By Samantha Frashier
There is no way I should be alive today.
Every 24 hours went the same way for five years: wake up, go buy heroin, and then go find ways to buy more heroin. It was a $140-a-day habit.
I watched friends overdose in my car while I was driving on the highway, holding their heads up, making sure they didn’t choke, deciding whether they were dying or if they would wake up. I would pick friends up from the emergency room after an overdose and yet continue to use.
I’m sure after reading this you have in mind a description of what a person might look like who went through all that. I probably do not fit your idea.
Who I Had Become
I grew up in a great family—my parents are still married, I have one brother, and we were cared for and loved immensely. We grew up in church; I was very involved in youth group, leading Bible studies, singing in the youth group band, hanging with my church friends every night. I was such a fun, outgoing, happy girl. I had friends everywhere; I was very easy to get along with. During my senior year I had made the decision to attend the local Bible college.
But the summer after my senior year, some things escalated in the youth group, and I was told it was time to move on. So my support system at that time diminished to nothing. I made new friends. I started drinking and smoking weed at age 18, and it didn’t stop. I went through college and hated it. I had completely turned away from any Christian.
When I was 20, I started to try different things here and there. At 21 I was addicted to pills, and at 22 I was addicted to heroin.
I could sit here and go through all the grueling details, but I’ll keep this worst part short. I burned every bridge, and I stole from anyone who had ever trusted me. I stole every piece of jewelry from my parents and from anyone. I lied constantly and manipulated my way out of all situations.
It was about four years into my addiction when things finally caught up to me. I had a theft charge and violated probation, and my parents sent me to my first rehab. Then I was sent off to Florida, several states away, where I went to four rehabs, came home, used, and went back to Florida. I manipulated my parents to bring me home, and they did. I stayed clean 30 days, if that. My parents had enough, and they decided to kick me out. And that still didn’t stop me. I stole my parents’ car, I stole from all my loved ones; even if it was $10, I was taking it.
I only lasted six months after my parents kicked me out before I was arrested on 11 charges, which resulted in two felonies and six misdemeanors. During this time while I was incarcerated, I felt God in my life the whole time. While detoxing in jail, I went to a Bible study. I don’t even recall what the lady spoke of, but I prayed, and I knew God was with me. Every hair on my neck stood up; I had chills all over. I knew God was with me.
And it hit me—I saw clearly, as if for the first time, where I was, what I had been doing, and the person I had become.
Where I Turned
October 8, 2013, changed my life. I was incarcerated for four months in jail and five months at the MonDay Correctional Institute. Those last months really taught me a lot. I learned coping skills, how to deal with triggers, and a lot of self-awareness. I had individualized therapy every day, and I actually had to put the work in to figuring out why do I use and how can I not use, based on major core issues such as selfishness, entitlement, and lack of self-confidence. I had an amazing clinician who helped me determine things I wouldn’t have picked up on. I made a great friend there who has been clean right along with me, and we both can help each other to see things in a different perspective.
During the whole nine months, a group of women from my church surrounded my mother and also started writing me. One letter had Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” To this day it remains my favorite verse.
When I was released I had all these women who surrounded me. People I didn’t even know had written me over those nine months. I had developed friendships with these women through letters, so I went back to church and developed a wonderful support system. That is what I was missing every other time I tried to get clean—a strong support system. I also had strengthened my relationship with God and started having more faith that God had a plan for me.
I started working with one of my biggest supporters to help begin a recovery center in my county called The Nest Recovery Homes (thenestrh.org). Once the building is complete, it will be a place for women to come and heal and get the time they need to be successful, build a support system, and set achievable goals. It’s a faith-based nonprofit home that will assist addicts to fly on their own. Once we open, I will be the resident manager and will get to work personally with other addicts.
When I Spoke Up
I have watched my family suffer from addiction. I have watched countless friends die. I have tried to help so many people get into treatment, however it was difficult. There were waiting lists or places that did not accept certain insurance. I finally got so fed up with all this, that last summer I wrote a letter to President Obama, and he wrote back saying Congress would not pass the $1.1 billion his administration wanted them to. My friend and I then wrote to every single senator pleading that the bill be passed. I even reached out to a senator from West Virginia, who read my letter on the Senate floor.
At the beginning of December 2016, the 21st Century Cures Act was passed, which included the $1.1 billion needed for substance abuse.
I have been clean since October 8, 2013. God has blessed me to be able to tell my story of hope to many people. It is possible to get and stay clean. This time I let God in and let him surround me with all these wonderful people to help support me. I have even been lucky enough to thank the officer who arrested me and to work with different heroin coalitions and local efforts to help this epidemic.
During the time I’ve been clean, it has not all been easy. I had a very high risk twin pregnancy, and I’ve watched my brother go through his own addiction. It was heartbreaking to see what it did to my parents, knowing I had done those same things and hurt them in the same way. But this past Christmas, we celebrated our first family Christmas where my brother and I were both clean.
My brother has over six months clean, and it’s a blessing that he wasn’t one of the 636 Americans who die from an overdose every week. My family has been a wonderful support, and I am so grateful for them forgiving me and loving me through the rough times.
What I Believe
A heroin addict is not someone living under a bridge or standing at the corner or out on the streets. It’s a mother, father, brother, or sister living in the house next to you. Someone suffering from addiction needs to be surrounded by real love. They need a support system. They need people because addiction is a lonely disease. So the best way to fight it? Surround them. Love them. Encourage them to get help.
And to you, if you are in the midst of using, my dear friend, there is hope. I never thought I would get clean. I decided years ago that I would use heroin forever. But I promise you it’s so much better on the other side, and it can be done. Have faith. And don’t lose hope.
Samantha Frashier lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her family and is the Resident Manager at The Nest Recovery Homes.