First Contact seeks to establish safe house to break the cycle
This story was published in the Hendersonville Times-News on July 18, 2016.
After 20 years being addicted to meth, Melia Huntley is learning to live fully again and rebuild what she has lost over the years.
Now, with almost six months of sobriety, the Henderson County native has a job, a car and a stable place to live.
“At the end, I was doing two-and-a-half grams a day,” said Huntley, 41, adding that she was addicted to meth from the first time she tried the drug, which she said “took her soul” in the years she was using intravenously.
Huntley, who is being assisted in her recovery by First Contact, a ministry focused on lifting addicts out of the morass of a life ruled by drugs, partly chose to speak about her experience to highlight the widespread meth problem in Henderson County.
“They tell me I’m an inspiration,” she said of other addicts who have recently come to sobriety. “It isn’t an easy journey, but if you have God, you can make it work.”
Law enforcement sees the effects of meth on a daily basis, with 90 percent of crime directly attributed to meth, prescription pills and heroin, according to Maj. Frank Stout with the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office.
“It’s a serious problem here,” Stout said. “The price has come down so it’s easy to obtain, sadly.”
According to Stout, law enforcement officers are not seeing as many in the county producing meth, since much of the drug here is now sourced from “south of the border,” with meth’s street value dropping from $100 per gram to $70 per gram.
Huntley managed to stay away from the law for most of the years she used, and held down various jobs, excluding the final years.
She said she really started barreling downhill after she was raped last year. She was slipped a date rape drug by an addict she knew.
Huntley then started using almost every day, and ended up staying in a dope house.
“I ended up going to jail for the first time, and I had a miscarriage in jail,” she said. “After I got out of jail, that’s when it was over. I ended up not too much longer than that going back to jail for 21 days.”
Increasing her drug use to deal with the pain only made her situation worse.
“I had mixed heroin and (meth) together, which is like a death wish,” she said citing one time most recently when she used the two intravenously. “I couldn’t breathe; I couldn’t see.”
Witnessing a heroin addict nearly die from an overdose also put Huntley off opiates. All the same, the effects of taking meth over the years were taking a toll on her body.
“I’m surprised I still have teeth,” she said.
Pains in her neck and head had also signaled the damage the drug was inflicting on her heart. She had been warned at one time to stop using or else her heart would explode; it didn’t deter her.
Shortly before she was brought to First Contact through a friend, Huntley tried pain pills, which she discovered didn’t do much for her. But it was Huntley’s experience taking the prescription painkillers that served as a kind of wake-up call.
“When I was searching for a different high, that’s when I knew I needed help,” she said.
The team at First Contact worked to find housing for Huntley while she was detoxing; because of a health issue unrelated to the drug use, she did not qualify to be admitted to a rehab center.
“She’s a miracle,” said First Contact Director Craig Halford, citing the fact that Huntley hasn’t been to a rehab facility and is successfully maintaining sobriety.
“She was determined to quit, and that’s what it takes.”
“She is singularly focused,” added Halford. “There is nothing more important to her than her sobriety.”
Besides helping addicts from the “moment of crisis,” First Contact is focused on establishing a safe house and eventually opening a rehab facility in Henderson County.
The organization has just received nonprofit status, and has plans to begin raising funds, said Halford, who also serves as a board member at HopeRx, the community-based prescription drug initiative.
“When we get addicts, if we don’t have a place to put them, you’re in serious danger of losing them; you only have a short window,” he said.
Huntley said she wouldn’t be where she is today without the staff at First Contact.
“I go home high on church now, and the people that support me,” said Huntley. “I (have gone) through a couple of hard times and not once did I want to solve it by getting high.”
“I can only do it because of God,” she added. “He shows me favor every day.”
To learn more about First Contact, visit mudcreekchurch.org/firstcontact or call 828-692-1262 and ask for Craig Halford.