The heroin epidemic has ruined and ended lives. But some have successfully fought the addiction. The Stories of Hope series will tell their stories.
Stories of Hope is part of WCPO's Heroin Project: How Do We Respond?
CINCINNATI -- It wasn’t just any wedding that took West Chester’s Christopher Skinner to Southern California during the first weekend in August.
He was asked to officiate the marriage of Scott Spotswood and Rachel Silva, two people who met on the Facebook page he runs for recovering drug addicts, Rockstar Recovery.
Skinner isn’t just a wedding officiant, he’s a recovering heroin and drug addict. He’s made it his mission to help guide others through the journey to sobriety.
“I just liked to escape reality,” Skinner said. “Because I didn’t love who I was. Going through rehab and recovery taught me all of that.”
'Chase Your Recovery'
Since getting off drugs on July 17, 2014, Skinner’s been through a seven-month stint at Dayton’s Woodhaven inpatient treatment center and created an online support group that now has more than 6,500 members.
“Recovery is for someone who wants it, not just someone who needs it, because, frankly, we all need it,” he said. “But we all don’t want it. And we’re all not ready for it yet. And you really have to chase your recovery like you chased getting high, and it will work."
Heroin isn’t the first drug Skinner used -- in fact, he was pretty far into addiction when he tried it. He started smoking pot, using LSD and ecstasy.
A pill addiction, thanks to prescribed medicine, is what took him to heroin.
After a painful car crash and an accident that resulted in a dislocated elbow, Skinner said he was on opiates for several months until he ran out.
Then he started to get sick.
“I thought I had the flu,” he explained. “The doctor asked, ‘Are you taking pain medication?’ and she said, ‘You’re having opiate withdrawal.’”
Despite that meeting, he said the doctor didn’t point him toward any type of help or recovery, so he continued to use pills like Xanax and Opana. Then in February 2014, after four days clean from drugs, he got into another car accident.
That’s when a paramedic friend of his introduced him to heroin.
Road to Recovery
In June of 2014, he overdosed in his sister’s basement -- and despite years of drug use, he said heroin’s the only drug that caused an overdose.
“I didn’t want to be here, but my Christian faith tells me you can’t kill yourself and go to heaven,” Skinner said, explaining why he finally took to treatment.
He’s the first male to graduate from Woodhaven’s program, after four previous stints in rehab.
“When you actually do it for yourself, it works,” he said.
The road to Rockstar Recovery was 17 years long, and the page is designed to support addicts and their families.
So far, Skinner said, the group has helped 200 members get into treatment and encouraged former users to post sober selfies with a note about how long they’ve been clean. Skinner works for Luxe Rehab Placement, a rehab program that places addicts who aren’t on Medicaid in a recovery program in Southern California.
“(In a previous Facebook group) I did a little work on doing an intervention with someone, and thought, ‘This is what I need to be doing, helping,” he explained. “ And what better way than to do it than on a Facebook group. Everybody’s got a little computer in their hand pretty much nowadays. Let’s help the community I destroyed.”