children. And it sounds crazy to say now that ultimately my children were abandoned. But it got to the point where my kids were in the way. I needed drugs to live. I remember the day when the church service for children came in and told me that they would take the children with them. I had no question who to call, who I wanted to have them with, and who I would take them with. They were always there for us. They had to stop being there for our benefit. I think you somehow realized that you empowered us in another way.
Kathy: When it came down to not paying an electricity bill or turning it off, I wanted to pay for it. But then I knew I had to draw a line and say they had the money, but they decided to use that money for an addiction.
Sarah: At some point it helped us because we got to a point where we could see that we needed help. One of the worst two weeks I can remember is the two weeks before I went to treatment. I had done some very hurtful things to people I loved. I stole from you. I mean, I lied this week and did everything I could to get drugs. At some point everything ran out and I was very sick. I wanted to die And I only remember that you tried to help me and get me somewhere as soon as possible. But we couldn't find anything back then.
Kathy: I remember waiting for you in the emergency room and seeing a lady lying on the floor in front of the waiting room. The homeless woman you spread out on this sidewalk and I was shocked. I tried to scare the children away, but they saw their mother lying there. It just broke my heart to see you in this situation. I never thought that I thought you had lost your dignity.
Sarah: I felt lifeless. Addiction is a very terrible thing. I think families suffer as much, if not worse, than the addict because the addict is capable of stunning. The family is not. They are afraid that they will receive the call that this person is dead. But there is hope and recovery is possible. On August 15, I was treated at Access Hospital in Dayton, Ohio. It was really the beginning of my life. I always hoped that someday I and Justin would get our lives back together and raise our kids. Unfortunately, the day I was out of treatment passed away. That hurts. You know, I'm not sure where we were in his heart the day he died. I know that he loved me.
Kathy: I know he loved you too. That would be my gift to you to say that I know he wanted to be together as a family. I only know that he wanted it to be healthy. I am very proud of you and how you present yourself to the community. It takes a strong woman to hold her head up. And you're fine.
Sarah: And it feels good to hear that. It is good when people tell me that they are proud of me. People can see the change in me. I'm just a completely different person today. And I like that person. And I want to apologize for all the things I've done. I am very sorry. I wish I could go back and not do these things.
Kathy: Accept an apology and I love you and you know that.
Sarah: I love you.
This story is part of the WYSO Recovery Stories series. The series was produced by Jess Mador with the support of Community Voices producer Jocelyn Robinson.
Original photos by Maddie McGarvey.
Additional project digital support of 100 days in Appalachian Mountains.
More information on recovery stories:
The WYSO series "Recovery stories" offers you conversations from Dayton's opioid crisis: stories about losses, stories about love, stories about hope, resilience and recovery.
The Ohio opioid epidemic has killed more than 10,000 people and affected thousands of families across the Miami Valley in the past three years. However, numbers alone do not tell the whole story of the crisis. The WYSO series "Recovery Stories" documents the reality of addiction and recovery in our community with personal stories of Daytonians who were personally affected by the epidemic.