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?
The Preble County home 26-year-old Laura Ragle shares with her daughter, Serenity, sits 13 miles outside of Trenton, proof that sometimes distance heals.
Trenton’s where she fell into a certain rhythm with heroin addiction, a tempo of committing crimes and serving time, with the same refrain: always returning to heroin. Luckily for the resilient Ragle, time heals, too.
Exactly one year from when Ragle was locked up for the final time, she graduated from the MonDay Community Correctional Institution in Dayton.
“I told my counselor at the MonDay program what my goal was,” she said. “My goal was to be home on the day I got arrested the year before.”
Her road to recovery
She’s been home since March 19, 2015 and clean since March 19, 2014; but her road to recovery was long, and didn't start at her first attempt at getting clean.
Ragle's first stint in rehab was at the Watershed treatment facility in West Palm Beach, Florida, a 30-day program that she says cost around $36,000 total. She stayed for 28 days.
“You laid in bed all week and detoxed; it was a vacation away from the stress of being a drug addict and it was in Florida. Who doesn’t want to go to Florida for a week?” she explained. “….I just checked myself out, I just left. I was allowed to leave. Called and checked my flight and left.”
First time in jail
Recovery didn’t start after her first time in jail in Middletown. That was in 2009, after getting charged for permitting drug abuse, when her boyfriend at the time, the guy who introduced her to heroin, overdosed in her car.
She'd only been on probation for 20 days when her mother called her probation officer again. Then, she was in jail for six months.
“I didn’t plan on using when I got out, but I didn’t plan on staying clean either,” she said. “I wasn’t doing anything when I was in there, just kind of getting the six months over with.”
When she got out, she got back into the wrong crowd and started using the pain killer Opana, the same substance that’s been linked to an HIV outbreak in rural Indiana.
She got into more legal trouble when she started shooting up again, about 60 days after being released from custody.
A man in Middletown would buy stolen shampoo bottles for a dollar, Ragle said, so she and a friend would steal from a dollar store in Trenton. They got caught, but tried to get away.
“I got freaked out, wasn’t ready to go back to jail, I yelled at my friend to start the car, jumped in the car and as I was pulling away, the employee was trying to jump in the car, and I hit her,” she said.
Ragle received her first felonies that day, for aggravated robbery and felonious assault; the store employee was hurt and needed staples in her head.
The wake-up call
Still, jail time after that incident didn’t stop her from using. Her wake-up call was overdosing 18 hours after another stint in jail.
“I woke up in the hospital, and it was like 3 o’clock in the morning. I called my mom and got ahold of my probation officer, and told him I needed help or I was going to die,” she explained. “My mom finding me (overdosing), that’s a terrible feeling, you know?”
Her probation officer put her in jail for eight months, until a bed opened for her at MonDay.
“I went in with an open mind, and then I was in classes within a couple weeks, but it was a completely different program,” she explains. “They made you fill out time sheets every week, you had to have 40 hours of structured activity where you were responsible for something.”
Now, Ragle's life is full of responsibility, and an infant daughter who brings light, and meaning, into her world.
She's got a home that she rents and works to provide for her and her daughter, so she needs to stay clean.
For her, taking 365 days to get healthy was the best decision she’s ever made.
“I was removed out of my toxic environment, I was placed somewhere I could just focus on myself,” she said. “That’s all I had to do was get myself together, that’s the only thing I was responsible for.”
The heroin epidemic has killed a number of her friends.
“I feel like every time I turn around, there’s another person that’s died of a heroin overdose,” she said. “It’s an epidemic. I don’t know what has to be done, but something does.”