Comments Off on Hope in recovery – Shawna Morgan overcomes her addiction to Methamphetamine

Shawna Morgan believed she wouldn’t become an addict. Her mother was an alcoholic who died of cancer when Morgan was just 19.

“I always thought I wouldn’t go down that path after seeing her addiction,” she said.

The stress of trying to fit in led the 1998 Western High School graduate to try marijuana and drink alcohol. It was methamphetamine, though, that would threaten to destroy her life.

Meth was my addiction,” she said. “I did everything. I cooked it and started selling it. I first smoked it and eventually moved on to shooting methamphetamine intravenously.”

Morgan isn’t so different from many people in Howard County struggling with addiction. Whether it’s pain medication, heroin, meth or cocaine, more and more people are becoming addicts, said Matt Oliver, chief operating officer at the Behavioral Health Services department of Community Howard Regional Health.55c3b24477814_image

“Addiction is definitely a growing problem,” he said in his downtown Kokomo office. “Agencies are struggling to keep up. It’s not just a local problem, it’s nationwide.”

More than half of all adults in the U.S. over the age of 26 reported using illegal drugs at least once in their lifetimes, according to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health. Nationwide, methamphetamine isn’t most adults’ drug of choice, but in Indiana, meth use is prevalent.

In 2014, the Indiana State Police reported 1,416 meth lab busts in the state. That was down from the year before, but in the past decade, Howard County has ranked among the top 10 counties for meth manufacturing four times. It managed not to earn that dubious distinction in 2014, but neighboring Miami County has been in the top 10 for two years in a row.

Morgan spent five years juggling her addiction and her façade of a normal life.

“I had a job and paid my bills. Nobody realized it. People who knew me never had any idea. I hid it very well.”

But in 2008, Morgan was arrested for possession of methamphetamine. At the time, she hadn’t slept in 21 days.

Sleep deprivation can have significant physiological and psychological effects. Health problems such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease have been linked to long-term sleep deprivation, and people often suffer hallucinations and paranoia the longer they stay awake, studies have shown.

A few days before Morgan was arrested, she went to church with her grandparents and prayed.

“I had two syringes full of meth and I put them on the altar and prayed to be done with it,” she said. “Three days later, I was sitting in jail.”

Morgan was cooking meth when someone called the police. She managed to escape. Though she said she was going to turn herself in, she was afraid she was going to be sent to prison. The police found her at a friend’s house.

Morgan was in jail for 14 months, watching as other drug addicts and dealers came and went.

“I was actually very blessed,” she recalled. “I didn’t go through any withdrawals. I slept a lot and after two days of rest, my mind became clearer. I realized that lifestyle was done.”

That’s most meth addicts’ experience, according to a 2010 post published by Psychology Today. Unlike other hard drug users, meth users don’t often experience physiological withdrawals such as shaking and vomiting. The effects of quitting the drug are more often psychological.

Long-term methamphetamine use decreases the number of dopamine receptors in the brain. Dopamine’s role in the human body is to signal reward and tell the brain something good is happening. When addicts stop using meth, dopamine levels go down, and with fewer receptors to engage the chemical, those people have trouble feeling pleasure.

It can take as long as two years of staying clean for dopamine functions to return to normal.

Morgan thought she would be offered a plea bargain, but as she sat in jail, she realized being surrounded by other addicts in prison would probably put her right back into the lifestyle.

“I have a 14-year-old son,” she said. “He came to visit me in jail and said, ‘I never liked you when you were doing drugs.’”

It was Howard County’s Drug Court Program that gave Morgan the opportunity to change her life.

The program has accepted 54 non-violent drug offenders, and graduated 32. Morgan is one of them.

Implemented in 2007, the program allows offenders to avoid criminal prosecution by agreeing to live a substance-free life. For 16 months, Morgan was monitored, including frequent drug screens, and attended a substance abuse treatment program.55c3b24174e7a_image

Morgan spent the next two years going to meetings and working on her sobriety. She met Reba Harris, director of the Gilead House, and began attending classes. The Gilead House offers programs to women trying to move forward after addiction and incarceration.

“It really helped me, not just with the drugs, but with learning to be a productive person in society,” Morgan recalled.

In addition to the drug program offered by Howard County Superior Court 1, Morgan found support through her church family at Star of Light Church.

“I still attend recovery class every Thursday evening at the church,” she said. “It really helped me.”

A 2006 study on the role of social supports and spirituality in recovery available from the U.S. National Library of Medicine found support is likely to be critical to recovery.

“A growing body of empirical research supports the notion that religiousness and spirituality may enhance the likelihood of attaining and maintaining recovery from addictions, and recovering persons often report that religion and/or spirituality are critical factors in the recovery process,” it reports.

Morgan has been employed at Long John Silver’s for two years now. She was promoted to manager last year. She’s also mending her relationship with her son, who lives with his father. She gets to see him every week.

“We’ve been able to build our relationship back up,” she said. “It’s been a blessing.”

When Morgan looks back on her days as a drug dealer, she recalls how stressful life was. It was a lot of work to try to collect the ingredients she would need to make another batch of meth and the phone never stopped ringing. Now, she begins her days with a prayer and heads off to work.

Morgan said she doesn’t have any regrets.

“That made me the person I am today. God had a reason for me to help other addicts,” she said. “There’s a lot of people struggling with addiction and I want to connect with them.”

She offered advice to anyone else suffering from addiction.

“Change your patterns. Don’t get back in with the old people in your life,” she said.

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