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The Herald Gazette: Struggling toward recovery

The Herald Gazette: Struggling toward recovery.

Thomaston — Nicole and Jeffrey Stone of Thomaston said their number one goal is getting their children back.

Nicole said she is in treatment at the Turning Tide methadone clinic in Rockland, where she receives medication and counseling for her drug addiction. Her husband, Jeff, said he went to Turning Tide for about a year. His use of methadone started as a treatment for chronic pain he suffers as a result of his club feet.

The couple said the state has taken their three children, and they are working to get the children back.

“I miss my kids,” Jeff said.

The two talk about struggles they have faced over the years. At one point, their family was homeless. Nicole said her youngest child was born in a hotel room in Rockland. She said she can remember her 4-year-old holding her hand during the delivery to help her stay calm.

The baby was born with a dependence on the methadone Nicole was taking at the time, but Nicole said her daughter was weaned off the medication within about a month.

Nicole was taking methadone as a treatment for her addiction during her pregnancy. According to information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, women can have normal pregnancies and deliveries while they are on a methadone maintenance program.

In another incident, the Stones’ 2-year-old son had to be taken to the hospital after he accidentally ingested methadone. The couple said the methadone their child took was brought into their home by a friend.

Jeff said he noticed his son was making wheezing noises while sleeping and something didn’t seem right. When he checked, he said, the child’s eyes were rolled up white. Their son was revived at the hospital.

Nicole said her battle with drugs stems in part from her depression and the difficulties she had growing up. She said she grew up without a father, and her mother was an alcoholic.

Nicole’s experimentation with substances started with alcohol and marijuana. Later, she said, her mother was hurt at work and was prescribed Percocet and OxyContin.

“I had access to anything I wanted,” Nicole said.

She said she has been on her own since she was 15 years old, and she bought her drugs on the street. She said addicts would borrow and trade drugs among friends.

“When you have a bunch of addicts, it’s ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch your back,'” she said.

Nicole now goes to Turning Tide every day for methadone maintenance treatment. She is also undergoing counseling for her problems. She said she believes in the program, but added that it will only work if the patient is committed to recovery.

“If you want to go through the program and you want to get straight, it will work,” she said.

Her goal is to be 100 percent drug free by the end of the year, and she said she has made progress. Her dose at the clinic has been lowered, and she is now taking about one third of the dose she used to need to prevent withdrawals and cravings.

“It doesn’t get me high,” she said of her methadone treatment.

She said she chooses to go to the clinic daily rather than getting a take-home dose because she wants to keep the drugs out of her home and out of the reach of her children should they be returned to her.

Jeff is on disability and both the Stones are currently unemployed. Nicole said she struggles to concentrate and that prevents her from going to work.

In addition to counseling, the two said they have joined a church that provides encouragement.

The Stones are not alone in their struggles with addiction. Kristan Hilchey of Thomaston, another patient at Turning Tide, said she started using cocaine and Xanax, and later became an OxyContin addict.

“It’s a huge problem here,” she said of the drug scene in the Midcoast. “It always has been.”

“What happened was I used Internet pharmacies,” she said. “… They only give you Vicodin, but you can sell the Vicodin and get what you really want. I mean, I wasn’t some huge dealer. I had friends that would buy those and then I would buy. It’s intertwined; everybody knows everybody and everybody owes somebody.”

She operated within a social network of drug users and would borrow drugs from others with the understanding that she would later share when she had drugs of her own.

“So when you get yours, you have to give them half of what you got,” she said.

Her habit could consume $200 to $300 per day. “I didn’t pay any bills,” she said. She said she was living without electricity and water at one point.

Hilchey said she will probably have to take methadone for the rest of her life.

“As long as it’s doing as much as it does for me right now, I will continue to take it,” she said.

The methadone treatments make it possible for her to work and concentrate on other aspects of her life without being sick due to withdrawal or being distracted by drug cravings.

“You have an economy here that has large influxes of cash through fairly short windows because of the fishing industry,” said Turning Tide Clinical Director Mike Franklin. “… And you’ll have people literally walking around with $5,000, $10,000 in their pocket. So there’s a lot of cash, you know, supporting that, and most of it is off the books.”

Franklin moved to Maine from Ohio in 2006. He has years of experience providing drug treatment and is himself a recovering addict.

“When I first started using cocaine, and this was back in the early ’80s, I was making $80,000 a year,” he said. “… I was an executive in manufacturing at the time. It didn’t take me long to go through that job, go through my house, go through everything I owned, any savings I had. … You know the fallout just extends so far beyond the individual.”

Licensed alcohol and drug counselor Wesley Hohfeld of Eureka Counseling Services in Rockland said he too is in recovery. When asked what he used, he said, “Everything.” He said he has abstained from substance abuse for 25 years.

Even now, however, he does not take his recovery for granted.

He said he goes to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting every Saturday night, and will fight his addiction his whole life.

“There’s no cure,” he said. “If I use, I lose control.”

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  1. mary higgins
    July 12, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    What a touching article. Heroin addiction is such a rough and terrible thing, well for that matter any addiction is a rough and terrible thing. Its good to know there are people out there that are willing to help others when they are in need.

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