Finding a purpose

Stephanie Smith, who is graduating from the Participating in Victory of Transition program, said she has been clean for 15 months.

Stephanie Smith says she is a human being who went through a terrible heroin addiction and now is a successful member of the community.

This week, Smith, who has been clean for 15 months, attended her last session of the Participating in Victory of Transition program before graduation and said she is lucky to be alive.

“If I can do it, anyone can,” she said about recovery.

Seneca County Common Pleas Court judges Michael Kelbley and Steve Shuff and Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court Judge Mark Repp joined forces to offer the PIVOT drug recovery program, which is the first multi-jurisdictional drug court in Ohio.

Smith, 37, grew up in Tiffin, was on the flag and cheerleading squads at Columbian High School, and graduated in 2000.

Smith got married, had two children and was working, and she was prescribed pain pills for a surgery she had undergone. She said she found out she liked them, and they made her feel better.

Smith was asking for more. A doctor cut her off, and she turned to street prescriptions.

In 2011, she said, “My prescription use was getting out of hand.”

Every time Smith tried to quit, she couldn’t.

Children services and law enforcement became involved in her life, and her children were taken away. She said she tried to get clean.

“I did well for quite some time,” she said.

Smith said every time there was in a bump in the road, she would fall backwards. Her husband no longer was in her life.

She said she tried to get the children on her own. During a court hearing, she signed away her rights for her children. She said it took a long time to make the decision, and she made it for her children.

“It was the hardest of my life. … My kids weren’t going to hurt as long as I was,” she said.

Smith said she started using heroin three days later, and she thinks she lost her will to live for a long time.

In 2014, she had seven surgeries on her arm. She contracted a flesh-eating virus and was kept in a coma due to the pain.

She said she ended up signing papers authorizing the team to take her arm if it was between her arm or life.

“They took my bicep,” she said.

Smith recalled the surgeon telling her, “You get yourself some help.”

She was on probation and turned herself in that day. She spent five months in jail and six months in a community-based correctional facility.

Smith recalled she never dealt with the situations involving her children.

“I wasn’t dealing with any of the issues in my life,” she said.

She used heroin three days after getting out of the facility, passed out while driving her mother’s car, struck a tree, blew a gas line, spun and struck a house on SR 19. She said she remembers thinking she wished she would’ve died.

As of a result of the accident, Smith appeared before Repp, was sentenced to probation and was ordered to go through counseling. She said she didn’t follow through with counseling, and she relapsed in 2018.

“It was a heavy one,” she said.

Smith said she could’ve died several times during the last four weeks of relapse.

She said that in January 2018, Fremont police found her in a car in a parking lot with a friend who later died from an overdose. They both had just used and passed out, she said.

Smith said she hadn’t shown up for a fine hearing, had a warrant and was taken to jail that day. Repp ordered her to stay in jail and get the Vivitrol shot.

Smith said she took the offer for PIVOT.

“Nothing was working,” she said.

Smith was one of the first five students in the PIVOT program and started it March 15, 2018, the program’s first day.

She said she already was clean when she started, and she wanted to stay clean. She said she started following every directive they asked of her.

“The pieces started coming together. … I’ve been clean ever since,” she said.

Smith founded Faithful Furnishings as a community project through PIVOT.

She accepts donated furniture and then donates it to people who recently have become homeless or are starting recovery and have obtained their first apartment. The furniture is held in a storage unit offered by an anonymous donor.

Smith also is involved in the Family, Addicts, Community Together for Ongoing Recovery program. FACTOR meets 7-8:30 p.m. Mondays at A Little Faith Ministries, 230 S. Washington St., Tiffin, according to its brochure.

She helps with Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot Counties’ Critical Incident Stress Management Team at A Little Faith Ministries and serves as a recovery and engagement navigator for Recovery & Engagement Navigation Program.

She is a case manager for people who recently have overdosed or who have opiate use disorder in the board’s counties.

The goal is REN would receive a call when an overdose occurs, Smith said.

“The goal is for me to make face-to-face contact (with the patient) that day,” she said.

Smith said that if the person wants help, the goal is to get him or her into treatment that day. If they don’t want help, she would leave her contact information and hope the person calls her.

“We want them to get treatment that day. … Everybody is willing to partner,” she said.

Smith said she has been working hard this year, and Tiffin is her community.

“I needed to find something to do,” she said. “I needed to find a purpose for myself.”

To contact Stephanie Smith, send an email to stephsmith0211@gmail.com or call (567) 938-9634.