Brittany, 26, and Evan, 9-months.
Rockfield, KY – I’ve been in southeastern Kentucky longer than I expected. I came here to do a story on the methamphetamine problem, a topic that, like addiction in general, has long fascinated me. But large stories take time. Tracking down good sources, setting up interviews, transcribing them, research, re-interviewing, is labor intensive. Add to this my limited access to wi-fi, electric power, etc, and I’ve been off the grid for a few days.
More stories are coming. Promise.
There isn’t much going on in this area. Last night I checked out the local roller derby league’s first home bout ever. Magnolia, who I met yesterday morning, is one of the derby girls. She told me I should come out. So I contacted Jenni, the organizer, to see if I could come take pictures and write an article. She put me on the guest list. I arrived late. The place was packed. No good pics. Researching tragic stories is emotionally exhausting. I was too wiped to think about doing anymore interviews. I cut out well before it ended.
It had been a pretty intense day.
Yesterday morning I sat in on an addiction therapy session at a place called Alternatives to Treatment, run by an ex-addict named Wayne Hoffman. Many of those present were court ordered to attend as a condition of their bond. Many are facing prison time. I’ve met a lot of people Wayne Hoffman has had tossed in jail over the years. Even so, they speak reverently of him.
I spent several hours yesterday evening with Brittany Baize, who Wayne had thrown in jail a little more than a year ago. Brittany, 26, is a recovering meth addict who, like most addicts, has suffered her fair share of tragedy, self-abuse and the consequences of her recklessness. She is one of the subjects of the bigger story.
A brief bio: Her father introduced her to drugs at 12. By 18, she was cooking meth. She did some jail time. Got off meth only after her doctor began prescribing Ritalin and then Adderall, which she said were as good as meth, but with the benefit of never having to leave the house.
A few years back, in a very short period of time, both her father and uncle died of overdoses. Her sister was murdered and another sister was killed after being hit by a car. Her brother died while driving drunk. She lost her kids. Her teeth. She nearly died when her organs began shutting down. She knows she’s lucky to be alive. She’s grateful Wayne Hoffman sent her to jail.
Now clean for 10 months, Brittany has three of her four kids back and is likely to get more visitation rights for her fourth – and oldest – soon. She is optimistic for the future. In fact, she’s radiantly upbeat. It’s difficult to connect who she is today with the person she’s been telling me about. “For the first time in my life,” she told me, “I’m learning how to be a person.”
Her boys are healthy, active, inquisitive and have beaming smiles. They wrestle, run, ride bikes and invited me back to play Xbox with them. Her youngest, Evan, learned to crawl just last week.
Brittany knows recovery is a fragile thing, that 10 months clean is merely a drop in the bucket. The upside is that most meth addicts never go that long. Indeed, meth addicts have a higher rate of relapse than any other addict, crack and heroin included. Upwards of 98 percent never kick.
Despite all she’s overcome in the last 10 months, the aftershocks will ripple through the foreseeable years. Brittany suffers from chronic depression. Is lonely. Endures the stigmas, doubts and contempt of others, prejudices that former addicts never really shake. But her foremost problems today are her health. Drug abuse has taken its toll on her body. This week she’s having a diseased gall bladder removed. She has chronic stomach ulcers. Her bones are brittle from acute calcium deficiencies, a side effect of meth abuse. She’s still putting on weight.
She has taken up guitar, drawing and has recently discovered the Internet, Facebook and blogging.
Wayne Hoffman considers Brittany one of his miracles.
Time will tell.