We’ve heard the statistics on the region’s heroin crisis, and how many have fallen into addiction. But one person’s story can tell a lot about what it takes to get out. As part of an occasional series on the Affordable Care Act, the Ohio Valley ReSource explores how the law expanded substance abuse treatment for thousands, including Wendy Crites. Producers Glynis Board and Rebecca Kiger bring us the story of Crites’ struggle for sobriety, told in her own words.
Wendy Crites is a single mom, a Christian and a recovering addict in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. She’s on parole and receiving substance abuse treatment through the Jefferson Day Report Center. Crites has been using drugs since she was 13, intravenously since she was 15.
“Everyone has some kind of addiction,” she said. “I believe it’s that hole everyone has in their heart that you’re trying to fill — I’ve filled it with drugs. I think it’s really something only God can do. And I think he uses our weaknesses to bring us to him.”
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Crites has a 26-year-old daughter, Ashley, and a 12-year-old son, Devin.
“I have the sweetest son – half of his life he’s saw me be strung out on drugs. He’s getting ready be a teenager, and I just want to be a good role model for him.”
Crites has worked a variety of jobs since she was 16-years-old but dreams of having a stable job with benefits that would allow her to save money and provide for her kids. That’s a tall order for anyone with felony charges, albeit nonviolent charges in her case.
She relies on her faith and her desire to be a good parent to motivate her through recovery.
She also relies on the services provided through the Jefferson Day Report Center. These services include transportation, mental and behavioral health, and various forms of medically-assisted substance abuse treatment — all covered under the Affordable Care Act. Through the center, Crites receives Suboxone, a medication used to treat opioid addiction by reducing withdrawal symptoms and the urge to use.
“Between the meetings, the counseling, the Suboxone, and God … that program saved me.”
Without the support of these services, a simple misstep could jeopardize months or years of sobriety. Crites recently broke her ankle while working.
“My daughter, when she first found out I broke my foot, her first thought was: ‘I’m afraid mom’s gonna use again.’”
Despite having a broken foot, lacking a vehicle, being denied food stamps because she’s a drug offender, and having to build a new social support system from scratch at 50 years old, Crites is, so far, maintaining her sobriety.
This story was produced in collaboration with 100 Days in Appalachia.