By Amanda Beam
|Meghan found her way into a new and better life after rising above addiction. Photos by Melissa Donald|
An officer pushed his knee into her back to secure her. The flash of a gun and demands for pills from a local pharmacy had placed her in this position. The policeman didn’t know the firearm wasn’t real, or that she had walked out of the store without the drugs she had so craved.
Her conscience, though, had saved her from adding more charges to her ever-growing rap sheet.
During the arrest, a thought came to Meghan.
“How did I get here?” she asked herself. “How did this happen?”
There was a seemingly simple answer for the woman who now counsels others in similar situations.
Like far too often in today’s age, drug addiction fueled the then-23-year old’s need for cash and therefore crimes. OxyContin would be her drug of choice.
At the time of her jail booking, Meghan was ingesting roughly seven pills a day. At $80 a pop when purchased illegally, she needed to maintain a $560-a-day habit. Otherwise, withdrawal would sit in, and she’d become physically ill.
“I couldn’t stop,” Meghan says. “I found myself at a point where I just couldn’t get enough. I needed it, and I was going to do whatever it took to get it.”
Her habit began in college. Not that she, or anyone else for that matter, thought she’d ever face this challenge. While several of her family members fell prey to drugs, Meghan remained a classic “good girl” in high school. With excellent grades and six years of band under her belt, she went to a university to study nursing.
By that time, Meghan was looking to redefine herself, and so she began to hang with a different crowd. Her boyfriend at the time used drugs, a lifestyle that seemed “mysterious and wild.”
She remembered taking her first mind-altering pill at a party. It caused her to vomit. Yet she still wanted more.
One pill at a time, her habit grew until she could no longer control it. By then she had dropped out of school and was married to a fellow addict, she says.
“From 18 to 23, you can literally look back on my life and see it begin to crumble,” Meghan says.
When she left her husband and the steady supply of drugs, her existence was shaken even more.
To procure the illegal substance, she turned to a friend of her ex’s and began a relationship based on convenience. She yearned to find her next high. As a drug dealer, he provided it. Meghan, too, would begin selling to afford her habit.
“I used to always say I never prostituted myself, but I did. I sold myself to this man,” Meghan says. “I know it was just a means to get one more. I was using him to fill a spot in my life that I needed filled.”
A police raid of the couple’s home changed her life again. Moments before, they flushed their stash worth thousands of dollars down the toilet. And while Meghan received a mild slap on the wrist from the courts for marijuana possession, the drug supplier who had given them the costly pills wasn’t so forgiving. He demanded his money with death threats.
Meghan and her boyfriend sneaked from their home in the middle of the night and moved to a place an hour away.
“It was easier to find a way to get high again than it was to think of having to deal with the mess I made of my life,” Meghan says. “The idea of getting high was a better solution for me.”
But their line of supply had been severed, as had their way of financing their addiction.
Stealing small items from here and there helped to bridge the shortfall. But the couple dreamed of a big score so that their petty crime sprees wouldn’t be needed.
They decided to rob a pharmacy.
The first time, it worked, but the pills soon ran out. Meghan then entered another store and, with a flash of her fake gun, demanded that the older lady at the pharmacy counter hand over the OxyContin bottles.
Again, the couple succeeded, and their addiction continued.
“We had more, so we did more,” Meghan says. “It escalated things.”
Once this supply was depleted, Meghan and her boyfriend began to case prospective stores. Desperate for the drugs, she settled on a pharmacy where a woman with short, cropped hair stood behind the counter. Meghan made her usual demands.
The woman replied, “I don’t think you want to do this.”
And she was right. Meghan threw up her hands and walked out the door empty-handed.
Shortly thereafter, the police pulled the couple over, and Meghan found herself on that graveled ground.
At first, she denied her involvement in the robbery to the officers questioning her. But then, a detective uttered words she had been longing to hear.
“I don’t think you’re a bad person. I think you just made a bad mistake,” he said.
Meghan crumbled to the ground in tears and confessed all her crimes, even the ones they may never have discovered. A weight had been lifted.
“That’s what I needed to see,” she says. “I am that girl I used to be.”
On May 27, 2010, the date of her arrest, Meghan stopped using drugs. Treatment programs in prison helped her overcome her addiction and gave her vocational training. By the end of her almost three-year stay, she had received the instructions she needed to survive sober in the outside world.
“Getting arrested was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Meghan says. “It turned everything around, and it made where I’m at today possible.”
Her passion for helping others with addictions surfaced, too. Meghan set a goal of returning to school and becoming a counselor.
But being released back into the community wasn’t easy. Jobs were difficult to find. Few wanted to hire a felon. But a local restaurant gave her a chance. Every night, Meghan would deposit her tips into a nearby bank so she wouldn’t be tempted to purchase drugs with the cash.
Since she was to stay away from her previous social network, new friends also needed to be made. And every day, she began attending a support group for recovering addicts that she still frequents three times a week.
At these meetings, Meghan met a man who was also in recovery. They offered each other support. Eventually, they fell in love, and last summer, Meghan delivered a beautiful baby boy into this world. In the fall, she and her partner will marry.
Meghan also returned to college and obtained her counseling degree from Ivy Tech. Just this spring, the state of Indiana certified her as a licensed therapist. Now six years clean, the woman who held up pharmacies leads recovery groups throughout Southern Indiana and provides those with addictions the help they need.
“I shouldn’t be standing here,” she tells these groups. “Against all odds, I should not be up here, but I am.”