HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - It’s a story of pain and perseverance. We take a look at the struggles facing two recovering addicts and what it means to them to complete chemical rehabilitation. Their stories put a face to the deadly realities of addiction.
“This is where drug addiction took me. This is the center. Full-fledged addict right here,” said Melissa Sanders.
Six years ago, behind bars inside the Jones County Detention Center, Sanders hit rock bottom.
“I was addicted to prescription pills. I got caught up in that lifestyle. I was from a good family, was raised from a good family,” said Sanders.
Sanders said a visit to the doctor’s office is what started her nearly 20-year addiction.
"That led to a downhill spiral, and it just totally got out of control. I almost lost my family, my children, and I lost who I was," said Sanders.
Victoria Pitts relates. She too went down the dark road of addiction.
“I was very broken. I was very lost, very depressed and very bitter. I had been a drug addict for 12 years. I first started drinking when I was 12 years old. It spiraled to crystal meth, prescription pills and heroin,” said Pitts.
Drug and alcohol addiction affects millions of people nationwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 48 million Americans used illicit drugs or misused prescription drugs in 2016.
Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addiction Services programs treat chemical addiction for both men and women. Clinical Director of the Pine Grove Next Step program, John Herrington, says substances tend to be a symptom of a much greater problem.
“My goal is to create an environment where people can feel both loved, cared for and safe in order to heal. Our goal is to help people be sober, but there is a lot more that goes into that,” said Herrington.
Pine Grove has cared for more 10,000 patients from across the nation and the globe. Herrington says access to rehabilitation treatment is essential.
“There’s a stigma that people are bad, somehow, for dealing with substance abuse or sexual addiction, and the reality is they are just people that are struggling. So, having a place like Pine Grove where people can get the help they need and figure things out and figure out a new way of living life helps the whole community,” said Herrington.
From world renowned programs at Pine Grove to the independent faith-based recovery ministry with its own 501c3 designation, Dying To Live in Laurel, the Rev. Jason Capers, who has a hand in the recovery ministry, says there are options for people who need help.
“We operate houses for both men and women where there is a six-month in-house program where somebody can come and get 24 hour a day supervision. They can have life skill classes and all of the ministry classes and things they need, not only to get clean and get off of drugs and alcohol, because the truth is you can get clean anywhere, but in order to stay clean, you have got to change the way you think and learn how to deal with life without going back to the drugs and alcohol,” Capers.
Enslaved in the shadows, Pitts and Sanders made a commitment to turn their lives around.
“I remember walking up the Zac House steps and experiencing peace for the first time,” said Pitts. “I remember the whole time I was in the Zac House I didn’t pay for it. I was on what we call a charity bed given to me by Pastor Jason, and that was a very big blessing in my life. That is why raising money for the program is so important to me, because a lot of these men and women, they don’t have the money to pay for rehab.”
The two graduated from Dying To Live and are now permanent fixtures working for the program and with other recovering addicts. Nearly eight years sober, Pitts leads worship, councils and teaches within the rehab center. Sanders is approaching her sixth year of sobriety and is now the director of Dying To Live.
“It literally saved my life, literally saved my life. It restored my marriage. I’ve been married to my husband now for 25 years, and at the time I went to jail, I did not know if I would have a marriage. You hurt the ones you love the most in addiction. God has given me back so much, restored so much to me,” said Sanders. “Six years ago, I never would have known that God would have placed me here as the director of this ministry. It’s amazing. It’s an amazing opportunity.”