Former heroin addict tells her story as drug rips through state with overdoses on the rise

Former heroin addict tells story of survival

LAKEWOOD, Ohio - The heroin epidemic in the state is literally ripping apart families and killing them.

"When I first heard of it I freaked out," said Alexis Morris, a graduate of the Edna House, which she credits with getting her life back on track.

She is now 10 months clean and working for a mortgage company.

But for a year, Morris said she hid her addiction from her parents. In that time, she found herself in alleys, bad neighborhoods and stealing money from her parents.


"The first time I did it I tried a little bit of it. I didn't use every day," she said.

That changed as the year progressed as she did the drug with her new boyfriend.

He would end up in jail. When he got out, he told her she had to quit for them to be together. That began her crusade to get clean, but it wasn't easy.

After telling her uncle, then her parents, she made an important call. She called the Edna House where her life changed.

The Ohio Attorney General's Office says there were 606 heroin overdose deaths reported in 2012. That's up dramatically from the previous two years when there were 395 in 2011 and 292 in 2010.

Today, that frightening number stands at 610, already surpassing last year's total.

"Local law enforcement understands the problem," said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. "Unfortunately, there are people out there who don't believe heroin is really in their communities. They don't believe that this can be them. This can be their child."

In Cuyahoga County, there were 161 heroin overdose deaths, which was more than Franklin and Hamilton County combined.

The Edna House is on the frontlines of this epidemic.

As a recovering addict herself, Edna House executive director Andrea Debiasio still battles her addiction. She went through the program in 2006.

"Before I came to the Edna House, I went through nine treatments," she said. "The truth is, a lot of those times, I was doing it for somebody else," she continued.

One of the first questions they ask, Debiasio says, is: "What are you willing to do to stay?" 

She said the 40 or so women in the program "basically learn how to live sober and become part of the community."

If you get in, Debiaso said you have to learn to give of yourself.

"The most important thing we provide for them is structure," she said. Recovering addicts are kept busy and learn time management skills. 

"They get up at a certain time, they have choirs to do, and five to six daily recovery groups," Debiaso explained.

She said they also must attend a 12-step meeting nightly.

The six-month program is located in Cleveland. 

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