GUILFORD COUNTY, NC -- It's easy to say, "Who cares? They're drug addicts. Let them do their thing."
But the addicts and the recovering addicts live in your neighborhood. They're the moms and dads of the kids in your child's class. They're the person next to you at the stoplight. You care, because you want them to be recovering, not using.
And before you think recovery is just a few weeks and a hard choice at the beginning...
Before the sun comes up, Brandi is on a city bus. The only light, is her phone as she texts her kids to get ready for school
"If i can fight to find the drug, I can fight to be sober." Brandi is a recovering heroin addict. Every two weeks she travels to get her Methadone treatments.
One liquid dose at the treatment center and a dose for every day she's away. "You don't just start becoming an addict overnight. So you can't just get clean overnight."
Brandi has been at it for a while, in fact we talked with her two years ago. She told us how she would get high and then drive the kids to school. "I would get high, but I would still function. I still took my kids to school, cooked supper." Seems so normal. And yet, it was drug fueled.
Two years later, she marks another anniversary of being clean. It's not four years of sobriety.
"I have 5 kids, I'm a single momma. How can I be a good momma if I'm not clean? How can I be a better momma?"
Brandi is clean with help from the Methadone doses. It's an opioid medication that reduces the withdrawl symptoms, doesn't cause a high and allows recovering addicts to function. And there are a lot of recovering addicts out there.
In 1996, the National Drug Intelligence center recorded 1,683 people in the state were treated in admissions for heroin.
In 2016, just this one Guilford County treatment center, treats 1,000 people.
Les is one of the counselors. "Folks are doing well in treatment. They are high functioning. They manage to work with illness and receive treatment and it's not visible to other folks."
The treatment, including the Methadone doses can go on for years, decades.....a lifetime. Brandi knows she could be on Methadone the rest of her life.
"I wake up. I take my medicine." When Brandi isn't at the treatment center, she takes her doses at home. The routine is worth it.
"I'm ready to start the day for my kids. I love it, I'm a mom again. I can get them ready myself."
The morning routine is ordinary, even for a functioning, recovering heroin addict.
"It kills me to know what I did that to my family, put them through hell. But I'm so proud of myself that I wake up everyday, even if it is on Methadone treatment. I'm here. I'm alive."
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