Addiction can strike anywhere and anytime.
Original Source: indystar.com
Kelly Agnew knew she should go home, but she was already feeling the symptoms of opioid withdrawal.
Agnew had left her twin daughters, not quite 2 years old, in her parents’ care in Noblesville the day before. She was supposed to be back in a few hours. Instead, she spent the night in jail.
As Agnew exited the Marion County Jail and walked slowly along Washington Street, she suffered cold sweats. Her stomach clenched in pain, and she felt an all-over ache that seemed to burrow to her bones.
All she could think about was feeling better.
Agnew knew she should call her father to have him pick her up. She didn’t. She phoned her drug dealer.
“I definitely was being selfish at that point,” she said, “thinking I’m lucky enough to get out and, you know, I just need to get myself normal again before I can face anybody.”
‘A functioning addict’
No one expected Agnew’s spiral into addiction.
In high school, the Noblesville native was a cheerleader and ran track and field. Her peers voted her prom queen. Agnew said she never touched drugs. Not then.
“I would get those euphoric feelings from working out or hanging out with friends,” she recalled.
During summer break after her first year of college, at Purdue University, Agnew learned she was pregnant.
Her twin daughters were born in January 2009. Afterward, Agnew said she struggled with postpartum depression. She also suffered back pain that stemmed from failed attempts to give her an epidural.
Doctors prescribed her Vicodin, a pain medication that contains an opioid.
“I found out that it actually made me more motivated when I took it,” Agnew said. “And it just ended up becoming more of a habit.”
Agnew said she also was influenced by her boyfriend, the twins’ father, who was battling his own addiction. She joined him and their friends in using fentanyl patches on the weekends. And that led her to other drugs.
For a time, Agnew was able to conceal her addiction. She worked, attended IUPUI and cared for her infant daughters. Friends helped out. And whenever she and her boyfriend needed it, their families were there to lend a hand.
“I was definitely a functioning addict,” Agnew recalled.
When the twins were less than a year old, Agnew and her boyfriend sought help. The couple started going to the methadone clinic. But when Agnew ran out of money for treatment, she said she was too afraid to tell her family or ask for help.
“I just really was stuck and then that led me into eventually heroin and more opiates,” Agnew said, “things just to feel better, like just to feel normal, to be able to do daily activities.”
‘It was worse than I would have even imagined’
In 2010, Agnew and her girls were celebrating Mother’s Day at her parents’ house when the Noblesville Police Department called.
Your apartment has been robbed, police told her. You need to get here right away.
Agnew left her daughters at her parents’ house and drove back to her apartment. It had not been robbed. Agnew said she learned police had been watching her place for a while, suspicious of the people coming in and out. They executed a search warrant on May 9, 2010.
Police found a marijuana plant on a dresser in Agnew’s master bedroom, according to Hamilton Superior Court records. They also discovered a used syringe, black digital scale and rolling papers tucked inside the top dresser drawer.
A red and black glass pipe with burnt residue sat on her nightstand. Inside Agnew’s closet, police found rolled marijuana cigarettes.
Police also searched Agnew’s purse after she arrived. An officer found heroin packaged in tin foil and multiple pills inside an orange prescription bottle.
Agnew admitted she’d been selling her medication to buy heroin, court records state.
The Hamilton County prosecutor’s office charged Agnew with felony counts of possession of a controlled substance, possession of a narcotic drug and maintaining a common nuisance. She also faced a misdemeanor count of possession of marijuana, Hamilton Superior Court records show.
The arrest exposed Agnew’s addiction to her family. Gary Agnew said he’d been at his daughter’s apartment a few times and felt “something wasn’t right,” but he chalked it up to the stress of work and being a young mom of twins.
“It was worse than I would have even imagined,” he said.
After the arrest, Kelly Agnew said the Indiana Department of Child Services became involved because her boyfriend already was incarcerated.
Her parents filed for temporary guardianship of the girls.
A vicious cycle
Agnew was evicted from her apartment so, after bonding out of jail, she moved back in with her parents.
Agnew said she wanted to live a normal life. She wanted to be there for her kids and parents, but the addiction fogged her mind.
“I only felt comfortable when I was on drugs,” she said, “because without them I felt really sick or, you know, just kind of like I had the flu or something.”
Agnew said she was stuck in a vicious cycle: Think about the girls. Feel bad. Use drugs to feel better.
“That is just a mask over your feelings and it doesn’t last forever,” she said. “It only makes things worse. And I do know that now. At the time, I might have known that a little bit, but I just couldn’t really see it.”
Agnew continued to take pain medication prescribed by a doctor. And she returned to injecting heroin.
In September 2010, four months after her arrest, Agnew was hospitalized for a blood infection related to her drug use.
It was then her parents realized the seriousness of her addiction. They worried Kelly Agnew’s daughters, who were 1 ½ years old, were in danger. So they filed for permanent guardianship of the twins.
“There was nothing I could say to kind of fight it,” Agnew said. “I knew that what I was doing wasn’t right and I needed help.”
