Meth epidemic ‘tearing families apart’
By Geoff Belcher
Dec 6, 2013, 21:41
Editor's note: This is the first installment of a three-part series examining the effects of methamphetamine addiction on Hancock County, its people and economy.
Christie is a 42-year-old single mother who has worked hard most of her life, she says, trying to help others.
However, she adds, "Almost everyone who knows me knows I'm a drug addict."
Now, she is battling a crippling addiction to methamphetamine, trying to put her life back in order, and help others get the aid and advice they need to avoid the mistakes she has made.
"I have used and abused substances since I've been a very young girl," Christie said last week. "I know the first time I used cocaine, I was 14 years old.
I grew up in Bayside Park with a complete and total lack of supervision and all of the opportunity out there to do drugs, to drink, to do the things I shouldn't be doing – and I did.
"I first tried methamphetamine when I was 26 years old. Above anything, that was my main addiction. I could never completely stop (although) I stopped everything else."
Christie isn't alone.
According to the nation-wide drug counseling group U.S. No Drugs, "The manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine is one of the fastest growing drug problems in Mississippi. Methamphetamine is brought in from other areas of the United States and across borders. Methamphetamine use in Mississippi is rampant. Virtually unheard of four years ago or found only in the trucking community, methamphetamine is now approaching epidemic proportions in the state."
While the state earned well-deserved praise in 2010 by becoming one of the first in the nation to make pseudophedrine – one of the primary ingredients in meth – available only by prescription, enterprising dealers have figured out how to get around that by buying in neighboring Louisiana, or by using other substances altogether.
It's relatively cheap and easy to produce from common household chemicals, and "cookers" are constantly finding new ways to make it.
The headlines in the Sea Coast Echo tell a sad tale – nearly every week, there's a new meth bust in Hancock County. Police departments, the sheriff's department, the court system, are all having to process more meth cases than they want or need.
In September of this year, the Hancock County Board of Supervisors learned its newly-built Health and Human Services facility was too small by half to accommodate the amount of social workers needed to handle the more than 300 children in DHS custody.
Suffer the children
Christie's daughter is one of those children.
Tears roll down her cheeks as she describes the day her daughter was taken from her after a routine traffic stop and the officer found drugs in her possession.
"I am a good mother," she insists. "I never, ever, mistreated or neglected my baby girl," despite the drug use.
"The only time I was ever completely sober was when I was pregnant with my little girl. .. I fed her, I clothed her, and I took her to school and to the doctor and everything else. I never used drugs in front of her."
However, she added, "I'm glad she's staying with my mama now. I don't want her to end up like me. I don't want to be a bad influence on her.
"The guilt that it causes for the parent is almost unbearable. The guilt and the shame, the self-hatred of having your child to be taken from you.
"I'm not trying to justify anything. There's no justification in it for me. I just want to make things better for my daughter and for kids in my neighborhood.
"I want to get my life right again."
In order to get her life "right," and to help others do the same, she helped start a support group for meth addicts.
The group met Thursday at The Church of Our Lord Jesus in Waveland.
Pastor Rodney Williams, a former drug addict himself and author of the book "Club Meth to Christ," spoke with those attending the meeting Thursday.
"I was a drug addict for 20-some-odd years," Williams, a Moss Point native, said Thursday, "and then I set myself on fire for Jesus.
"I got blown up cooking methamphetamine. I had second- and third-degree burns, and went through months and months of skin grafts and surgeries."
Faith, prayer and the House of Grace rehabilitation clinic in Vancleave helped Williams clean up his life, which he has now dedicated to showing others the way to clean up their own.
One of the main problems with meth, he said, is that our youth are particularly at risk. All of them, regardless or race or socio-economic background.
"It all starts in the home," he said. "Parents have to stay in contact with their kids, talk to their kids, be aware of what they're doing and where they're going and who they're seeing.
"Your kids may not be looking for a bad crowd, but the bad crowd's out there looking for them."
Next week: Inside the system.
If you or someone you know is addicted to methamphetamine, there are resources available on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. A full listing is available at gcdrugfree.org. You can also reach out to Rodney Williams at ClubMethtoChrist.com.