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‘I just wanted to be better’: Utah woman details experience with heroin addiction

Lauren Llewelyn joins the 'Project Recovery' podcast to describe how she was able to overcome her heroin addiction.

Lauren Llewellyn’s heroin addiction had become so bad she was on the verge of losing everything. She was without her son and feeling completely hopeless and empty. She knew she had to get high. Inside her parent’s home, who graciously took her in, she went into the bathroom downstairs to curb her fix. In her mind life was going to be better in just a few minutes — until her father walked in on her smoking heroin.

At that moment, Lauren stood there, staring at her father. This is when Lauren hit her rock bottom.

A childhood of chaos and uncertainty

Lauren grew up in an ever-changing household. She is one of six children, whose parents were always moving and trying to find the next place to live. They were very young when they decided to have children and never really had a lot of money. They would even move apartments to take advantage of apartments that were offering the first month free of rent. The family would bounce around seeking the next place and by the time Lauren was eight-years-old, she had moved over ten times.

Through it all, Lauren became very close to her siblings. Growing up in such conditions allowed them to “raise each other,” according to Lauren. Being so close to her siblings created a lasting impact that they all share today, but that same impact also introduced Lauren to weed and alcohol at the age of thirteen-years-old. Lauren recalls when she would hang out with her older sister and go to high school parties.

“I was thirteen and I started out with weed and alcohol. I had an older sister, who would take me everywhere with her. We would party with all of her high school friends and I had a few of my best friends who kind of, went down the same path,” she described.

Filling an empty hole with opioids

Experimenting with weed and alcohol at an extremely young age opened the door to Lauren’s experience with her larger vices. And when she was fourteen, she began to have issues with her knee, so much so, that it required surgery. Following the surgery, she began to take opioids for the pain. But for Lauren, they brought so much more.

“I remember feeling like there was something missing inside of myself. Like there was a hole for something. … I remember taking those pills after the surgery and being like … that hole is gone,” she recalled.

A year later she had surgery on her ovaries and, again, she received opioids to help with the pain. This time she looked forward to getting the pills. As of today, Lauren has had nine surgeries, all paired with opioids. When she was twenty-three a very serious lung infection began to plague her body and she was admitted to the hospital. Surgeons then removed a portion of her lungs and she would spend the next ten days in the hospital recovering.

The nurses gave Lauren a drip of Dilaudid to curb the pain from the surgery. For Lauren, it became everything she ever wanted. Unfortunately, it came with its own side effects. When she got home she began to feel the symptoms of withdrawal.

This was Lauren’s first experience with withdrawal, but it wouldn’t be her last.

From opioids to a heroin addiction

Lauren began to abuse opioids with the help of friends. For years she would attend rave parties where drugs were plentiful and a big part of the culture. The pills became such an integral aspect of her life that when she found out she was pregnant, Lauren was forced into a detox program. But once her son was born, her pill habit continued. The only thing that truly stopped her addiction to pills was the cost — which ultimately laid the groundwork for her heroin addiction.

“There never really was any problem with me getting the pills. What led me into choosing heroin was the fact that I couldn’t afford the pills anymore,” she remembered. “I was a single mom at that time and I was living on my own and I just couldn’t afford to keep up on my pill habits.”

Lauren’s heroin addiction began to flourish and take away parts of her life. It not only affected her wallet, but she also began to become more reclusive. Every Sunday she would go to her parent’s house for Sunday dinner, but now she was ashamed of herself.

“Deeper and deeper I got into my addiction the more I removed myself from my family because I was embarrassed. I didn’t want them to know how bad things actually were,” she added.

How Lauren’s heroin addiction started to consume her life

Lauren’s life was spinning out of control. Her family even began to step in and get help for her. So much so that her father offered to help her with rehab.

But in her mind, Lauren didn’t need any help. She had finished hair school and always took care of herself financially. But in retrospect, she did need help.

“In my mind, that meant I was okay. That meant that I had no problem. There was no issue because I could take care of myself,” she said.

There was an issue though. Lauren’s addiction was starting to wreak havoc in her life. She was getting into car accidents and even getting into trouble with the law. She spent two days in jail on drug paraphernalia charges but that still wasn’t enough to stop Lauren from using. In May of 2018,  she found herself on the verge of losing everything after her son’s father witnessed her partaking in a drug deal.

Watching Lauren endanger their son was the last straw for her son’s father. Lauren wasn’t going to see their son anymore. It was time to make a decision — get sober or lose her son.

The moment Lauren was finally able to overcome her heroin addiction

“That night, I called my parents and I was just like, ‘I need help,'” Lauren explained. “I was living with my grandma at that time. I had been evicted from my apartment because of the mess I was in and my mom came down and helped me get all of my stuff and I moved up there.”

Lauren would then spend the next six months clean and participating in an outreach program. She began living a sober lifestyle but mentally she was still having issues coping with her addiction and withdrawals. And after trying to fight for her sobriety as hard as she could, her addiction overcame her and she began using again. Except for this time, she wasn’t alone.

Her father walked in on her smoking heroin in his bathroom. Instead of yelling at her, he stood there and simply asked, “what can I do to help you?”

They both had a long conversation on how Lauren was going to get sober and after years of addiction, she was ready.

“I agreed to go. It took probably about three more weeks for me to finally agree to go but I was just done. I was sick of being unhappy. I was sick of feeling worthless — a waste of space,” she said.

Lauren still recalls the face of her father standing there in the bathroom hallway as she was smoking heroin. She uses that mental image to keep her sobriety still to this day.

“He still loves me. I’m smoking heroin in his bathroom and he still loves me and just wants the best for me. I think that was the push I needed,” she described.

Lauren has been officially been sober for one year at the time of the release of this article.

Listen to the entire episode below

For more information on addiction or if you or someone you know is struggling, you can find more information on Facebook and on KSL TV. To hear more from Casey Scott and Dr. Matt Woolley, you can listen below or subscribe to the ‘Project Recovery’ podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get major podcasts.

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