‘I was always caught blindsided’
Before she was released from the hospital, her father warned the doctor not to refill her prescription for pain medication because she was an addict. The doctor recommended Agnew go to a methadone clinic. Her parents paid for the treatment.
Agnew said she tried to keep herself on a path to recovery. She continued to work. But her boyfriend, still an addict himself, begged her to help him get heroin since he didn’t have a car. She said she felt bad, so she would get drugs for him. Helping him triggered her own addiction. She missed one day at the methadone clinic. Then another.
At first, Gary Agnew said his daughter fooled him into thinking she was beating her addiction.
“She tells you everything you want to hear,” he said, “and she has you convinced that she’s done with it now when in reality she hasn’t stopped for a day. It’s not easy to tell.”
Gary Agnew said he tried everything he could think of to help his daughter.
He gave her drug tests at home. He read her text messages and responded to them, trying to scare the people on the other end. He told police she was a heroin addict. He told a counselor at the methadone clinic she was still doing heroin. He warned the hospital what was going on. But he said no one wanted to get involved.
It was around that time, in December 2010, that Indianapolis police officers caught Kelly Agnew and a friend shooting heroin in the front seat of a blue PT Cruiser in a Safeway parking lot, according to Marion Superior Court records.
They were arrested and charged with felony possession of heroin and misdemeanor possession of paraphernalia.
‘I never thought I’d be that person’
Over the next 2 ½ years, Agnew’s life became a blur of failed treatments, arrests, drug court, probation, work release and prison time.
Gary Agnew said he and his wife were raising the twins pretty much full-time. He said it was difficult for the girls, who compared their family to those of their friends at school.
“They got used to it after a while,” Gary Agnew said.
He said they still liked being around their mom whenever she was able to be there.
Kelly Agnew’s drug use spiraled.
At one point, a doctor prescribed her Suboxone, a drug meant for treatment of opioid dependence. Agnew said she used some and made money off the rest.
But the Suboxone made her tired, so she said she popped Adderall, a drug used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. She also used bath salts and cocaine.
“I just couldn’t control it anymore,” Agnew said. “I was just kind of whatever happens happens. I remember feeling just really numb sometimes.”
Agnew said she eventually realized the relationship between her and her boyfriend wasn’t working. Every time, he started to beat the addiction, she pulled him back into it. And every time she started to heal, he dragged her back into that life. They eventually broke up for good.
In that time period, Agnew said someone called DCS. Her parents still had guardianship, but DCS officials prohibited her from being alone with her girls. She said that was a major blow, because she could no longer do little things like picking them up from school.
“It just really hit me like, wow, I never thought I’d be that person,” she said. “And it sounds crazy because even after everything I just told you, like, now I’m finally like, wow, I’m that person.”
In October 2013, the court ordered Agnew into inpatient rehabilitation at The Salvation Army Harbor Light Center.
‘That was not me’
Finally, Agnew said she committed to changing her life.
She suffered through detox and sleepless nights. She battled depression. And she surrounded herself with positive people in the program who also were trying to get better.
Two weeks turned into 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, four months and onward. Agnew said at each benchmark she debated whether it was time to leave. She remained there about eight months, until June 2014.
Agnew’s daughters stayed with her parents. She said they seemed to understand she was trying to do the right thing. She spent free time with her family.
It took more than five years, but Agnew fought her way out of the darkness of addiction. She worked her way to manager at Taco Bell. She is financially supporting herself and her family. She’s engaged to be married. Her daughters live with her, and they are thriving.
Her twins, she said, are the reason she wanted to get healthy.
“I know who I truly am as a person and that was not me,” Agnew said. “And, you know, I don’t want them growing up knowing that person.”
Tears streaking her cheeks, Agnew said the addiction wasn’t worth breaking her family’s hearts and trust. She urged others who are struggling with addiction to be vulnerable and ask for help. But they have to want it.
Gary Agnew’s advice to parents: Never give up, even when there comes a time that you want to.
“There’s a point you think she’s going to end up dying and there’s nothing you can do,” he said. “Keep talking to them and know she’s still part of the family.”
Indiana and opiods
Kelly Agnew’s battle to overcome her addiction is playing out in families throughout Indiana. The lure of opioids has ravaged families and burdened state agencies.
“I can’t think of another drug that controls your mind the way heroin does, because you choose that over everything else,” said Mary Beth Bonaventura, director of the Indiana Department of Child Services. “That’s why we have 29,000 kids in care right now.”
Since 2010, there has been a 65 percent increase in the number of court cases that allege a child has suffered abuse or neglect.
Opioid-related cases burden the child welfare system, DCS officials said, because of the amount of time it takes someone to recover. Cases stay open longer, and relapses are common.
The State Department of Health launched a pilot program that aims to quantify the prevalence of babies who have been exposed to certain drugs or medications before birth. Since January, 280 newborns have tested positive for opiates at the 27 hospitals participating in the program.
And last year, 785 people died of opioid-related overdoses, a 177 percent increase from 2010, according to the State Department of Health.