The Stories

FIXED Feature: Nick Merrifield

“My mother was a heroin addict. When I was seven, she dropped me off at a place called the Friendship House in Pennsylvania. It was supposed to be for the weekend, but she didn’t come back until I was 10.”

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FIXED Shorts-Rock Bottom

“I started drinking and smoking weed at 14. After high school I started trying other drugs; by the time I was 19, I was addicted to the lifestyle of weed, speed, and alcohol…”

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FIXED Feature: Lacy

“When my first daughter was 2, I got addicted to opioids. I had never done them before, but then I broke a bone in my foot and I got a kidney infection in the same three-month span. I was prescribed Vicodin twice by my doctor, and by the time I was finished with my second prescription, I was addicted and I knew it.”

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FIXED Stories: Nate Dahm

“As soon as I saw her, I knew. You get to a point in your career when you can tell when somebody’s dead or dying, and she was dying. She was pretty close. I reached in to try and rouse her with a sternum rub. Her head just flopped over. There was nothing there. She was completely gone.”

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FIXED Stories: John Matz

“We can’t stop trying new things. We have to be willing to accept and this is tough for cops in particular and other individuals that have never experienced being addicted to anything  that there will be some failures along the way. We hold people accountable, but in the same token, we try to find or give them the resources.”

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FIXED Stories: Stephanie Gyldenvand

“We are Wisconsin and we are proud of alcohol and we don’t see this as a substance use disorder. I myself was hit by a drunk driver. What does it take to ask for help, to realize you can’t do everything on your own?  What’s it going to take to change culture around the stigma of addiction?”

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FIXED Feature: Myron Batiste

“Drug court has given me a voice. I can express myself in a positive way, and it feels great to be able to do that, because all of my life I wasn’t able to. Once I got into drug court they started teaching me about emotions and how to make better decisions. It was like I was 15 years old and getting taught how to be a man all over again.”

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FIXED Stories: Eric Smiltneek

“I got into medical school with the mindset of, ‘Recovery is possible.’ Just because someone comes to the ER 20 times a month either seeking drugs or overdosing doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t be helped. It just means they haven’t accessed the help they need.”

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FIXED Feature: Jenna Washshuleski

“I’m a substance abuse counselor. Addiction has affected me, personally, in every aspect of life. It’s what motivated me to enter this career.”

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FIXED Feature: Chris Kessler

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FIXED Stories: Monty

“When I was in junior high, I discovered alcohol. We were at a party that my parents’ friends were hosting. They had a bar in the basement and I discovered peppermint schnapps. I had like a third of a quart, crawled up the stairs, laid on the couch on my back, and threw up. My parents said, ‘I hope you learn something from that.’ Well, I did. I learned how wonderful alcohol is…”

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FIXED Stories: Sam

“It was weed and alcohol at a young age. I started smoking weed with my older brothers when I was 13-14. The parties were always at our house. Everybody came over to smoke weed and drink at our house. I thought it was normal…”

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FIXED Stories: Trevor Fenrich

“I started using drugs and alcohol when I was 12 years old; I thought it was like a normal thing. My friends and I just decided to start drinking one day, and we did. Automatically I knew I was not like my friends. When I started drinking, I just didn’t stop. I got to the point where the second time I drank, I got alcohol poisoning…

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FIXED Stories: Leah

“I was 12 when I first started using drugs. Smoking weed was socially acceptable with my friends, and their parents gave us weed and got us drunk when we were young, and it slowly escalated. I didn’t touch heroin until I was 21.”

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FIXED Stories: Jake Wissink

“The third time I overdosed I was in the driver’s seat of my car. I reached my arm back, and I had the person sitting in the back inject me intravenously with heroin.” 

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FIXED Feature :Kurtis Rodrieguez

Kurtis Rodriguez only had a few minutes to get ready in his mother’s basement. His father was waiting outside to take him to the Winnebago County Jail for his drug test. Being out on bond sucked. He had to report to the jail every other day to pee in a cup to ensure his sobriety.

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FIXED Stories: Makayla

“My mom was an addict before I was even born. She did basically every drug — like heroin and crack. There would be glass plates with powder all over it, or I would see her bongs.”

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FIXED Stories: Wes

“In 2008, I went through a normal procedure of getting my wisdom teeth pulled and I was hooked on the pain medications that I took. When I did take those medications, I knew that it was something that I could use in my life to cover up a lot of the stuff that I didn’t want to deal with.”

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FIXED Stories: John

“I lived in Wisconsin, so everyone drank. You’d get some drinks when you were younger and I started out drinking and just got kind of caught in the hippie movement. I played in a couple of bands so that kind of set me up there. The heroin I think I was about 19.”

