The Trials of Addiction


News staff writer

June 3, 2006

Lacey Matthews and Jason Carter are enjoying the serenity of a warm spring day — something they couldn’t appreciate while using methamphetamine.

The recovering addicts are now optimistic about the future and the possibilities it holds. Their grip on sobriety is still fragile, but they are growing stronger every day.

“I can walk in the sunlight now because I don’t have a warrant out for my arrest so I don’t have to be paranoid,” said Matthews, 23. “Half the time when I was hiding, I only thought I had a warrant and I really didn’t.”

She has been clean and sober for two months and Carter, 29, has made it four months without alcohol or meth use.

“I had to have it every day. If I didn’t have it I was a violent and angry person,” he said.

The road has been bumpy and their recovery hasn’t been without relapse, in spite of the watchful eye of drug court officials.

Click on Drug Court in Brief

Last August, Matthews was the first person enrolled in the special program. She had been arrested in 2004 for disorderly conduct and again in early 2005 for drug possession. In the latter incident, she rammed a vehicle into a police officer while attempting to flee the scene. Fortunately, she said, the man sustained only minor injuries.

However, that scenario brought home to Matthews that the time had come to change behavior patterns that were harmful to her and others.

“I’d already told my probation officer I needed rehab or something. I’d tried to quit on my own but I was going nowhere,” she said.

Carter entered the drug court program in January of 2005. Like Matthews, he had been in and out of jail for drug-related offenses.

The two recovering addicts immediately became friends and now both reside in the Hood River residence that belonged to his late grandmother. When he truly gets his feet on the ground, said Carter, the deed to the house will be handed over to him.

“But it’s hard, it’s hard every day,” he admits.

Carter became hooked on meth about the age of 18, but Matthews began using when she was just 13.

“I prided myself that I wasn’t a needle junkie; I thought that snorting or smoking was better,” she said. “But it’s all the same; it all gets to the same point where it’s just craziness — addiction is progressive.”

Matthews and Carter have a personal incentive for getting their lives together. What drives them to an Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous support group five days a week isn’t all regulatory: it’s the desire to gain back custody of the children they lost to meth addiction.

Matthews said she was lucky to have taken a break from drugs while pregnant with her son at the age of 15. She went through another period of clean living at the age of 17 when she gave birth to a baby girl.

“I had a relapse when my daughter was six months old and then got arrested for disorderly conduct,” she said.

Today, Matthew’s daughter lives with the biological father in Odell. Her son is cared for by her parents, who reside in Lane County.

“My goal is to have custody again. But right now I need to focus on my recovery so that I can take good care of them,” she said.

Carter’s two children live with their mother but he is hopeful that one day they can reside with him. He acknowledges that won’t happen until he is able to stabilize his life, not only financially but emotionally, mentally and physically.

“I want them with me eventually,” he said. “It’s starting to clear up but it’s still a little foggy out there.”

Not only do they attend AA or NA sessions, Carter and Matthews are being taught how to eat right and to proactively handle daily stresses, by counselors at Mid-Columbia Center for Living. Both young adults have reached the point of recovery where they are required to also begin working.

Matthews is looking beyond just finding employment, to the day that she can earn her nursing degree. Right now she and Carter are dependent upon financial support from their respective families.

“It’s ridiculous when you look back. It’s ‘Oh my God, you didn’t get anything done,’” said Matthews. “Now I don’t want to use, where before I wanted to get high even when I wasn’t using.”

Ayla Nelson is the shining star of drug court after staying clean and sober for nine months. Between working two jobs and attending AA group sessions, she doesn’t have much spare time on her hands. But the determined 24-year-old wouldn’t have it any other way — she feels ready to tackle any challenge life throws her way.

For the first time since she was 14 years old, Nelson is shying away from drugs and any and all other negative influences — including former friends.

It is hard to believe the confident young woman describing her future goals has been charged with seven felony crimes. Or that she has been on probation continuously since the age of 15.

By the time she was 18, Nelson weighed only 89 pounds. She ended up being hospitalized four times after her immune system shut down from starvation.

“I could stay up for 14-16 days at a time. But I couldn’t do even the simple task of picking up a book and moving it to a table across the room. Somewhere along the way I would get distracted, I was just unable to plan anything,” said Nelson.

High and drunk in 2004, she encountered several other individuals “looking for a good time” outside a downtown bar. Nelson didn’t know that the backpacks they carried on their trek through town were filled with loot from residential burglaries. As police approached, her new “friends” left Nelson holding the backpacks and she ended up in jail.

Once she entered the Hood River County court system, Nelson’s past transgressions caught up with her. She was facing serious time behind bars for burglary and an accumulation of probation violations. So, Nelson jumped at the chance to enter the drug court program and get started in a new direction.

“I figured that I could fight this all my life and be on the losing end. Or I could fight to overcome it and live better,” she said.

During the May interview, she proudly shows off a sparkling clean apartment. Nelson laughs when recalling that, not long ago, she was forced to seek privacy by hiding out in the bathroom of a filthy house filled with meth junkies.

“I’ve grown so much spiritually in the past few months. I truly, today, don’t want anything to do with the person I used to be, the life I use to lead or how I let other people disrespect me.

“I owe a lot to drug court because the structure they’ve made me uphold has taught me organization and responsibility. I am able to look at myself now and my part in things because I can’t go back to my comfort zone,” Nelson said.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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