Several years ago, “Cindy” [not her real name] came to Lost and Found to talk to Bill Iverson, former intervention specialist, about her husband’s drinking. In fact, she came back several times to talk, to cry, and to figure out what she had to do to live with someone with an addiction. Here is her story:
A friend referred me to Lost and Found Ministry, and I thought she was nuts. But, Bill was like a dad—and I talked non-stop. He was so easy to talk to. He gave me courage to face what I needed to face. I came to rely on Bill as comfort in the journey.
The day I walked in those doors [at Lost and Found], I was in a spot where I realized life as I knew it was over. My first step was to quit drinking myself. My spouse had hit rock bottom and agreed to stop drinking, too. Now my life was different. My kids now had the chance to grow up with sober parents.
Lost and Found and Bill helped me to help my spouse through the detox process and shakes and everything that went with it. He stayed sober for about four to five years. They were good years.
Then, my husband started drinking again.
I was devastated. Shocked, mad, and hurt.
But this time, I was different. I had learned to cope by getting out of my shell, by taking baby steps with the outside world. I’m finding out that I can do things on my own. I still love the person that he used to be, but my security is no longer based on him. I have to find the strength to function in reality without that can of courage.
[Once he hit bottom, and quit drinking—then I quit—I started a new life. I thank my drunken husband for my success in the present.]
“Cindy” recently stopped by to say hi and give a thank you to Lost and Found. She joins many others who continue to come to Lost and Found to seek guidance, find solace, and take action.
Starting Over with Help from Lost and Found by Jordan Maahs
We all need to belong somewhere. For Tricia, that place is Lost and Found Ministry in Moorhead. Tricia is a member of the Fargo Moorhead community and longtime volunteer with Lost and Found.
Tricia’s story starts as a bleak picture of substance abuse. Drug use was part of her life from a very young age. When Tricia tried meth for the first time, her life slipped completely out of control. Two of her children were taken from her, she got very sick, and as Tricia put it, “Meth pretty much ended my world”.
Desperate for change, Tricia entered treatment in 2004. She also began attending Recovery Worship in Fargo, a church that helps those recovering from addictions.
In 2007 Tricia began volunteering at Lost and Found. Facing drug use charges, Tricia was hit hard with a tough reality: life in prison. Throughout the legal process, Tricia continued to volunteer at Lost and Found, steadily giving up time each Tuesday night to help. Tricia kept on because she said, “I know what it’s like to have no place to turn.”
One staff member in particular encouraged her, Tricia recounts. “Susan [Aukes] is amazing; she supported me the whole way.” During the legal process, staff at Lost and Found were with her, attending and giving support at Tricia’s sentencing. The sentence was shorter than expected, and she was released after a year in prison.
“The very first week I got out, I called Lost and Found,” recounts Tricia. “Just knowing I could count on it meant a lot.” Now years later, she continues to volunteer. Tricia remains humble about her contribution to Lost and Found over the last five years, stating “Lost and Found has done more for me than I’ve done for it.”
Tricia has been clean for six years. She is treasurer for a local Narcotics Anonymous branch and was voted Employee of the Year at her workplace. She went on to receive that title for all stores in the Fargo/Moorhead area and was nominated for Employee of the Year for the entire region comprised of over seven hundred locations. (She won!)
Tricia describes Lost and Found as “lots of people going to great lengths to help people.” To Tricia, Lost and Found has been a constant throughout years of uncertainty. But Tricia is only one of many whose lives have been transformed through the ministry’s work. For Tricia, it’s a constant. For others it’s a lifesaver, and for the community, it’s a no brainer: Lost and Found is needed and valuable, just like everyone who walks through their doors.
