Over the last three weeks, we’ve looked at four people who’ve stared their addiction in the face and finally walked away. Today I’m going to tell you about a girl who couldn’t. This is Andrea’s story, as told by her big brother Jason. In many ways, it’s Jason’s story too.
TD: Tell me about your sister.
Jason: Andrea was a pretty girl, and very talented at poetry. She was so intelligent; a straight “A” student. Two of her poems were published in poetry books, in her teens. She was even flown out to Vegas when she was published.
TD: Wow. So what happened?
Jason: In Junior High, she started hanging around with the wrong crowd.
TD: Was this in Chrisman?
TD: Why do you say it was the wrong crowd?
Jason: She started to change and got rude; she started missing school.
TD: Where were they from?
Jason: Up around Georgetown.
TD: What happened then?
Jason: She dropped out around her Sophomore year. That’s when she started getting in all kinds of trouble.
TD: What kind of trouble?
Jason: Alcohol was missing. Mom had torn her meniscus and her medicine kept coming up missing.
TD: The alcohol led to other things?
Jason: Yeah. Depression. She started getting prescription drugs. We believe she was selling the pills and getting others.
TD: So what happened next?
Jason: We were paged out and I responded to a call for a woman facedown in a front yard unconscious. We got there and it was my sister. She had a blood alcohol level of .40.
TD: You’re a volunteer firefighter in Chrisman?
Jason: Yes. For 17 years.
TD: How did you deal with that, rolling up and seeing your sister there?
Jason: It was tough, but I handled it.
TD: You did your job.
TD: So things were getting bad? Jason: We’d try to get her help, but you couldn’t tell if she was serious. She’d go along and then boom, she’d be gone. We would fight and scream, fight and scream, but she swore up and down that she wasn’t using drugs. We’d finally gotten to the point where enough was enough.
TD: So what happened then?
Jason: She was stealing. She about bankrupted my mother. She had just gotten out of jail for check fraud here in Edgar County. That wasn’t the first time she’s been in jail. She blamed everything on others. She kept calling me, wanting me to get her out, but this time I wasn’t going to bail her out.
TD: Why not?
Jason: We thought tough love would be the best for her at this point. Maybe this would be what it takes to get her to realize her problems.
TD: It was pretty serious.
Jason: This time I believe she was more scared of the legal problems than she was of anything else. Finally she was looking at four years for the checks.
TD: Then what happened?
Jason: She was very good at manipulating people. She would tell everyone what they wanted to hear; and she could make you believe it. One of her “friends” finally bailed her out. She ended up in Danville somehow… she died on January 22nd at 119 Pennsylvania St. of an overdose of heroin.
TD: How did you hear about it?
Jason: The Edgar County Sheriff Department woke up my wife and she called me at work 3 hours away. Her boyfriend said that was the first time she’d actually tried it. But we don’t know that. We found some paraphernalia in her room. They said the reason the heroin killed her was it was not cut down enough; it was too pure.
TD: It’s becoming a huge problem up there.
Jason: It’s a big problem everywhere that no one seems to be talking about. My wife is an RN. One of her best friend’s sisters died for the same reason in Danville, just three weeks before.
Jason: My wife’s sister also works in the hospital up in Danville, and they’re coming into the ER weekly with heroin OD’s.
Jason: Yep, but you don’t hear about it.
It’s been just eight months since Andrea died, and it’s obvious that the pain is right below the surface. Even after admitting they’d done everything possible, he’s still troubled by questions.
TD: Why are you telling me your story?
Jason: I know the potential she had. And it just destroyed me to watch her.
TD: What do you want people to know?
Jason: Not to give up. To keep interfering in their lives and let them know…
TD: Would you do anything different?
Jason: I don’t know. I’m not so sure that tough love was the way to go.
TD: You’re haunted by that, aren’t you.
Jason: I’m gonna be. If we’d have let her come home, would she have made different choices?
TD: But when you really think about it?
Jason: She would have been in that situation sooner or later…
I’ve interviewed four people who were serious users, but are now in recovery, some for many years. To a person, they all said that when they were using, they’d do or say anything to get what they wanted. As one put it, “I’d lie to your face. It didn’t mean anything to me. It didn’t matter who was standing in front of me.” The others concurred.
One told me, “Whatever else you do, you can’t enable an addict. They’ll just use you and keep on using.” Each confirmed that there was no stopping until the individual person was ready, no matter what you do, or don’t do.
Sadly, Andrea had never reached that point before she found Heroin that night at that house up in Danville. A mother lost her little girl, and a good man lost his little sister.
But heroin isn’t just in Danville. It’s here in Paris too. And just a month ago, it was right up the road in Charleston, where we lost another precious soul. Next week we’ll look at some facts on this alarming epidemic.