A true story of Carroll County meth addiction -- An addict's story offers glimpse of nightmare

Friday, August 29, 2003

CCN staff report

(The following story is true. Names and some details have been altered for purposes of anonymity.)

June knows she is lucky, having successfully come from the other side of addiction to methamphetamine with her life and a reasonably attractive appearance, and without significant brain damage.

Her story starts in the mid-1990s in neighboring Benton County. June had recently gotten married in a ceremony at her parent's home in Carroll County, and apparently got pregnant on the night of the wedding. The new couple was separated and on the road to divorce before she realized she was pregnant.

June (not her real name) was a small business operator, running a day care in her home. She had a seven-year-old son by a previous marriage who helped some in taking care of the children when he wasn't in school.

When the baby was born, she bought an SUV to more easily haul her brood when she had to run errands. Business was good, but the baby was hyperactive. She was getting no help from the baby's father, With the baby keeping her up at night, and a full time, full-capacity daytime business, the 30-something woman was becoming exhausted.

Complaining about her fatigue to a friend, she was told that a dose of methamphetamine would take care of her fatigue.

She tried it, just one time, she thought, to see what it was like. She consciously did not believe she would become addicted.

That launched a rapidly precipitous decline, with June first staying out all night, leaving her oldest son to accept children as their parents dropped them off for daycare in the morning. Within a month she gave up the house she had been paying on for seven years. She dropped off her oldest son with her parents in Carroll County, and gave up custody of the baby to its natural father. The SUV was repossessed for non-payment. She didn't care. The only thing she wanted was meth.

Within two months of the first time she used meth, June was living from pillar to post, often teaming up with men who were abusive, but who were also good sources for the drug. One man kept her in the trunk of his car for two days.

Her parents gave her an old car of theirs, so she could get around. That car was literally taken apart, piece-by-piece, screw-by-screw, by one of her boyfriend/dealers while he was high on meth.

Her travels took her through the four-county area of northwest Arkansas ---- labs in Madison County, hiding out from cops and upset drug dealers at Lake Leatherwood, crashing with dealers in Benton and Washington counties. While tweaking, she would show up at her parent's home, spouting irrational demands, and threatening them, as well as her grandmother and oldest son. Sometimes she stole antiques from her grandmother, and diamond and gold jewelry from her parents.

That was essentially June's pattern for more than five years.

June's parents were also lucky. Both being recovered alcoholics through Alcoholics Anonymous, they understood principles of detachment from the craziness visited upon them by their daughter. Still, it was far from easy.

June's oldest son had issues of abandonment, vacillating between feeling unrequited love for his mother, anger at her, and fear of her. Following one visit from his mom, while she was using, he said, "She wanted me to hug her, but I was afraid her skin would fall off."

On two occasions, June agreed to go into treatment for her addiction, but never lasted the first 24 hours before checking herself out. June's dad never told anyone during the time, but he secretly thought of June as having become like "a piece of flotsam on the sea of humanity." Her mother says the hardest thing she has ever done was have June arrested.

That arrest, in Benton County, coupled with others, is what landed June in a Regional Punishment Facility of the Arkansas Department of Correction. For most of her incarceration, June played the game, "going to group," part of the RPF Therapeutic Community program.

On visits to her in the RPF, her parents saw incremental changes in her attitude, but knew that those could be just more of June's games.

June learned while she was in prison that one of her meth buddies had been bound and burned alive in a brush fire in Benton County, which had been set by the women's husband. She learned of other friends who got major hard time sentences because of their involvement in meth.

Still, it was not until the last few weeks of her near year-long confinement that June made a decision to never use meth again. Somehow, she had grown to hate the drug.

Wisely choosing to "change playgrounds and playmates," June was paroled out to an aunt in southwest Missouri. Her mom and dad, already caring for June's son and grandmother, were not yet prepared to let June live with them, but they did provide her another car to use for work.

June landed a job with a temporary employment agency, working a variety of jobs. As her confidence grew, she was a manager of a local shop for a few months before deciding she "needed a career," Her parents, seeing what they thought was a real change in her, agreed to help pay for her education, and June made her home base with them while commuting daily to Washington County for her training.

She expects to be certified to practice her new occupation soon.

June knows her story is an exception to the rule, and considers herself very fortunate. She knows, first hand, that when she first started using meth, "there was hardly any in Carroll County." Now, she says, it is just as common as it was in the mid- and late 1990s in Benton and Washington counties.

In 2002, June predicted about Carroll County that "It's going to be just like it was in Benton County. There's going to be a big increase in murders and mean crimes."

Judging from this year's headlines, that's a prediction well on its way to becoming true.

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