Lost, but Now Found
As a kid growing up the pieces to my puzzle were scattered… My dad has bipolar and my mother has suffered from depression throughout her life. There were always arguments, sometimes punches and objects were thrown between the two of them. I was physically abused my father, but most of all mentally and verbally abused. My parents were and still are addicts to this day. When I was 14 years old I had started smoking marijuana, slowly progressing to develop an addiction at around 17 years old. At the age of 18, I was bit by a deer tick. I was diagnosed with Lyme’s Disease and was put on prescription narcotics. You name it I’ve taken it (Vicodin, Darvoset, Oxycodone, Oxycontin, Fetanyl, Tramadol, Morphine, etc). I was being prescribed stronger medication than my parents who were pushing 50 at the time and had severe pain problems. I had built up such a tolerance that it got out of hand. I would awake drenched in sweat after vivid nightmares every morning, opening my eyes, and instantly springing out of bed to find my hidden pills. I would hide them because I wanted no one to find them.
Pieces to the puzzle began piecing together around two years into it, I was being prescribed 90 pills of Oxycontin, being told to take 20mg-12 hour extended release pills three times a day. Well they would be gone in less than a week. I remember I snorted and swallowed 22 Oxycontins in one day. On top of that I was being prescribed 75mcg Fentanyl patches (10 times stronger than heroin, but released slowly in a 72 hour period). I would put one on and then I would put another one on a few hours later and the next day put on another. I would chain smoke cigarettes with my weary eyes and head bobbing, falling asleep and burning holes into my shirt or pants, and would wake up after the cherry of my cigarette was burning my flesh. One time I was woken up by my buddy when I was living at his place and he pointed to the ground, asking what happened. There was a burn hole in the carpet the size of a basketball.
I eventually found a cure for my Lyme’s Disease that made the bacteria non-active, but I still had pain. It was my mind that kept me in pain because it liked the feeling of being high. I continued to complain of pain to doctors and I was prescribed—Tramadol—the drug that was the outline of the puzzle. I liked Tramadol because it settled the pain in my mind, but also gave me pep. I was getting prescribed 240, 50mg pills a month. I was supposed to take two pills, four times a day. I was lucky if they lasted two weeks. I would usually take eight at a time, three times a day. I was working at this elevator in my hometown and I felt my head pounding, something wasn’t right. A little while later it went away and my day of work was over. I went home, going to take a shower, taking off my clothes… I wake up on my bed with an ambulance crew around me saying, “Jesse, Jesse, Jesse,” and my mom crying, everything was a haze. I regained consciousness with pain coming from my forehead and left shoulder. They asked me if I took anything, telling them Tramadol, asking how many, and I said 12 (a lie, but still an overdose). I was brought by ambulance to Grand Forks where the next day I left with Vicodin.
A few weeks later I was able to re-fill my Tramadol prescription and was at a bar with my brother and another friend. Not drinking, but once again I had taken the same amount of pills. I felt my head pounding, saying goodbye to everyone as we were going to go bow hunting the next day, walking outside to my car with keys in hand… waking up in a helicopter… then three days later I opened my eyes and was on a hospital bed. My mother was by my side with a weary and worried look on her face. I learned I had six grand mal seizures and was in a coma for three days. I hit my head so hard on the ground my brain moved an eighth of an inch, losing my sense of smell. I was in intensive care for two weeks and had to be taught how to walk again.
A picture was starting to develop, but yet I went back to it after that. I can’t remember how many times I felt my head pounding and would realize that I needed to consume as much food as possible to soak up the pills. I wouldn’t eat hardly anything at all. I thought I would get higher if I wouldn’t eat. At one point I was down to 137 pounds, before using pills I was around 180 pounds. I ended up dislocating my shoulder three times after my shoulder injury from the first seizure, eventually having to get open shoulder surgery. I was going in and out of local hospitals and as far as the mayo clinic with more pills and everyone wondering why I was having these seizures. I would steal money and pills from my parents or sometimes they would give them to me. I was such a good actor and was very sneaky when I was using. I would buy pills on the street, doing whatever it took to get high. I eventually got into a bad car accident where I was going 70 mph on a dirt road, flipping my car several times, and was hauled away on a stretcher with a lower compressed spine facture. I still went back to taking more pills. I had one more set of seizures when I was alone, living at my buddies place, and he found me on the floor, laying by the fridge in my own vomit. On April 20, 2009, the day after my 22nd birthday, I had my last set of seizures. My parents found me lying on the floor in my vomit from my left over birthday cake. I was once back in a hospital bed and my mom sat there crying, “Jesse you can’t do this to me anymore. You’re killing me. Please go to treatment.”