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FIXED Stories: Brenda Merrifield

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FIXED Stories: John Jorgenson

“Drug court, really, is one of the best parts of my week. Going into the program, I wasn’t fully convinced that I would enjoy the program the connection, the clapping, all that. But it’s been an incredible program to see. It’s amazing to see the struggles and the challenges that the drug court participants go through.”

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FIXED Stories: Montee Ball

“What happened to Montee Ball? That is the million-dollar question. That is the question I saw on Google, on Twitter, all the time. I was so anxious to go out and to talk to people, so for me, alcohol was my social lubricant. I fell back on the drinking. Why? Because when I was drunk, I felt comfortable.”

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FIXED Feature: Kristina

“I didn’t think I would make it this far in life. I figured the way I was going to make it was in a coffin. Heroin, if I even hear that word, it makes my stomach upset. It was scary. But you’re so sick you just want it to make you feel better. There is not a day I didn’t think about using it. I finally went to rehab and it was the best thing ever.”

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FIXED Stories: Kyle

“I couldn’t really function without alcohol. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t really go to work without it. I was physically addicted to it, and without it, I would go into crazy withdrawals and just not be able to do anything. A couple years after going into treatment I started to drink again.

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FIXED Stories: Karen Seifert

“You know how kids come home and say ‘Mom, look, I got an A on my paper’, people in drug court want to tell the judge and the team, ‘I got a raise. I got a promotion. I got a new job!’ –  all of those things that they lost because of their years of drug use.”

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FIXED Stories: John Abrahamson

“I started to feel weird. I got super hot, almost like I was in a tanning bed. And I’m like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, that’s odd,’ and I got super light-headed. I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m going to pass out. Something’s not right.’ I remember that these are some of the symptoms of a Fentanyl exposure. I’m like, ‘Holy shit, this is happening.’”

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FIXED Stories: Robin Kobilic

“We have had people dropped off by the emergency room doors where they’ve been rolled out of cars and left there. You bring them in and treat them the same as everyone else.”

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FIXED Stories: Scott Woldt

“The thought is drug court is being soft on crime, and it’s not a soft on crime — it’s smart on crime. Judges typically motivate people by, ‘I’m telling you not to do this, and if you do this, you’re going to go to jail.’ It’s a punishment. We’ve found out from doing that for hundreds of years — it doesn’t really work. Jail did not motivate any of them.”

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FIXED Stories: Kay

“Addiction really takes a toll on family members. It’s been very painstaking and very scary because every day, especially before she got into recovery, I was always afraid I was going to get the phone call from the coroner saying, ‘Come identify this body.’”

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FIXED Stories: Chris Tarmann

“When I get called to a situation I’m always trying to connect with the person. How do I connect with you? Because, first of all, I have to overcome that I’m wearing a uniform and now we have to figure out how do we manage this situation that you’re struggling with or that I am here to deal with. The first way to do that is build rapport and sometimes I use my background. Like, ‘Hey I get it, I know what you’re going through.’”

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FIXED Stories: Julie Williams

“My daughter is a recovering heroin addict for almost five years.  My daughter started using at 14, and at the time there were no groups. So I started searching all on my own.”

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FIXED Stories: Gloria West

“As a parent of someone who’s an addict you can’t help but blame yourself. Everybody says, ‘It’s not you.’ You can’t help it. You live with the grief, the shame, the guilt. There were times, especially that first month or so, I really wanted to die. I started digging a grave. I was going to put myself in this hole, but it was just too hard to dig. I was at my rock bottom. I had to either choose to live or die in my guilt and shame. And I chose to live.”

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FIXED Stories: Marcia

“I started drinking when I was 14. I would consider myself a drug addict as well, especially when it came to pills. I was addicted to painkillers early on. I would drink until I couldn’t drink anymore and then I would take pills. I loved those because they would wake me up and I’d make it through the day so I could drink again. It was a vicious cycle.”

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FIXED Stories: Luann

“He was lying on the floor and his dad was crying. People have this gurgling sound when they’re dying, and I heard Kurtis gurgle.”

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FIXED Stories: John Nygren

Cassie was lying on the bathroom floor with the needle still in there. I tried to help her breathe. She was purple. I was thinking she was probably going to be gone. When I saw her lying there, I think what was going through my mind was all those things that weren’t going to happen.”

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FIXED Shorts: Amanda Stibbs

“I am an  emergency medical technician. When I hear the word ‘addict,’ the first thing that comes to my mind is the negative thought, but I’m trying to learn how to think in their terms and not so much the stigma of addiction. I’m trying to think of it more in terms of how to help these people, and how we can turn the stigma around.”

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