WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — “Addiction is not just a physical disease. It’s a mental, emotional, and spiritual disease,” said Audrey Evans, Maize native.
It’s a disease that caught up with Audrey while she was a young teen in high school.
“I started going to parties with some of my older friends like college-age type parties. At those parties, there was a lot of different types of drugs,” she recalled.
It was during those parties that she started taking opioids.
At 15 years old, she got even more access to the pills after a car accident.
“All the muscles in my leg were torn, so I was also prescribed opiates at that time, and I really, really liked them,” she said.
Halfway through her prescription, her dad took the pills away, but that did not stop Audrey.
“From high school on, I was, you know, taking a lot of Lortab, Percocet,” she said.
Pills progressed to heroin in college.
“Because it was just that much cheaper than buying that many Percocets at one time,” Audrey said. “I got to a point where I was living in my car spending every dime I had on heroin, and I still did not think I had a problem.”
Her younger brother, on the other hand, noticed the issue and reached out for help.
“He was frustrated with his older sister who was constantly stealing his video game systems and pawning them to support her drug habit,” said Detective Jeff Piper, Maize Police Department.
The detective decided to take action and hold an intervention for Audrey and her boyfriend at the time.
“For a police officer to sit across from somebody using drugs and say, ‘Don’t do drugs,’ I felt like I needed somebody that had lived it, breathed it and could relate,” he said.
So, he called in Chris Pike, a recovering addict.
“When I got sober the first time, I talked to my mom about how I wanted to go talk to, you know, the youth or just people that are struggling with addiction,” Chris said.
“Crazy thing is, she ended up staying sober longer than I did,” he said, pointing at Audrey.
Like many others, Chris learned the hard way that it’s easy to fall back to old habits.
“In a split second, everything can change. I went from, you know, being sober. Then I thought that I could, you know, handle it, just on the weekends. So, I did that and then, like the next second, you know, it’s like I’m in the hospital not expected to live,” he said.
Fentanyl adds to the danger of using drugs. Many are laced with it but unknown to many users.
“So, I was buying them from somebody, and they were actually making those, those pain pills. And I shot one, and then I ended up face planting on the couch, and they thought I was gonna die,” Chris recalled. “People started like rolling me over and, and I ended up almost dying from it. And it was because it was a fake.”
After a few close calls, Chris has been sober since January 2019, and, at 26 years old, Audrey is five years clean.
Not everyone is as fortunate though.
“I knew somebody today who passed away. I know somebody last week who passed away. I’ve known so, so many over the years have passed away from addiction,” Audrey said.
Detective Piper hopes the community will get adequate resources to help those struggling.
“It doesn’t work when an addict shows up and says I need the help, and they say, ‘Well, we can put you on a waiting list if you come back in two weeks.’ It’s not going to happen,” Piper said.
Both Audrey and Chris work with Piper to share their stories with local youth.
“Your life is so much better in recovery,” Audrey said. “So these people that I was jealous of, those 30 years have been terrible for them, you know. So, don’t, don’t be like that, like, get help now.”
Audrey and Chris remind anyone struggling with addiction that sobriety is earned one day at a time.
“It’s not a one time and you’re done. It’s like everyday for the rest of your life,” Chris said.
Both of them say family support is huge in their recovery. However, they advise that if you have a loved one struggling with addiction, tough love by setting boundaries is the best way to help.