Another piece to the puzzle was connected together as I approached Glenmore Recovery Center. I had the mindset that this wasn’t going to work at all. I was in detoxification for five and a half days—the longest, ugliest, and worst days—of my entire life. I got into the program and people helped to change my life, especially my counselor. I met this guy about a week into the treatment program. Our drug of choice was the same, telling an almost identical story, and we would always play guitar together. We planned on moving in together and going to college in the Fargo/Moorhead area. I got out of treatment a few days early because of my improvement. I was high on life. I saw everything differently, looking and appreciating the small things in life. I called the treatment center wanting to talk to my friend and they said that he was gone. I tried calling him at his parents’ house and no phone answered. I tried a few other times, leaving messages, and got no calls back. A few days passed and I went to the doctor complaining of back pain and told him my situation. I said that I wanted something not addicting, so they put me on a muscle relaxer called Soma, and he was wrong. I was fishing with my dad and ended falling in the river after taking 24 pills because my body felt like jell-o. I was rushed into the hospital with an IV in my arm once again. That was the last day I ever took a pill. Well every once in a while I take a Tylenol for a headache, but I usually suck it up.
A few weeks passed and the pieces to the puzzle were fitting nicely and then I found out about my friend. I found out that his brother passed away. When he got out of treatment he started using pills again—he overdosed and died—I didn’t know what to think. I just wondered why God do this to him and not me. Why didn’t my brother die? Why did God take him and not me? I believe that he died for me. I believe that his purpose was to show what would happen if I went back to using. I live on and strive for success not only for me, but also for my good friend that is watching from above.
I started school and was still smoking weed, thinking it wasn’t harmful or that bad of a drug to be doing because you can’t overdose on it. Well one night on July 9, 2010, I had an epiphany with God, flushing 80 dollars of high grade marijuana down the toilet, and throwing all my paraphernalia away. I went from getting an occasional A or B in classes, but mostly Cs, Ds, and Fs to straight As the first semester I quit smoking weed. What saved my life were God, my mother Teresa, writing, and music. I began writing lyrics to songs, playing them on guitar. I didn’t like calling it poetry, but learned the art of it in school. I began taking creative writing classes, finding that poetry makes enhance your five of your senses (well only four in my case), and I am now proud to be called a poet who never knew it. I have been published four times now for my poetry.
A picture was now visible, but a piece was still missing. I graduated in 2010 from Minnesota Community and Technical College with an Associate Arts degree. I then enrolled into Minnesota State University Moorhead where I am now pursuing a Bachelors of Science Degree in Psychology and a Minor in Writing. I plan to graduate in December 2013 with the highest honors (magnum cum lade 3.8 GPA) that is one of my biggest goals, but there was one piece to the puzzle missing. I believe that—everything happens for a reason—I took a drug and alcohol class while at MSUM and one of the required assignments was to go to Lost and Found Ministry. I went there and found my missing piece to my puzzle. I started talking to Susan. She was so helpful and I learned about all the knowledge that you can learn in their library, they have everything. I started telling her about why I was there and what I was going to school for, eventually started to tell her about my story, and reciting some of my poetry. She asked if I would like to be published in the Lost and Found Ministry’s newsletter with some of my poetry. She also asked me if she could have my phone number so that I could tell my story to different facilities and groups. I have now been published twice in the newsletter, and I spoke at a treatment facility called Robinson. I told my story, read two of my poetry pieces, and sang two of my songs. If it wasn’t for Lost and Found I would have never had this opportunity, and it just keeps growing. Lost and Found is important part of my life because it gave me a chance at something new, giving me the opportunity to inspire and learn from others. Lost and Found can help people through challenging times and create new opportunities for anyone, it doesn’t matter who you are. You just have to find that missing piece to the puzzle that’s hiding right off 8th Street in Moorhead.