Overcoming Addiction

Recovery from meth addiction a difficult journey, support available

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Patty Sneed knew she had a problem, but did not have the physical or mental will power to stop using methamphetamine.

But, in 1997, the courts gave her two weeks to clean herself up or she would face prison time.

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Patty Sneed overcame her five-year meth addiction and has now dedicated her life to helping others beat the drug.

She was taken to a 30-day inpatient treatment center, and when released she began going through the 12-step treatment process she continues to this day.

Almost a decade later, Sneed has dedicated her life to helping others through the difficult journey of breaking an addiction.

Sneed now works at Southwest Behavioral Health Services.

"I was on meth for five years," she said. "It was the last drug of choice, but it brought me to my knees."

She lost her home, was on intensive probation and house arrest and was about ready to be evicted from her rental home.

"All these things were adding up," she said.

She could not stay clean no matter how hard she tried, and was terrified about relapsing after being released from the treatment center.

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Sneed decided the friends she had been hanging out with were not real friends.

She said these "friends" were users, and since she was a dealer, they hung around her because she could supply them with the drug.

After using meth for three years, Sneed became unemployable.

Sneed was first arrested in 1996 on a warrant out of Maricopa County because she was buying from a dealer that police were watching.

When the Payson Police Department pulled her over to serve the warrant, she had a marijuana pipe and a half-gram of meth.

Officers went to her home, searched it and found more of the drug.

She said this incident scared her, and she stopped using -- for two months -- but the drug called her back.

In December 1997, police raided her home and found more drugs.

"After that, I started thinking, maybe I have a problem, because I could not stay clean."

She credits Narcotics Anonymous, her "higher power" and the local recovery community for saving her life.

She said she was in denial for so long that she had a drug addiction.

"I was not raised in a family where that type of behavior was acceptable, so you have to tell all those lies," she said.

Sneed has now been clean for more than eight years.

Going it alone

Steve Shifflett is also a recovering addict, but he was able to quit on his own.

He said after losing his job because of meth use, he became involved with all of the wrong people.

He was arrested by the Department of Public Safety for transporting 2.5 ounces of the drug from the Valley. He was jailed for 90 days and placed on probation for five years, and when he was released, he approached his former employer, Burger King, for a job.

The restaurant hired him back, but he had to start as a regular crew member, and has since worked his way up to general manager.

He said he began using meth after breaking up with his wife, which resulted in him not caring about himself.

"(People) had (meth) to offer, and I didn't give a (crap)," he said. "I was doing this to myself, like a self-destruction thing. My world just crumbled around me.

"I think what made me stop more than anything was what I was doing to my life."

Shifflett calls himself a workaholic, and said he was calling in sick a lot because of the drug.

"Not being able to work was driving me crazy," said the Burger King general manager. "I had to be better than that.

"I had to turn my life around and ask, ‘what the h--- are you doing?'"

Part of the recovery process is creating new friendships and to stop hanging out with people who use the drug.

"I had to change my whole lifestyle," he said.

He is now attending outpatient classes put on by the Rim Guidance Center, for three hours every Tuesday and Thursday for nine weeks.

He said if a person truly wants to quit, he or she should be able to if the will is actually there.

"It's kind of like if you decide if you want to quit smoking. If you want to quit, you will," he said. "If you have the dignity in yourself to look at what you are doing."

Finding help

Anthony Paul, manager and pre-hospital coordinator for Cobre Valley Hospital said he often sees the trembling and shaking tremors that are associated with meth addiction.

While not helping them recover, the hospital will give them intravenous drugs that will help take the edge off. He said all the hospital can do is to tell the meth user to stop taking the drug.

Paul said the problem seems to be worsening. The hospital took a urine sample of 5 percent of its patient population, and 25 percent tested positive for meth.

Longtime use can result in fatal damage to the kidneys and heart, he said.

Darlene Duncan, prevention coordinator and community liaison for Rim Guidance Center, offers presentations to groups about the drug. She can be reached by calling (928) 468-8055, ext. 3804.

Narcotics Anonymous can be reached by calling 595-1570 or 978-1603.

See related stories:

'Meth was my best friend' (Dec. 5)

Urban problems, small town: Crime increases, employers struggle as meth usage spreads (Dec. 8)

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