The Van Wert County Courthouse

Tuesday, Mar. 19, 2019

Recovering drug addict creates new life

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

What happens to a person whose life has been spent in various kinds of trouble and “whacked out” on drugs? For Van Wert native Christine Miller, the solution was to leave that life behind and make a new start following an in-house substance abuse treatment program.

Christine Miller today with her young daughter, Jayden. (photo submitted)

Christine Miller today with her young daughter, Jayden. (photo submitted)

“They say you can never move away from your problems,” Miller said during an interview with The Van Wert independent. “No, but you can move away from the situation that you were in that got you in trouble to begin with and go create a whole new life for yourself.”

In essence, that’s what Miller has done, leaving her old drug friends in Van Wert behind and moving to Indiana, where she now has a daughter, is in a positive relationship and has been off drugs for going on three years and off probation for nearly two years.

Miller’s drug use began early. She began smoking cigarettes and then smoked marijuana and began drinking alcohol when she was 11 or 12. Miller has a long juvenile record, mostly for being unruly and for stealing items to get money to buy pot. Miller’s mother, Pam, said she and her husband didn’t know about their daughter’s marijuana use until she was drug-tested while in the juvenile probation system.

She said she started smoking pot because of boredom.

“I probably told my mother 100 times a day I was bored,” Miller said. “I was always telling myself I was bored and had to get high because there was nothing else to do.”

After spending her teen years in the juvenile court system, Miller “graduated” to using harder drugs, first trying methamphetamines and then using bath salts and spice after another inmate at the Van Wert County Correctional Facility recommended them.

Then came felony offenses, mostly theft-related, to get money for her drug use, which included spice, bath salts and, starting in 2011, heroin.

Miller matter-of-factly talked about some of her earlier criminal offenses, including stealing a woman’s social security check from her car and stealing a woman’s purse from a local church, although it was also obvious that she was ashamed of her past life and the things she did to get drugs.

Pam Miller said her daughter would steal money while living at home, as well as other items she would then pawn for drug money.

“When I lived at home, I can remember ‘army crawling’ from my room to my parents’ room to steal money from my dad’s wallet,” she said. “I knew what I was doing wasn’t right, but I just kept getting worse, and worse, and worse.”

In Van Wert County Common Pleas Court, Miller was first sentenced to community control and a stint at the Western Ohio Regional Treatment and Habilitation (WORTH) Center in Lima. She said that, on her first 72-hour furlough from the WORTH Center, she drank alcohol, which didn’t register on a Breathalyzer test by the time she returned to the center.

After probation violations and more offenses, she eventually spent 13 months in the Marysville Reformatory for Women.

Nothing worked.

“I had nothing to do in prison so I kept thinking about the next high I was going to have when I got out,” Miller said.

She reconnected with old drug friends after her release from prison and began using again. “I surrounded myself with my old drug friends that I was used to; they were ‘my people’,” she explained. “Anyone who was good and clean I didn’t want to have anything to do with.”

Miller eventually overdosed on heroin and woke up in an ambulance, where she had to be given medication to restart her heart after it quit beating.

She still used.

Meanwhile, something happened that eventually turned her life around.

She had just been caught drinking, which violated her probation with Van Wert Municipal Court, and she was sent to jail. Noting that spending time in jail was often a negative for her, since she would meet people who would get her using again, Miller appealed to her mother and Municipal Court Probation Officer John Wiley to keep her out of jail and find a treatment program for her.

They did an Internet search for an in-house treatment program and found Serenity House, a center located in Fayette, near Toledo.

It was a turning point for Miller, who said she got a lot out of the Serenity Haven program, which also brought her and her family closer together, although she said she was shocked and upset when her roommate, who had been in the program three times, committed suicide shortly after being released.

“Why would a person take her life?” Miller asks rhetorically, noting she feels the woman lost hope and gave up on herself.

It’s also why she feels it’s important for the families of drug users to continue to provide support to their loved ones, while not condoning the drug use. Miller credits her parents for never giving up on her, even after years of drug use and a long list of offenses.

Miller also gives Wiley a lot of credit for her eventual recovery from drugs.

Knowing that Miller would likely hook up with old drug friends again after her release if she stayed in Van Wert, Wiley also told her she needed to leave the county — and her old life — behind.

She did, and now lives in Indiana, where she has a job, a relationship and a young daughter. Miller says she stays off Facebook, because of the chance of a former drug friend contacting her, and rarely visits her hometown, and then only to see her family.

“I can say I’m clean and a contributing member of society,” Miller said.

Wiley, and her parents’ support, are what eventually allowed her to find a new, drug-free life, Miller said.

“John literally saved my life,” she said. “I can’t say enough about what he did for me.”

Today, she avoids boredom by keeping herself busy doing crafts, knitting and crocheting, which she says also allows her to give back to her adopted community. She recommends that recovering substance abusers find a hobby, or something that keeps them busy, since it keeps them from thinking about drugs.

“I now make blankets for babies or for homeless shelters,” Miller said. “I know it’s not giving back to the community I hurt, Van Wert, but it’s giving back to society.”

POSTED: 06/15/15 at 8:16 am. FILED UNDER: News