Healthline: Heroin in the Home

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It's an early January morning and the air is cool outside, laced with moisture despite the chill.   Inside her small brick house in Zachary, Donna sits on a corner of her couch. Underneath a mane of wildly curly black hair, dark glasses shade her eyes from the approaching light of day.  She explains that she suffers from migraines and the slightest light causes her pain.

At her elbow, on a side table, is a plate of chocolates and candies which is something found throughout the baker's home.  Nearly every wall in the house is decorated with pictures: family photos, a child's painting, inspirational quotes and biblical scenes.

Donna is exhausted despite the day just beginning.  She explains that it's been a "bad night." She and her daughter were awake most of the night arguing, something that has become more common in recent months.  Her daughter is in her room, frustrated and unwilling to talk.

Donna's daughter, who we'll call Anna, is a recovering Heroin addict.

"You want to know my day? This is my day. It's not pretty. This is just the way that it goes," said Donna.

This is a scene from inside the daily struggle of a family fighting against the disease of addiction.  It's a desperate tug of war between Donna, her daughter and her daughter's addiction.  To the winner, goes Anna's life.

Donna is also a former drug user.  As a young adult, she heavily used cocaine and heroin.  When she hit bottom, she realized she had to dig herself out. So she clung to family and faith and says she got clean without the help of traditional rehab.

"I did what I tell other people to do. I went inside of myself. I pulled out the demons that I felt caused the problem in the beginning," she said.

Now, Donna hosts a weekly web series focusing on the power of a positive attitude.  However, staying positive these days have become harder.  Thirty years after Donna's own struggles, her daughter is repeating history.

"Different time, same footsteps. She fits the shoe very well," said Donna.

Anna is 25 years old, and has used drugs for five years.   She says an ex-boyfriend first introduced her to Roxies or Oxycontin, and it spiraled from there.

"I got introduced to heroin two and a half years ago. Took over everything," said Anna. "He shot me up and it didn't even matter after that. I fell in love with it."

Donna says she saw the signs- new unfamiliar friends, a change in attitude and behavior, even a syringe in her daughter's room.  But, the mother says she never acted, desperate to believe that her daughter was not following her footsteps.

Meanwhile, Anna was falling deeper into addiction.  She says drugs and needles were just a phone call away or easily found along Airline Highway.

"When I first started using, it was just fun. I couldn't wait to get the high again. But, once you start doing it every day, it's a job. Getting up in the morning, figure out how you're going to get the money, having to go get it, having to make sure that you have everything to do it. It's a job," said Anna.

The using, fights with her family and siblings, lying and secrets- it all came to a head in November.  Anna hit her bottom, and asked her mother for help. They went to the Emergency Room, and Anna began a medical detox.

While Anna says she doesn't remember much about the process, Donna relives the incident vividly.

"I'm watching as they try to put an IV in and they pull up her sleeves and they can't find a vein in either arm. How did I miss that?" said Donna.

Fear of confronting her daughter's addiction is the reason Donna says she is speaking out now.  She wants other families going through the same thing to know that they are not alone, and that finding help for their loved ones is the best action.

Anna's family cannot afford traditional rehab.  After her detox, Anna came home and she and her mother began the road to recovery together.

Each day revolves around a tense schedule of balancing the demands of family and recovery.  Mornings can be rough and that is often the time when arguments break out.

When Anna finally emerges from her room to talk for the first time she explains why.

"About 10 o'clock to 12 I don't really like to talk to anybody," said Anna "That's when I would go get my dope."

Anna is shorter than her mother, with high petite cheekbones and a pixie hairstyle that gives the impression of a creative spirit.  She talks about her addiction openly and candidly, not shying away from any question.

At noon everyday Anna attends an AA meeting while Donna completes baking orders.  If the days are really bad, they head to a place they call Resolution Road which is a secluded lakeside property owned by a friend who is also a social worker. It's there that they can find a little peace, and escape the many triggers Anna says she sees everywhere.  At just a few months clean, she is especially vulnerable.

When asked if she sometimes forgets why she is trying to stay clean, she answers honestly.

"When I have bad days I feel like what's the point?" said Anna before adding that her mother is one of the things driving her to stay clean.  "Talking about it is the only thing that makes me not want to go back."

Even so, Anna's past haunts her. Donna says old contacts try to drag her back into using by taunting her on social media or calling her phone.

"These people they are like vampires," said Donna "They will leave you. They will be in your presence, you will overdose and they will walk away and leave you. They will let you die."

Outside, the sun sinks low into the horizon and another day is over. The family gathers in their living room for prayer, a tradition they observe every night.  Tonight  Anna can celebrate one more day sober, one more victory over her addiction.

"My goal is to not become powerless over heroin anymore and to make my family and everyone around me trust me more and to live life to the fullest again.  At one time I could do that. I want to go back to that," said Donna.

There are many resources in Baton Rouge to help with addiction.  If feel your loved one is struggling, seek help with one of the organizations here:

Cenikor Foundation: 888-236-4567

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